Micah 6:1-4,6-8, John 2:1-11
February 2, 2014
So far this year, we’ve had our “Recommitment Sunday,” where we were asked to remember and renew our baptism vows, and recommit ourselves to our faith in Jesus Christ. Then we gave some thought to our call to service in God’s kingdom. We remembered how God doesn’t call extraordinary people. He calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And we remembered how he calls all people into service in his kingdom.
Those are two good things to revisit at the start of a new year. Well, today I want us to think about that kingdom into which we are called and in which we serve. And I want us to see the nature of that kingdom. And specifically, I want us to see that the kingdom of God is one of Joy and blessedness. The kingdom of God is something we celebrate!
Well in that vain, there is no better story to look at, I think, than this one in John chapter 2. This is the story of the Wedding at Cana. And I think it shows us how Jesus saw the kingdom, and how the joy of the kingdom is celebrated in community.
If you think about it, the common denominator in all civilizations anyone has ever discovered and studied is community. Throughout the history of the human race, people have always banded together in tribes, clans, cities, and towns, as well as in various organizations. Isn’t that true? Well, the same is true of the Church. I believe all of that is God’s plan. God wants us to “stick together.” He wants us to share this life he has given us with each other. Watch little kids when they first start to meet and interact with other children. They’re thrilled that they now have friends! That’s the human connection in it’s purest form!
So, here in John 2, there is a wedding. And it is a community event. Like people of all times, they gathered as a community for such things. And I know, there have also been elopements over the years. (Did anyone here elope?) Yes, a certain percentage of people marry in private ceremonies. But it’s a small percentage. For the most part, weddings are big events. (And nowadays, they’re big expensive events!) And the big thing is, they’re community events!
Well, the great thing about this story is that Jesus and his disciples are here at this wedding. Jesus graces this event with his presence. And frankly I believe he did that a lot. We only have this one story of this one wedding in the Gospels, but I believe Jesus took a regular part in the life and events of his community, especially before he began his public ministry. Jesus honored that human connection as part of the joy of life. In fact, he knew it was and is one of the most important parts of life! Perhaps the most important!
More than that, Jesus recognized the fact that there was celebration in community. And though he showed some reluctance in performing this first miracle in the Gospels, we don’t get the impression it was reluctance about making the wine. He specifically says his reluctance is about the timing of his ministry. “Woman, what have you to do with me? My time has not yet come.” Throughout the Gospels we get hints of that sense of timing. Jesus didn’t want to “let the cat out of the bag” too soon. He had a definite plan about how he was going to tell people who he was.
So, Jesus graces this event with his presence. He honors the community. And he participates in the celebration. I think it’s important that we understand that Jesus sees all of the life of faith as a celebration! And it is my hope that we do, too. And I’d like us to think about what that looks like in our community here at Eddington. Do we share the celebration here in our Church?
At Eddington we pride ourselves on being a “Family Church.” But let me tell you that being such a “Family Church” can have it’s down side. Yes, the positive part is that we are a close knit group. We share life with each other better than some larger Churches, where there isn’t the chance to get to know everybody very well. This is a great community! It’s wonderful. When we refer to our “Church Family” here, it really is like a family.
However, one of the “down sides” to being a “Family Church” is that it’s hard for outsiders to “break into” that family. It’s hard for new people to become included in that such communities. We have to recognize that. And it isn’t that we’re not “friendly” and welcoming. Of course we are! It’s just that it can be difficult for new people to become fully integrated into our “clan.” So we have to watch for that. We have to reach out to the new folks, and we have to be intentional about including them.
Well, there’s one other “down side” to being a “Family Church. Sometimes “Family Churches” can, shall we say, behave like families. In other words, families can have struggles, can’t they? And church families can and do have interpersonal struggles, too. And in a “Family Church” those struggles can sometimes be more evident than in other types of churches. And that has a similar effect on outsiders. Instead of what I just mentioned about the difficulty of being integrated into a close knit group, people are “put off” when they see struggles we might have within the fellowship. And that can be a problem! Ever since I became a Christian, way back in High School, I’ve had a saying I’ve used from time to time. It is this. “There are times when I’m glad I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ already, because looking in from the outside I might not want to join.”
Friends, in a “Family Church” we need to be vigilant about those two things. We need to welcome people, yes – like we always do. We need to take extra care to include them, to “integrate them into our Family!” And, we need to be careful with each other. We need to be, as Paul says, “Slow to Anger and quick to Forgive.” We need, as he says, to “Forbear, uphold, and encourage one another in the “family.” We need to do so as though others are watching. Because others are watching. We need to love one another in such a way that the witness we give will be compelling to other people! Because the opposite can also happen. If people see negativity in and among us, they won’t be compelled to be part of it.
Then finally, we can’t forget the other part of this. We can’t forget the celebration part! God wants us to share this life together with joy! For there is great joy in his kingdom! Our “chief end” according to the catechism, the most important purpose for our existence,” is what? “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” And part of that would also be “and enjoy him together.” God wants joy for us. And he wants community for us. Put the two together and he wants “joyful community.”
If you think about it, church for some is anything but joyful. The faith for some is drudgery. The Christian life for some is all about sacrifice and “laboring” in the service of the church. For some, they aren’t even sure why they’re doing it, but they don’t want to “take any chances.”
But that’s not what the Church is supposed to be! That’s not what Jesus envisioned the Church to be. When the woman anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume, some said, “Hey that should have been sold and the money given to the poor!” But Jesus said, “You’re not getting it! You will always have the poor around you. But you won’t always have the bridegroom!” In other words, sacrifice is a good thing, but there’s something to celebrate here. Don’t miss the celebration of the faith!”
So, what about you? Do you “go through the motions” of faith, without any real inspiration? Are you glad you’re part of the kingdom of God, but you really don’t know why, and you really don’t understand it all that well? Do you think it’s all about future joy and blessing in the next life, but you’re not all that sure about this one?
C. S. Lewis wrote that “for those who end up in heaven, it has been heaven all along.” Is that true of your faith? Is it joyous – despite what the circumstances of your life might be? Do you celebrate the kingdom? And do you share in the celebration with others?
Those are all good things to think about as we begin a new year together. We’ve renewed our faith. We’ve rededicated ourselves to the call to service in the kingdom. And now we are reminded that the kingdom is about celebration of this life in God’s presence. As you go from this place today, think about that. Think about “sharing the celebration” with your brothers and sisters in Christ in this “Family of faith” here at Eddington. And let me tell you, people will notice.
Eternal God, you have given your only Son so that we could be part of your kingdom. Help us to see the joy and celebration of your kingdom as we share this life of faith together. Help us to know that you are sharing that joy with us. For these things we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.