The Table Is Always Set For All: Epiphany 2

The Table Is Always Set For All: Epiphany 2

Epiphany 2: January 20, 2019

Year C, Epiphany 2:  Isaiah 62:1-65; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

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I find today’s Gospel passage to be very interesting. Like most mothers I know Mary is concerned because the wedding guests are about to run out of food, or in this case, wine. Mary starts out as the real hero, telling Jesus do to something for these folks who are in serious trouble. One ancient legend says that Mary was the aunt of the bride and might have been the person responsible for the wedding. That would certainly explain her interest. Mary says to Jesus, “they have no wine”. And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

Mary pretty much ignores that and assumes that Jesus is going to be a good boy and listen to his mother – and the news flash is that is exactly what he does.

The story of the wedding at Cana of Galilee has been read in Epiphany for a very long time. That’s because the theme of Epiphany is the manifestation, the showing off to the world, of Jesus-of who he is, of what he is about. The business of changing water into wine was the first of Jesus’ miracles, the first time he gave a real sign according to John.

Let me be clear – running out of wine at a wedding was not a minor social inconvenience. This was a major breach of the demand of hospitality; it was a disgrace and it would be devastating for the couple. Everywhere they went, for the rest of their married life, they would be known, ridiculed, and talked about. The strain on their life together would be enormous. Think about it – you know there are family weddings that you still talk about aren’t there?

So, knowing something important is going on, Jesus must decide what to do. He has to decide whether or not to change his timetable – to wait before making himself known, as he had planned, or to act right then, for that need. Jesus acts, the wedding reception was saved, and the bride and groom were given a new chance.

More importantly, the first time Jesus made himself known, even to his disciples, he did so, not according to his own plans, but in response to real and important human need.

Think about it. Jesus’ first manifestation of his glory, the first of his signs, was not for or about Jesus. The signs of his calling and of his identity were drawn out of him, not by his own plans and schedule, but by the needs of those around him. The water goes into the jars, and when they draw out a cup, it is wine. Very good wine. More than 120 gallons of wine, or the equivalent of 605 bottles of wine. That’s a lot of wine.

But it’s about more than just the wine. The wine is a sign and symbol of life and abundance. Jesus’ sign was bringing life in abundance—the wine was gone, the party was probably near to ending in disgrace for this couple and Jesus performed his sign – the feast continued.

There’s a sign in that abundance. It’s a sign that God intends for us a life where there is enough: an abundance that springs from God’s own abundance. This is a very important story, set in the midst of ordinariness. John points to its significance at the end, when he tells us that, in this first miraculous sign, Jesus “revealed his glory”.

This is good news. Jesus showed us that he did not live for himself alone, but to bring the good news of God’s glory to us.

Jesus’ actions show us that when we live beyond ourselves, for others and for the larger whole, then something wonderful can happen, something greater can be created, and there is more of us than there could ever be otherwise.

Jesus chose to abandon his plans and his schedule and to reach out. In doing that, he shows us what human life can be like.

Tomorrow, we observe as a nation the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Who would have predicted the effects his life would have all over the world?

He struggled for justice against great opposition, but out of his struggle emerged a spirit of healing for all people.

Another person who promotes a spirit of healing for all people is our own Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. Here are words spoken by Bishop Curry several years ago to his fellow bishops throughout the Anglican Communion:

The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, as we have said in this meeting, I am committed to ‘walking together’ with you as fellow primates in the Anglican family.

Bishop Michael Curry lives in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King. He knows and teaches that abundant life is possible, abundant life shown in that first miracle at Cana, is not only possible but imperative and it comes through God’s love for all of God’s people.

We can be a part of something greater so that we might serve our neighbors and build up the larger body. In one way or another, that is the purpose of our lives and everything in them.

As we move forward into the coming year, we can look to disciples like Bishop Curry, but even more importantly to the disciples in the pews who know about the abundance of love and the concerns of the world, and what they mean to each of us and how to show it to one another.

We can commit to the “way of love”, a way to build trusting relationships with God and one another. When we meet each other, whether it is in church, or in Bible study, or at mid-week Eucharist, or in the act of daily living – when we meet each for conversation, we must offer the way of love. As a community, we must always strive to be a source of prayerful support and accountability as we seek to live in the way of Jesus. Jesus showed that way of living when he allowed himself to change his plan to make sure that the bride and groom didn’t suffer shame if there wasn’t enough.

Jesus questioned what concern the lack of wine was. But Jesus understood quickly that it was his concern.

It is our concern when we see and hear actions by others that are not appropriate. I don’t know how many of you have seen the viral footage of teenagers, one, in particular, being egged on by his classmates, smirking at and mocking a Native American man in Washington, DC on Friday. A man who served this country and is a Vietnam veteran. The sad thing is that these teens were there for a Right to Life march. What is wrong if students from a private, prep school act like this. This is our concern, just as surely as Jesus provided wine. It wasn’t about the wine. It was about God’s action in the world. If we are going to be Christians true to the call of Jesus Christ, true to the way of love, true to Bishop Curry’s and Dr. King’s examples, you better believe it is our concern.

God was made manifest in Jesus Christ not to simply pull us into heaven, but rather to bring heaven down to us, to bring the peace and abundance that is God’s intention for all people and places into every corner of human life.  We are blessed with this feast at the Eucharistic table week-by-week and day-by-day, blessed with enough and more left over to share. And in our joy we are called to go out into God’s world and share God’s invitation: the table is set for all! We live by the way of love. Come and feast with us!

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