Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Best Is Yet To Come

14 January 2007 * Epiphany 2C
I Corinthians 12: 1-11 * John 2: 1-11
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek – St. Peter’s at Ellicott Mills

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Today we pray that we might “shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory that he may be known.” We pray that the light of Christ might shine through all that we say and all that we do.

Saint Paul, writing to the young church in Corinth, says we are each given spiritual gifts – gifts of this light of Christ if you will. And that these spiritual gifts are different for everyone, but come from the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God. That these gifts become manifest, or apparent, for all of us so that we might contribute to the common good.

The common good means for the good of all – all people, all creatures and all of creation: all. A small word that encompasses a lot of territory – an entire universe which we are told even now is expanding, getting larger, reaching out further and further, bringing into existence things seen and unseen.

Saint John paints much the same picture in this story of a wedding reception in Cana of Galilee. On the surface of it, the story seems to be about a party that is running out of wine, along comes Jesus, and suddenly there appears about 180 gallons of wine. Not just wine, but good wine. In fact the finest wine anyone had ever tasted.

Now it very well may be that they ran out of wine because seven people show up unexpectedly - Jesus and six others, his mother and five new friends. They show up, we are told, “on the third day.” That could mean they traveled for three days. It could mean the third day of the wedding party since first century weddings went on for several days. But it could be a reminder that we all know that something quite astonishing happened on the “third day” – Jesus rose from the dead. I believe John wants us always to keep this in mind – Jesus rose from the dead after three days.

So this day at this wedding is somehow related to Easter, the day of resurrection. We may also notice that there happen to be six stone jars. Not just any stone jars. These are special jars reserved, set aside, for special holy and religious purposes. The jars appear to be empty since Jesus tells the servants to fill them. Now along with Jesus there were six others – that works out to one jar per person who followed Jesus to the party. And at the end of the story we are told that these six – these disciples, followers – “believed on Him.” They are not said to believe him, in the sense of believing what he said was true, but rather they commit themselves to him in personal trust.

It seems as if the story might very well be about you and me – people who follow Jesus to a party that takes place here at this altar every week. Could it be that we are the empty vessels needing to be filled? Filled to the brim with living water, light and gifts of the spirit? Are we meant to understand that we are very special, sacred and holy vessels for God’s own using and purposes – purposes that are meant for the common good of all people, all creatures and all of creation?

God in Jesus transforms the contents of the jars from water to wine. Suggesting that Jesus can change whatever is inside of us. Now in the natural course of things, people who meet us at first see us at our best – we are civil, polite, friendly, considerate. After a time, however, they may get to know our less good sides – my grumpiness, my impatience, all that which is worse than the first impressions.

But in our communion with God in Christ, our best is yet to come! Every time we come to this altar together on behalf of the common good we can say, “you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus was dead and buried on Good Friday, but the best was yet to come – he rose again “on the third day.”

Which by the way answers a long and frequently asked question. Since Jesus turned the water into wine, and not just wine but good wine, and not just good wine but lots and lots of good wine – 180 gallons of good wine – is it possible that the people at the party drank all the good wine? Someone actually asked the ancient Bible scholar Saint Jerome this very question, “Did the guests at Cana drink all the wine Jesus had made?” Jerome wisely replied, “No, we are still drinking it today.”

As it turns out the guests at Cana were just like you and me – they were thirsty, but not for more wine. They were thirsty for faith, for a living relationship with God. We come here because we are thirsty for God. When we look at the wine on the altar which we are still drinking, we, like the six followers of Jesus at the party, are to believe. We are to believe, as John says, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing we may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

And “life in his name” means to die as a grain of wheat in order to bear much fruit (John 12:24) for the sake of the common good – that is to use the gifts of the Spirit for the sake of all people, all creatures and all of creation.

Someone once said, “Leave it to a crowd to look at the wrong end of a miracle every time.” The right end of this miracle is you and me. We are the vessels. We are filled to the brim with gifts of the Spirit. When we follow Jesus and “do whatever he tells” us, we are changed. This change says that there is always more and better yet to come.

As we come to know this about Jesus and about ourselves, we, like the six followers in this story, come to believe on him. For those of us who believe on him, our lives will shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory. We will become those people who employ our gifts for the common good – the good of all people, all creatures and all of creation.

Follow Jesus to the party and be filled to overflowing with the wine that never gives out, a relationship with the Living God of all creation. The best is yet to come.

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