Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, September 18, 2011

God's YES

You know, John's gospel story of Jesus' first ever miracle, the miracle of the wine at the Wedding at Cana, seems a little odd.  What did Jesus first do to reveal his glory to the world? Perform a wonderful healing? - No. Preach a stunning sermon? No. He went round the back of the bar at a wedding and boosted the stocks of best wine - by very generous proportions.

Here we see Jesus doing the unorthodox, perhaps supporting what most would see as excess.
I mean think about it, if the wedding guests had drunk all the wine, did they really need any more?  Yet Jesus created somewhere between 120 and 180 GALLONS of premium wine.  Wow!

What did Jesus first do to reveal his glory to the world? Perform a wonderful healing? - No. Preach a stunning sermon? No. He went round the back of the bar at a wedding and boosted the stocks of best wine - by very generous proportions.

You might wonder why Jesus would be at a wedding in the first place. It's only what you'd expect - that God who took such delight in creating the world and all its people, would delight to be with people on a day of celebration; that God whose whole being is wrapped up totally in love, would want to share the wonder of a young couple's love by joining in their wedding party.

Of course we know from our own experience that weddings aren't all joy. If we were able to see the wedding party through Jesus' eyes then we would know that perhaps there was some local drama here.  The families wanting to put on a great event to impress the village.  The father of the bride, that father buying drinks for everyone at the bar, over reaching and getting himself into massive debt, and still coming up short.

But what about that wine.  Jesus quietly snuck behind the bar and somehow transformed ordinary water into finest quality wine.  Not second rate wine… who at this stage of the party would have noticed?  But first rate wine.  What was that all about?  Oh, and not just good wine…. LOTS of good wine.  120 Gallons?  Really!?

Jesus didn't spend any time carefully calculating precisely how much wine was needed to keep the party going to a certain time. No: he got all the empty containers they could find and filled them right up to the brim. I can imagine him saying, “That should do it”, with a smile.

This was more than enough. This wasn't just generous. This was a scandalously generous gesture. Which is precisely what Jesus intended it to be. Because after all, isn't the whole thing about God coming to earth scandalously generous? 

And that is precisely the point. God’s loving generosity.  And we see that even more clearly if we look at story number two, which is essentially a foil to story number one.  This story is that of the cleansing of the temple.

The time of this story coincides with the  Jewish Passover celebration.  The entire Passover celebration took a week. Attendance for adult Israelite males was supposedly compulsory.  Every male Jew, if at all possible, from the age of twelve and up, was expected to attend the Passover at Jerusalem.  It is very difficult to imagine the scene that our Lord’s eyes fall upon as He enters Jerusalem and approaches the temple. Talk about a lot of people!  Think the Super Bowl.   Think National Championship game, World Series.  It was a madhouse, with people from all over the world in attendance.  Now all these people Jews and Gentiles alike would have to pay the half-shekel temple tax in the coinage of the temple to be there.  Foreign monies were unacceptable and had to be exchanged for the proper coins. Thus the money changers.  And yes, there was a fee, just like those ATMS.

And these worshippers also had to offer up their sacrifices, and for many of these travelers, the only solution was to buy a sacrificial animal there in Jerusalem.  In days gone by, they would have been able to purchase these animals and exchange their money in a place outside the temple courts, from vendors over on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, but at this point in history they had to buy in the temple courts, doubtless in the Court of the Gentiles (the outermost court).

And to be blunt, there were major abuses.  There was exploitation. The vendors took advantage of the pilgrims, and in the process made a lot of money.  A lot.  . And in view of these conditions the Holy Temple, intended as a house of prayer for all people, had become according to Jesus in Mark, a den of robbers.  In the words of John, a marketplace

So what do we have in our second story?  Jesus, rejecting the norm, the status quo, the orthodox, the accepted, the set religious practices of the time.  Rejecting a faith system gone sadly astray.  A faith system that limited access to God.  Which manipulated, even took advantage of those seeking God.

Why these stories?  According to John the Wedding at Cana was the first of seven signs performed by Jesus to reveal the heart of his way.  What is Jesus pointing to with the story of the wedding, made more powerful by the following story, of the cleansing of the temple?  What is at the core, at the heart of the Jesus way?

Certainly not the old, the dead, the concrete.  He is making it clear that when we make ritual, and systems and orthodoxy more important than God’s love, God’s spirit, that we are in trouble.  When we make those things central, the most important things, we die, spiritually, and we miss so much

But the core of the Gospel… as seen in Sign One, in that Wedding at Cana, and those jugs of wine, is centered on God’s generosity
On a free flowing spirit.
It is about love
It is about gratefulness
And yes…. Exuberant joy

I love the ecstatic exuberance of ee Cummings
I thank you God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes!!!!

The wedding of Cana is about God’s yes!
And yes which why we can grasp
Even embrace
In our church
In our worship
In our lives

That is it
It is about loving, deeply and truly
Even if you break some of the rules
It is about being for others
It is about passion for God not passion for the book of Order

It is about
Feeling the presence of God
The flow of the Spirit
Of smiling
And doing a little dance
And saying

I thank you God
For this day
For that person
For your love
I thank you for the glint in that young boy’s eye
I Thank you God for forgiveness and second chances
I thank you God
For everything that is natural, is infinite, is yes!

The Gospel is all about God’s YES
And our “Yes” in return….

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