The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at http://users.bigpond.net.au/frsparky/r169.htm
s169e04 Lockleys 18//2004 Epiphany 2
"Cursed be Jesus" 1 Cor 12.3
I have had a lot of time to think recently, alternating between the loo and the bed, and as I thought about what I wanted to say today, I started to think about what happened to the wine after it was discovered what it had become.
At the end of the story, I thought - I suppose it would be a bit like if here at the end of our service and after our morning tea, we found that there were three 44 gallon drums of Grange Hermitage ready to be drunk.
Here we are, having had our marriage feast - our communion with our beloved Lord. We have, like those wedding guests, shared in a meal, probably somewhat less sumptuous than they enjoyed - we've only had morning tea. They were about to go home, probably to sleep it off, though we've no doubt got various things we have decided to do today. The gardening, some relaxation perhaps. Suddenly there is 600 litres of wine with which something has to be done.
And Jesus and his disciples just walk away. Neither Jesus or his disciples tasted a drop. It is up to us. Jesus is not going to check up on us later what has happened to the wine. We are never told what happened to it, other than the one sip the chief steward tasted.
So I suppose we have various options - like they had. We could try to drink it ourselves, but there would have had to have been a huge number of guests to really consume so much wine, and after they had already eaten and drunk the feast that had already been provided. If there are 100 people here today, its 6 litres each. Now I do enjoy my wine, but even I can't drink 6 litres in one sitting. So this isn't much of an option.
One stone water jar filled to the brim with wine is not something easily able to be taken somewhere else. It has to be emptied before it can really be moved. Whatever we do, it will have to be done here.
We could decide that it's all too hard, and we could leave it to go off. But this is Grange Hermitage remember. Leaving 600 litres of Grange Hermitage to spoil is criminal if not sinful :-)
Then I had a brilliant idea. It could be sold off by the glass. At $1 a 250 ml glass one would make 600 litres times 4 glasses per litre = $2400. That'd be a sizeable donation to Anglicare or the Rector's Slush Fund :-) $2400 is not to be sneezed at, and if it was Grange Hermitage, people would be happy to bring along their own glasses, indeed their own carafes. Absolutely no outlay needed except the willingness to dole it out. In a small town the news would spread quickly enough. Everyone would think that they had got a bargain. No long faces at all.
And I suspect even Jesus would be pleased.
We could as easily give it away, and wouldn't we be popular! Just think how many people would be in the congregation next week, hoping for a repeat performance!
The story of the wedding at Cana is usually taken to be a sign of God's blessing on the institution of marriage, but I suspect Jesus actually is bidding us lift our sights to consider people other than ourselves, other than just our own families, other than just those with whom we have ties of friendship and like-mindedness. While marriage and fidelity is fine, simply being faithful to our partners will not bring the sort of peace that considering others will do - it will not bring that peace for the whole world that God wants for each and every one of us. It is my impression that marital and familial faithfulness is a very high priority particularly for the mafia - these things are hardly "Christian".
I often wonder how St Paul can even contemplate someone saying "Jesus be cursed" and being led by the Holy Spirit, yet the bidding of us to lift our sights beyond our own personal concerns, beyond our own religious experiences and see that God blesses others who are different to us - might indeed make us curse this Jesus.
The automatic corollary to this is that the Holy Spirit is always bidding us to consider the other who is different, the one who is outside our circle of those who are like-minded to us religiously. The Holy Spirit is ever bidding us to consider everyone else.
This 132 gallons - 600 litres - of wine which Jesus leaves behind for the guests to do something useful with, is for me a paradigm of the world and all God's blessings given for all to enjoy. We can indeed dwell on the disasters in this world, the tragedy of the earthquake in Bam for instance, yet these give us the opportunity to share with others something of the blessings we have. It is remarkable that it takes such an earthquake to bring a thaw in the relationship between the United States and Iran - even if only for a short time.
This world is a beautiful place, and it has many blessings. People everywhere are beautiful, including lots who do not call themselves Christians. There can be no doubt that there continues to be enough sustenance, shelter, and dignity in this world for everyone - but it seems there is more of these in some places and less in others. We are bidden to share.
And the same is true with our religious experiences. The fact that someone else has had a different religious experience to ourselves in fact does not diminish the reality of our own experience at all. Why is it then that so often those with supposedly particularly profound experiences of the divine think that their experience is the only one that is truly kosher?
When we pray those words of the Lord's Prayer, which surely we do often enough: "Give us this day our daily bread" - we need always to bear in mind that God already has - and if some are missing out it has got more to do with humanity than it is ever God's fault. Similarly if we lament that so many people seem so lacking in self esteem, it may be more the fault of Christians who have used 'evangelism' as a way of proclaiming the "rightness" of our particular doctrine rather than the love of God for all people. Actually when we think about this, should we be at all surprised that people are so lacking in self esteem, if we as Christians are keeping all this to ourselves? I think not.
For me, this is a paradigm shift, and we can welcome it and praise the Lord for it - or we can want God's blessings to stay with ourselves, those we love and those like-minded to us. In doing so, we curse Jesus.
And I began this sermon with the parallel with that marriage feast in Cana and our own Eucharistic worship. This was deliberate. If our eucharistic community primarily defines who God's blessings are limited to, then by definition there is not going to be anything left over for others. When God really acts, there is always more left over for others to share. I suspect that it is here that St Paul's words about "discerning the body" (1 Cor 11.29) show their true relevance.
I did make mention that it was very difficult to shift a stone jar filled to the brim with twenty or thirty gallons of wine elsewhere - that's 200 to 300 pounds - 440 to 660 kgs without counting the weight of the jar. It has to be emptied here. The church, this building, this congregation, you and I are meant to be blessings to others, this is our Christian vocation. Our vocation is not to correct, reprove, guide or reign over others, but to see God at work in others as well as ourselves.
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