January 17, 2016 Epiphany 2 – Vagaries and Specifics

The thing I have always liked about this story, the Wedding at Cana, that is, I think, often overlooked is that Jesus is not necessarily coming into each and every situation with a plan. I know that sounds shocking but it is true. There is the vision, the missio dei, if you will; the mission of God but that is an overarching kind of a thing and not a second by second accounting of what will happen.

That’s the difference. One is a forecast of the future journey and the other is simply the guarantee that the journey will end well, the destination will be reached.

Jesus attends the wedding, we can assume that it is a family affair since his mother is also there, perhaps someone in the community, someone well-liked so everyone is happy to attend. Given how the scene plays out, I’m not sure that He came with an agenda, a plan for the interaction. It seems to me that Jesus was just there for the wedding, to share in the joy, to be a part of things.

Jesus knows very well what the big picture is, what He has come to accomplish among God’s people. Salvation for all is the will of God, and not just for the people of Israel anymore. Everyone is invited and in Him, and He knows this by this time I think; all people will be able to find salvation.

Does that mean that Jesus is just doggedly determined to work on that every moment, or does He know something we have a somewhat harder time accepting, that the work is being done, grace is on the move, and it is only in getting on board that we become a part of it. The destination is assured; we just need to make sure we’re going along.

Maybe that is the biggest flaw in the church in America. We are a nation of people who do things, and this is a faith of people who trust God enough to just get on with our lives and live them fully.

It is hard for us to relax and realize that God’s hand is on the wheel, God’s eye is steady and God’s plan for us is trustworthy. For us Psalm 36 is just a pretty hymn, a praise of God without any hook to draw us into a deeper faith, a deeper conversation about what it is that God wants from us and way more importantly, what God wants for us.

Jesus attends the Wedding at Cana, not focused in on what the plan is, not worried about schedules and deadlines and accomplishments, all of that is woven into the fabric of His life among us. Jesus is able to be present at the wedding because His trust is God is absolute and He knows that the mission is underway.

He can be truly with the people He has come to save, living their lives, our lives and knowing us fully, loving us fully.

Can you imagine the joy of living each and every moment knowing that the people you walked among were blessed, that they would know eternal peace, a time of no hunger, no jealousy, no warfare, that they would be able to live and thrive and rejoice and mourn and do it all in the peace of faith? It must have made the wedding that much sweeter.

Psalm 36 this morning is not some fluff piece of praise, like the anthems you hear on Christian radio sometimes; little, throwaway bits of praise. Psalm 36 is a litany, an accounting of the generosity of God, of how great is the goodness of God, the provision of God for God’s people, the magnificence of God’s grace to whose whom God loves, which is to say, us.

Mighty and inescapable, with righteousness like the mighty mountains, inexhaustible, with love stretching to the clouds, giving us refuge, giving us the fountain of life, protecting us from the arrogant and the evildoer so that we might walk in peace.

Might, not will, but might. If we will only surrender to that one truth, that one inalienable truth that God is for us and has promised to be with us and to not let us go, if we will only seize the life God has rescued for us and live the heck out of it, wring it for every last drop of the blessing God has promised is ours in the words of the promises given so long ago.

But how? I know, it doesn’t seem like I’ve told you how you accomplish this life-grasping behavior, the life Jesus lives in this morning’s Gospel.

Well, if you must have a guide to these things, it could hardly be better than having Jesus as your savior, and guide.

I love the part where Jesus lectures the people about how they have to behave, and moralizes all the time about how sin is the disease and faith is the cure and how they had better make sure that they lived righteous lives or else they’d be cast into the fiery pit. I love those speeches!

Except Jesus doesn’t give one of those speeches; in fact, Jesus isn’t giving speeches at all. He’s not even the first person mentioned, his mom is and he and his disciples are just attendees at the party, not particularly honored guests, just folks who were invited. Before Mary comes us and bugs Him about the wine, I can pretty much see the Lord hobnobbing with the crowd, congratulating the happy couple, the parents, having a cup or two of wine, just enjoying the revelry.

Why is it that every time we picture Jesus, he is giving a sermon, or hanging on the cross, or declaiming in the marketplace? Why do we have no images in our minds of Jesus just living, just being a carpenter’s son from Nazareth?

I think maybe that’s where the idea that salvation is something you have to constantly be working for, working on, working, working, working all the time comes from. All of our images of Christ are action shots, the kind we might expect of Schwarzenegger or Stallone. After all, Jesus is the one who won our salvation which means it was something that was done.

If we want to be like Christ, we too should work for our salvation, so the thinking goes and generations of Christians have heaped upon themselves the burdens of their own righteousness, their own moral rectitude instead of seeing Jesus the way we get to see Him this morning.

At peace. Jesus this morning is at peace, wrapped in the promises of God that are coming true all around Him as he watches the people marry, given children to marriage and be given in marriage. They celebrate and they mourn and they live all around Him and they too are all wrapped up in the promises of God that are coming true.

They drink also from the fountain of life.

All of this is possible because of faith. Only faith in fact can make you finally understand that in order to pick up the mantle of eternal life, you must at some point put down the tools of righteousness, it isn’t a thing you can build, grace alone can bring it to you and once that is a truth in your life, then you can really start living.

Mary comes to Jesus and He is not, I repeat, not all interested in solving everyone’s problems for them.

If this were a sitcom he’d whine “Mo-o-o-o-m! I’m having fun with my friends and you’re embarrassing me!”

Jesus knows that the Kingdom of God has come near, but he’s on a break now, living, loving his comrades, joining in the lives around him.

Because of His own trust in the mission, because of His faith in God’s promises and His part in them, he can just live out the promise, live as if paradise was already his, in His case, I guess we have to say already His again, but He is able to take the world as it comes instead of constantly trying to manage salvation, manipulate the promise to suit Himself, to be in charge of righteousness all the time.

What could we accomplish if we lived as if we were already destined for paradise and could stop worrying about it?

What would it be like if we could just be ready for whatever came along because our eyes were on each other, on the world we live in because we had not a worry in the world about the life to come.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life as the old Total cereal commercial used to say, so why not, instead of trying to craft our own version of salvation, accept the already perfect salvation God has had planned for us from the beginning. I actually think it’s a better vision than anything we might come up with and not just because God is a better planner than we are.

It is because Jesus walked among us that the salvation wrought by His going to the cross is better than any plan of ours. God’s understanding of us grew as Jesus walked, and sang and drank and ate and laughed and cried and embraced us, one and all in His earthly mission.

God knows not just the high points of humanity, the art and the song and the love, God also knows the darker bits, the war and the jealousy and the spite. Despite knowing us as well as God does, Psalm 36 still rings true and God’s love extends to the heavens.

How much more could we love our neighbors, (you do remember the commandments, don’t you?) if we simply lived as if we had nothing to fear from this life, as if we had in our hands and in our hearts the truth of salvation that nothing could dislodge.

Jesus faith in the mission of God is such that in the things that are not written about His life with us, we might assume that He spent a fair bit of it just being, just living, just being a part of the community. If it was a miracle, then they probably wrote it down somewhere, but there is a lot of the years he spent with us that is not written.

I like to think of the Lord just embracing His children, loving the idea that they were now free, how would you feel to know that your children have not a care or a worry or a fear in the world and could live their lives in the joy of the love of the Lord? Well, since we confess Jesus to be a little more tuned into the joy thing, we might suppose that the days with us were filled with the joy of knowing that we would be free.

Fortunately for the bridegroom, Mary also believes and knows that the heart of Christ is the heart of God’s love for the world. She’s also sure that Jesus knows a teachable moment when he sees one, or when she puts one on a plate in front of Him and she gets the ball rolling.

Maybe the wine is just a metaphor for the ministry. Since there is never going to be an end to the grace that pours down upon us, there is no need to hoard it, or parcel it out with tweezers, or be judicious or careful of parsimonious even, only doling it out when the time seems right, when the moment seems right, when the recipient seems worthy.

Jesus knows that his time has not yet come but He also knows that giving when you can, loving when you can, helping when there is need, hoping at all times, sharing when you have extra, trusting for no good reason at all, these are the signs of the Kingdom come near, the signs of trust in the kingdom of God and not in the righteousness of man and the hallmarks of the Body of Christ.

Jesus turns the water to wine but more than that, Jesus strikes while the iron is hot and shows us all in His body, that in faith, the iron is always hot and ready to strike. There is never a better time than this.


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