Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, January 17, 2016:

First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm: Psalm 36:5-10

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

Gospel: John 2:1-11

Today's Gospel presents the first miracle of Jesus, the turning of water into wine at a wedding. No doubt that some preachers across the country will take this opportunity to talk about weddings and the sanctity of marriage; they'll see the participation of Jesus as his sanction of this institution. Perhaps others will talk about miracles, while others talk about the proper way to treat one's mother.

I'm less interested in the marriage issue than in the miracle issue. In this Gospel, Jesus resists his mother's urging to help out with the wine. Why does he do that? Does he have a splashier miracle in mind as his announcement that he's arrived? Is it the typical rebellion of the child against the parent?

And then, why does Jesus change his mind?

You might make the argument that Jesus shouldn't care about whether or not the wedding guests had wine. You might argue it's a trivial miracle. But scholars would remind us that to run out of wine at a wedding would be a serious breach of hospitality. The whole extended family would suffer great embarrassment and shame—and there might be rippling effects through a community with strict codes that modern readers can scarcely imagine.

At a Create in Me retreat at Lutheridge, Bishop Gordy, head of the Southeast Synod of the ELCA, led a fascinating study of this text. He sees the this first miracle as showing us that Jesus was not so focused on his own agenda that he couldn’t act on the need for compassion for this couple who is about to experience great humiliation.

Bishop Gordy also pointed us to the abundance in this miracle. Just like the loaves and fishes miracle, Jesus provides more than humans can use—not just enough for the given situation. The wine doesn’t run out. Indeed, they have wine left at the end of the wedding feast.

And it’s good wine. God doesn’t just give out leftovers and lesser quality. We’re the ones who operate out of a scarcity consciousness. The miracles of Jesus, particularly in John’s Gospel, remind us that not only will there be enough, there will be great abundance.

What does Jesus need for this miracle? Water and jars. What could be simpler? Gail O’Day notes that the jars were used for purification. The old forms aren’t destroyed, just filled with newness and new purpose.

We often hesitate to ask God for what we truly need and want. We’re afraid of rejection. We’re afraid that the task is too hard. The miracle stories remind us that God can use the materials at hand to give us more abundance than we can use.

Perhaps this could be the year that we rid ourselves of our scarcity thinking. We worship a God of abundance and great giving. Rejoice in this good news.

No comments: