January 16: The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for Sunday, January 16, 2022 was preached as response to John 2.1-11 and based on the manuscript below.

? What we need is here
? What we need is here (2x)

Today we continue a series
of Jesus’ glory and divinity
while maintaining his full humanity
being revealed.
We’ve heard of the arrival of the Magi,
at Epiphany,
when salvation is offered and made available to all
regardless of race or ethnicity.
We’ve heard of Jesus’ baptism
when the heavens are torn,
a dove alights on Jesus,
and a voice from above says that Jesus is God’s son.
And today we come to Jesus’ first miracle
where he and the disciples attend a wedding.
Maybe Jesus knew someone at it.
Maybe the newly called disciple Nathanael knew someone.

So they’re at the wedding
and quelle horreur the wedding feast runs out of wine —
maybe because Jesus and his vagabond group of disciples
hadn’t contributed to the community pot
by way of a wedding gift.
Mary, whom John only refers to with the honorific “Mother of Jesus,”
shares with Jesus that they’re out of wine.
Perhaps she’s asking him to do something about it.
Perhaps she’s just letting him know
as an update, like when you run out of wings
at a Super Bowl party.
There are lots of ways to read Jesus’ reply,
but none of them is meant as rude or belligerent.
Jesus could possibly have merely been saying,
“We’re not the hosts here!
This isn’t our problem.
It’s not time for my glory to be revealed;
my hour has not yet come.”
Nevertheless, Mary tells the servants
to do what Jesus says.

This week we got an email from a congregant:
“I know that the official channel for this closed,
but I had a lovely conversation with a friend this week
about St Hilda St Patrick Episcopal Church.
She learned that I attend SHSP
and shared that she and her husband
really like walking labyrinths.
They have a labyrinth finder website that they use
and they discovered us via that website.
In the last week or two,
they drove over from Mill Creek to walk our labyrinth.
She was very complimentary
about how lovely it was
and what a nice garden we have around it.”

I think we’ve gotten all the pledges for 2022
that we’re going to get,
but the official channels for noticing stewardship stories
is not closed!
Please keep sharing those, year round, all the time,
as our stewardship conversation moves
from a month in the winter or fall
to conversations between ourselves, God, and the church
all the time.

Since I started at St. Hilda St. Patrick
we’ve been intentional about modeling and living
as stewards, like the person who tastes the wine
Jesus makes from the water.
Stewards who care for one another
who care for those in our community
stewarding the commons of this church and this little patch
of unincorporated Snohomish County.
As we’ve lived in this model of stewardship,
we haven’t set a fundraising goal
or given budget completion updates.
We’ve asked you to be in conversation with God and your family unit
and to think about proportional giving:
giving not necessarily a flat rate monthly or quarterly,
but looking at your income
and dedicating a percentage of it to God’s work
through the church.
The bishop’s committee is meeting today
to approve a budget for this year.
I’ve lost more sleep over this church and our budget this week
than I have in my last two years here —
and that’s with an unplanned global pandemic.

Undoubtedly the groom of today’s wedding at Cana
and his close friend who was stewarding the festivities
didn’t expect to run out.
It’s not exactly an unplanned global pandemic,
but all of us face surprises of their own magnitude
at inopportune times!
Shock and disappointment are relative.
Although Jesus’ hour, his glorification,
which for john are his crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension,
is not yet come,
Jesus intervenes.
The Word Made Flesh, the Light that the Darkness Cannot Overcome,
works with what’s around,
and works quietly but gracefully.

He directs the filling of stone jars with water,
let’s go with the biggest estimate,
so about 30 gallons each
and tells the servants to simply dip some out
and share it with the steward.
This wedding feast has just gone from having no wine
to having about 900 bottles available.
The steward celebrates the groom
for saving the best for last,
which is not human tendency when it comes
to opening and sharing bottles of wine!
Jesus reveals his true glory,
and the disciples continue their journey
of believing in him.
God through Jesus
shows the abundance and goodness of God’s grace.

The wedding party didn’t do anything
to warrant or earn more wine than they needed
and certainly not wine that is being so celebrated.
Jesus just gave it freely
so that his disciples and we could believe.
There are lots of ways to theologize and allegorize
this passage that only appears in John.
But as someone in Bible study pointed out this week
when John wants to theologize, John does it.
When we just take this text on its face
there’s Good News of the abundance of God
and that what we need, what God needs,
is here.

The bishop’s committee is meeting today
to approve a budget for this year.
I’ve lost more sleep over this church and our budget this week
than I have in my last two years here —
and that’s with an unplanned global pandemic.
Like water into wine from six stone jars,
what we need is here,
through God.
Deaths and moves have changed our situation,
but what we need is here.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
“We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope.”
Even after we cut the budget to be as tight as we can,
there will probably still be a deficit based on current pledges.
Dr. King also said,
“The contemporary tendency in our society
is to base our distribution on scarcity,
which has vanished.”
What we need is here,
particularly as we consider our giving in terms of proportions
setting a percentage or part of a percentage aside for God
and working toward the Biblical standard
of a 10% tithe.
What we need
both at St. Hilda St. Patrick
and in the commons of our area… is here —
even if it’s in the portfolios and bank accounts
of the billionaires who live in our regions
and not sheltering or feeding those
who eat from our pantry
or sleep at our front door.

I’ve lost sleep over the last week,
but I haven’t lost infinite hope:
not in the face of this pandemic
with all its twists and turns
and not in the face of planning for this budget.
We don’t have to get blood from turnips
when God can get wine from water.
Regardless of how the budget shakes out, too
the abundance of God’s love
can’t be counted or measured.
Regardless of how much is pledged or given,
God’s love made manifest in Jesus
covers us, wraps us, and comforts us.
? What we need is here
? What we need is here (2x)

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