Our readings today are all about abundance. Though it may not feel like it, we each have everything we need. With Jesus, we have more than we need.
On some Sundays, here at St. Marks, we have very, very few people. I find myself focusing on what we don’t have: namely, a large congregation. But, as we sing our opening hymn, I’m think how lucky we are to have an organist. When the scriptures are read, I think how lucky we are to have many readers, and more importantly, we have the Word of God to share. We have many preachers to help us understand the Word. When we share the peace, we have such love and fondness for each other. We have the Eucharist: we even have two priests to prepare it. We have the miracle of the bread and wine. By this point in the service, I stop worrying about our church. I realize that we are fine. We are not lacking. We have love. We have the Holy Spirit. We have everything we need.
In our second reading, Paul essentially says the same thing to the small church in Corinth: “Within your church, the members have every gift you need.” I like this reading from The Message: “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful!”
Paul helps us understand that each person in each church brings an abundance of gifts, of talent, of service to the Lord. A few years ago a priest told of working at a church north of here. They had fired their priest, and she was helping them as an interim priest. It was a large, wealthy church but all the people talked about was what they were missing. They didn’t have enough people. They didn’t have enough money. They didn’t like their last priest and were worried about the next one. They were all about scarcity. This priest said that she loved visiting with St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s in Elma because, even though we were VERY small and not all that wealthy, we seemed to be all about abundance. We knew that we had everything we needed right here. We knew that we had sufficient gifts within our congregation to do the work God was giving us to do. We knew that when two or three of us were gathered in his name, the Spirit would be here with us.
Now let’s look at our gospel where they didn’t have everything they needed. They ran out of wine at a wedding!
Jesus goes with his mom, Mary, and a few of his disciples to a wedding at Cana, probably about 9 miles from his home. (So it’s like they traveled to Elma from Montesano.) Jesus probably joins in the fun: the dances the men do together, the feasting and the drinking. It’s a great wedding, a joyous party ... maybe too joyous because the guests drink ALL the wine!
Mary turns to Jesus. “Son, do something.”
Maybe Jesus rolls his eyes at his mother. “Mom, this isn’t our problem. Why are you telling ME to do something? Besides, it’s not time for me to do this.”
Mary knows her son. She knows what he can do. She completely ignores his protests, turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus tells the servants to fill six water jars to the brim. Each holds 20 gallons - these are big jars! When they are filled, he says, “take them to the chief steward.” Now, I like that the servants, the lowliest people at this party, know what’s going on. They are in on the miracle. But the steward isn’t. He says, “Hmm ... yummm! This is the good wine! Most people serve this first then serve the cheap stuff but you, you’re serving the really good wine now, even after everyone is drunk!”
Think of this: six big jars, each holding 20 gallons. Jesus made 120 gallons of wine. Surely at this point in the party, one jar would have been sufficient. And those jars were filled to the brim, practically overflowing with really good wine! What abundance Jesus brings! An abundance of good wine, an abundance of grace. Jesus reveals with this miracle that God is all about lavish abundance.
God’s love, like those overflowing jars at the wedding, is limitless. When we feel empty and afraid, we must try to remember that God’s love can fill us to the brim. I know, when times are hard, how impossible it is to feel full of God’s love. It’s easiest to focus on all that we lack or how much we hurt or how sad we are. At the risk of sounding trite, I have to say that it really helps me when I stop and count my blessings. I think how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, to have my family, to live here in such a beautiful place. I find myself grateful for very small things, like my sweet dog, Lucy.
Haiti seems to have an abundance of problems. It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It is not uncommon for them to suffer from natural disasters, especially hurricanes, and now this terrible earthquake. They have pervasive poverty, drug wars, a government which is often corrupt. With this earthquake, it is possible that tens of thousands of people have died.
In the midst of this horrible situation, I heard one newsperson say: “These people have so little, they are so used to strife that now, being homeless with no possessions, no food or water is just not that different for them.” Did any of you see the pictures of large groups of people, covered with dust, swaying together outside, singing? They were singing hymns. As they remember to turn to God, I pray that God’s grace will rain upon them and ease their suffering.
Here is another reading of today’s psalm:
O God, your love is a treasure,
and everyone finds shelter
in the shadow of your wings.
You give your guests a feast in your house,
and you serve wine
that flows like a river.
The life-giving fountain belongs to you,
and your light gives light
to each of us.