January 27, 2019

“Frivolity or Generosity”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

1 Corinthians 12.1-11

John 2.1-11

January 27, 2019

Our God is generous. Each week we respond to that generosity through our testimonies in joys. We witness to that grace through our giving of tithes and offerings and bringing our spiritual gifts. God is generous in our lives, in scripture, and in today’s passages. Yet, there are people in the world that are seeking that generosity and cannot find evidence of it, whether momentarily or for long periods of time. Maybe you have doubted God’s generosity, too. For the people in Paradise, California, they might wonder where God is and where that generosity might be after experiencing devastating fires and are currently unable to access government funding. There are people awaiting citizenship – people who have waited for three years to be approved, but must wait three more years because the immigration courts are shut down. Perhaps they wonder about God’s generosity in a world so stingy. What about children who are starving? How can they testify to God’s generosity?

In the Gospel reading Jesus helps throw a party! What does that mean in our context? What did it mean in Jesus’ context? Are we in the time of Epiphany, or are we somehow back in Advent, waiting? Mary guides us through this passage and helps us to understand God’s timing.

Jesus is attending a wedding. We are unclear about many of the details, such as whose wedding he is at and why he is going with his mother and the disciples. Was it family or a friend? It appears the details are unnecessary, no matter how curious. The pericope begins by saying this is on the third day. This is less about chronology and more pointing to the importance of the event about to unfold. The third day is an edition most likely added after the fact to refer to the holiness of resurrection on the third day.[1] On this undetermined day, Jesus, the disciples, and Mary attend a wedding. Now, Mary is not mentioned in this Gospel by name – she is referred to as “the mother of Jesus.” I will continue to refer to her as Mary, as I feel that is a pretty safe assumption in the absence of a maternity test.

As this group is partying Mary notices that the wine is gone. As editor Jill Duffield calls it, there is a “wine emergency.” Having no wine at a wedding at that time was like no cake at a birthday party. Without essential party ingredients the crowds could turn against you quickly. Mary looks at Jesus and tells him that the wine is gone, and he responds to her, asking, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."” Now, we might assume this is a sharp reaction. Not many of us would call our mothers “woman.” However, this would not have been out of sorts for the time this was written – addressing her as woman would have been appropriate.[2] Mary seems unfazed by his response. Almost as if she knew he would react the way he did. She prods, but steps back.

We remember those people who cannot wait – people who are living in poverty, people who are dependent upon the help of others, people who are living from one day to the next with hope alone. How can they wait for the right hour?[3] Waiting seems a luxury for many. Maybe Mary knows that, but she doesn’t push.

Mary was good at waiting. Part of the reason her story is told in Advent is because she had to wait forty weeks for this Christ child to be born. She patiently raised him. She prepared. Once more, it seems she is taking a role of waiting, and maybe even preparing. She knew Jesus well – mothers know their children. Maybe she knew he would resist at first – for whatever reason. Maybe she nudges a bit, steps back, and then prepares the others. She tells the servants “do what he tells you.” She nudges, and steps back.

Jesus then goes on to instruct others to fill up these giant water jugs. These are jugs that hold the same amount of water that Americans use in one day – about forty gallons.[4] Imagine the water you drink, bathe with, wash your hands with, and flush – that is how much water these jugs can hold. The people go to work and fill up the jugs – which probably was not an easy task.

This is amazing and a miracle, but Jesus instructs others to act, too. He is activating the gifts in others, asking for their help. If he could make water turn into wine, surely he could have made the water appear, too. Who knows what Jesus could have done? Yet, he chooses to ask for help in this and the people assist. Mennonite minister Joanna Harader notes that they “find joy in the process of working with God – even when the work is hard, even when the outcomes are not what we want.”[5] Here, we can probably assume that the people were thrilled to have more wine. Yet, sometimes when we work with God, the outcomes are not what we expected. Yet, perhaps they are what we needed.

What we can take comfort in from this passage is that Jesus is where he needs to be in this passage – present. He is at a wedding – a life occasion, a celebration – and he is enjoying it and taking the time to be with those he loved. He celebrates. He gives generously. His gifts are abundant.

We experience God’s generosity through the gifts of the Spirit. The scripture passage in 1 Corinthians talks about spiritual gifts, which can also be translated as “spiritual persons.” We are spiritual persons and we are able to join our gifts together to partner with God in ministry in the world. We cannot change the world without God, and God chooses to change the world with us.

In the 1 Corinthians passage Paul is addressing an issue of hierarchy in the church. The people were ranking their gifts, as if one gift was better than another. Paul uses the word “charismata” to describe gifts, meaning that they were given freely by grace.[6] One gift is not better than another, because they work together. We must unite together and use our gifts to make a difference in the world.

We are all given gifts. Sometimes we have that gift of patience and preparation, like Mary. Sometimes we are the ones gathering the right supplies, like at the wedding. Sometimes we are the ones enjoying the party, being present in the moment. Whatever our gift, we are all welcome at the party. We sit at the table together, celebrating our gifts, and learning how to share them so that we might witness to those who are waiting for the right hour. We gather to listen to one another and hear how someone has been blessed with the gifts of the Spirit, and how we might be able to join our gifts.

What are your gifts? When have you been truly present with someone in the past week? How can you be present in the coming week? Seek those moments of celebration, and be present in the moment. Seek those places in which people are waiting for the hour – and see if you can join with others to share your gifts. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

[1] Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker, Preaching Through the Christian Year: C (Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1994), 82.

[2] Ernest Hess, “John 2.1-11” in Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 263.

[3] Carol Lakey Hess, “John 2.1-11” in Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 262.

[4] Eugene Peterson, Mary: Seeing God through the Eyes of a Mother. (Nav Press, 2017), 26.

[5] Joanna Harader, “Reflections on the Lectionary: January 20, 2019” in Christian Century December 19, 2018, Vol. 135, No. 26, p. 21.

[6] Craddock, 81.