Sunday, January 17, 2010

Light of Joy

John 2:1-11 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

I’ve never really understood this particular miracle. Oh, I get the mechanics of it ok. And I get that Jesus was, or at least seemed, a bit miffed that his mother wanted him to show his power before he was ready. And I get that it wasn’t a public miracle, but a fairly private one – only his mother and selected followers were aware of it.

There is plenty of speculation in print about why Jesus was behaving like a responsible person at this wedding. Maybe it was the wedding of a younger sister and as oldest son he was the head of household. Maybe it was his wedding – although no one really seems to believe that one. At any rate, there must have been some reason why Mary thought he needed to resolve the whole “ran out of wine” situation. But – why? Not why was Jesus responsible, but why even do it? Why change water into wine? Why not just send a kid to the wine vender to buy more? And even if you are going to change it, why change it into the best vintage? Since the guests have already had plenty to drink, why not just provide box wine? The traditional theological answer is that this miracle is intended to show the extravagant love God has for us.

It’s a little hard to see extravagant love right now. Five days ago an earthquake struck Haiti, the poorest nation in our half of the world, located only a short boat ride from our shores. The news has been filled with images of tragedy and images of Americans leaping forward to help in any way we can. Once again we see our impulse towards love is moving us, individually and as a nation, to reach out even from our own places of financial difficulty to help those who have nothing. Someone on one of the news programs said that giving for this tragedy may even exceed that which followed Katrina and the tsunami. And we’re in the middle of a recession. I don’t know if it’s an American thing or a Christian thing, but it is what we do time after time. No matter how bad things might be for us, when we hear of a tragedy striking our first impulse is to say “How can I help?”

Most of us respond that way. I’m sure you have all heard that the Reverend Pat Robertson claims the Haitians brought this on themselves by entering into a pact with the devil back in the 1700s. And that Rush Limbaugh claims that this situation is tailor made for President Obama to regain credibility with the light and dark skinned blacks in this country. Some people will believe what they say. Some people will give in to prejudice and hatred instead of answering the impulse toward love that God has given each of us.

Maria Cuca Perez, who was here just a few weeks ago, shared her thoughts on love in an email shortly after the news of the quake. “I used to say that God protected me from this and that. But, when events like this earthquake happen, I wonder where was God's protection for so many unfortunate people in Haiti and all over the world. I have learned that we have to be God's hands, to protect and to assist those less fortunate. When you pray for the people of a disaster, do not look to God for answers, God already gave them to you. We already have the tools to God's will, be generous and give your time, donations, money and most of all your love. Peace.”

Many of us are hoping that justice will come to Haiti out of this incredible devastation. One of the first agencies to come forward with funds for emergency aid was the World Bank. Sadly, this was less altruism than protecting their investment. Like too many other small, poverty stricken nations, Haiti owes the World Bank a lot of money, much more than they could ever hope to repay. And this is the way it has always been for Haiti. Ever since the 1700s when the slaves of Haiti gained their freedom from France and from the plantation owners, Haiti has struggled to support herself. France blockaded her waters until Haiti agreed to pay damages for the plantation owners’ property loss – including the lives of the slaves who freed themselves - in an amount far exceeding their gross national product. The devil they made a deal with was France. And ever since then, European and American banks have continued to loan her huge sums for building projects that are unreasonable for a country at such a low level of development. It is a way of keeping whole nations enslaved without breaking the anti-slavery laws. I pray that the World Bank and other financial institutions will forgive at least the interest on all those loans – that they will proclaim Jubilee for Haiti.

But before that, there is so much to do. So much death and destruction. And so much to wrap our minds around. We have seen photos and videos, but let me read you something I received from a clergywoman I know online. It is from her mother who is in Leogane (pronounced LAY oh Gone) not Port-au-Prince, actually closer to the epicenter and as of yesterday no aid has arrived in their town.
I’m Using someone’s computer without using a bright screen, so I cannot tell about my mistakes. I will send one msg to all, so some information will not mean anything to you.
Hopital Ste. Croix is standing. John and I are fine. The administration collapsed under the guesthouse, and our apartment collapsed under the story above. We have nothing we brought with us to Haiti, but since we have done a lot of cleaning in the guesthouse and hospital, we can find what we really need. Someone who was here gave me some shoes, and I found another pair or reading glasses that will work, so I have what I need. John was caught under the wreckage for about 4 hours, the roof above was supported by the lintel of the sliding glass door, which held up the second floor, so he was uninjured except for a small cut on the top of his head.
At night we sleep in the yard behind the hospital where the bandstand was. It has fallen, as has the Episcopal school. There are 2-300 people who sleep in that field at night. Thy singh ymns until almost midnight, and we wake up to a church service, with hymns, a
morning prayer, and the apostle’s creed. The evening sky is glorious. In the field there is a real sense of community.
Of course, we are the only blancs there. A group from FondWa arrived in Leogane today and will sleep there tonight. Janine the head cook brought John and me spaghetti from her home in Darbonne 8 miles away. We shared with the group from FondWa. They have some money so they went out and bought rice, etc, and we will eat tonight.
People have shared with us and we are getting a chance to feel how the Haitians really live.
The injuries we have seen at the hospital are enormous, skulls exposed, one woman died in the yard. Another women’s leg was cut vertically to the bone, with muscles showing. Doctors worked and saw over 300 people with cuts, fractures, etc. Today they are not, but worked hard every day since the quake. (with no gloves, anesthesia, antibiotics – all supplies were either destroyed or used up quickly)
I have never understood joy in the midst of suffering, but now I do. The caring I have seen, the help we have received from the Haitians, the evening songs and prayers. Are wonderful.
The people will survive, though many will die. Please pray for us. And pray that we and the hospital can be of help to the people here. Suzi

I was pretty amazed on the first night that Katie Couric was there reporting on the devastation, because you could hear in the background children singing songs of praise to God. But did you hear what Suzi said in this letter? 200-300 people singing hymns every night, singing praise, lifting up to God the joy of just being alive. Holding worship service every morning as soon as they wake up. The Light of Joy – Joy in the midst of suffering.

In a world where there is NO clean water – let alone wine – we wonder, where is the extravagance of God? In a world where desperate parents must say to their children ‘There is no food” why has the hour of justice and redemption not yet come? We want to tug at Jesus’ sleeve and say “They have no wine!”

And yet in Haiti, where there isn’t even water, they are singing hymns of praise to God. Because they are alive, because they have hope for tomorrow, because they have the Christ.

Mary said – they have no wine.
Jesus said “ and that’s my problem why?”
Mary said to the servants “do what he tells you to do”
Jesus said “fill the jars with water”

Mary said “Do what he tells you.”

He took the water in the jugs and he turned that water into wine. He took what we need to sustain life and turned it into that which makes life a celebration.
We are the water.
Christ is the wine.
Christ is the extravagant love that God has for us, for all God’s children.
When he was asked for wine, he gave the best.
When we do what he tells us we are the best, we have the power to change lives, to heal the world, to provide wine where there is no water.
Do what he tells you.

1 comment:

Gerry said...

Well-done sermon, Maria. Thank you.