Texts: Genesis 1:26-28 ; Matthew 7:24-27 ; John 2:1-11
Delivered Saturday, October 2, 2010 at the wedding of Kristen Glass and Javier Perez at Ebenezer Lutheran Church; Chicago, IL
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When 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 and 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." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Love, joy and peace be with you, sisters and brothers, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Thinking back on my first memories of Kristen and Javier, I have to confess that they all involve parties. Kristen, as many of you know, is somewhat famous in the world of hostesses for her sincere love of kitsch (especially of the Swedish and/or Minnesota variety – which can be difficult to distinguish). So I recall a house party at her old place in Logan Square to which many of us were invited to attend in whatever 1950s garb we could scrounge up for the occasion. The menu consisted of those BBQ wieners in a crockpot, a jello mold with carrot shavings and mini-marshmellows, and a spread that looked like something straight out of “Leave it to Beaver.” Javier spent the better part of that party in the kitchen, mixing up cocktails served with ridiculous, I mean wonderful, swizzle sticks and umbrellas. He seemed right at home.
Likewise, my earliest memories of Javier involve parties and pubs. I think it was at one of Noel Spain’s annual blow outs that I first got a glimpse for how in his element Javier is at a party. There were easily well over 150 guests in Noel’s apartment, crammed into every room of the place and spilling out onto the back porch, and Javier seemed to know all of them. This is a guy who loves people, who makes friends easily, and who enjoys a good time.
So, when Kristen and Javier sent me the texts they wanted read at their wedding, along with a short note reading, “we will enjoy any preaching based on any or all of the texts – in particular the Wedding at Cana!” I was not surprised. It seemed absolutely perfect. If ever a couple deserved a wedding homily based on Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine, it is these two.
Now, those of you who worship at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Logan Square, where I am the pastor and where I really first got to know Kristen and Javier, know that we have just entered our fall Stewardship Campaign. Maybe the same thing is going on where the rest of you worship as well. This is the time of year when businesses and non-profits and churches are putting together their annual budgets for the upcoming year, so there is a lot of conversation about not only giving, but about stewardship in general.
And, since Kristen and Javier have been busy planning a wedding, and I didn’t get to see them in worship this past Sunday when I preached the first sermon in the stewardship series, I thought this would be the perfect occasion to get them up to speed. They’re really not going anywhere until I make this marriage official. I’ve got them right where I want them, and I’m not going to miss this opportunity to talk with them – and all of you – about the importance of good stewardship.
Actually, they pretty much handed this topic to me with the scriptures they chose. First we heard Noel read the passage from Genesis in which God creates humanity in God’s own image and blesses them in the following way: the scriptures says, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’”
This story from scripture reminds us of something that we can so easily lose sight of – that to be given stewardship over earth and sea and all of life is not a test, or a chore, but a blessing. Being created in the image of God means that we have power and agency, we have the ability to make decisions about what we say and do, and how we spend the time and money that God has blessed us with for the building up of our world at every level.
Kristen and Jav chose this passage because it spoke to them about their responsibility to care together for creation, especially their dog Rex whom they both love very much, but in the context of this wedding ceremony what I want to lift out of this passage as a reminder to them, and to all of us, is that the commandment to care for one another is a blessing. We ourselves become more fully who God wants us to be when we take on the discipline of caring well for others.
As if to illustrate the point, that caring for others is a blessing and not a chore, the gospel of John sets Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding, like the one we are at today. If the connection to stewardship isn’t immediately apparent, notice that one of the characters in the passage is actually named the “chief steward.” It was his job to make sure that there was enough to go around, and he is experiencing a crisis, because the guests have drunk their way through not only the good wine that he’d served first, but also through the bargain rate wine he’d served second, and now he was all out, and about to be greatly embarrassed by his failure to provide for his guests.
We don’t know if the chief steward exercised poor stewardship, or if the guests were just heavy drinkers. What we do know is that Jesus takes the ordinary stuff of life, the six water jars used for the purification rites, and transforms them into the best and sweetest drink at the party.
And here, I think, is wisdom that all of us can stand to be reminded of throughout our lives. We fall in love with one another and we make promises to each other at the beginning of our relationships that sound like blessings, but over time can begin to feel like chores. In joy and in sorrow. In plenty and in want. In sickness and in health. As long as we both shall live.
We serve each other our good wine at the beginning of the relationship, when it’s easy to remember how in love we really are. But sooner than you might expect we notice that we’ve begun to serve each other the inferior wine, and then it looks like we might be running out of even that.
That is where God steps in and offers us a fresh start, a new beginning – transforming the ordinary experiences of our everyday lives into opportunities for new life. Those six jugs of clean water set aside for cleaning both the hosts and the guests became the sweetest wine. The six days out of the week t
hat you spend working to pay the bills, washing dirty laundry and cleaning the house, tackling the problems and obstacles that arise between you – those are the places God is waiting to fill with God’s mercy and forgiveness, those are the places you will, in time, look back and notice how sweet your love for one another really is.
Kristen and Javier, you two who were created in the image and likeness of God, remember this: the promises you make to one another this day are a blessing. As you learn to keep these promises you are growing more and more into the people God created you to be. So be good stewards of your time and your wealth. Be intentional about how you spend each, so that you don’t run out of the good wine in your relationship too quickly. But when you do, and you will, trust that the God who was there to hear each of your borning cries is there as God has always been, working in and through you both, transforming each fault line into a foundation on which your marriage can safely stand.
In the strong name of Jesus, let the people say, Amen.