Sermon: Continue the Wedding Party!

The Rev. Mary E. Davis

Epiphany 2 Year C January 20, 2019 John 2:1-11 May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Amen. I have often said – and I know it sounds strange – but I would much rather officiate at a funeral than a wedding. Our Episcopal liturgy for burial is actually one of the most beautiful services we have, and our Christian faith and hope allows that even within the somberness of a funeral there is an undertone of spiritual joy. The marriage ceremony, on the other hand, often comes with nervous or over-involved mothers and mothers-in-law, or groomsmen who might have had one too many drinks before the service, and is often viewed as just something to ‘get through’ on the way to the party, a pit stop on the journey of life. But this morning’s Gospel shows us a different way to look at a wedding. Because this wedding was where Jesus’ purpose was revealed to the world, with some gentle nudging from his dear mother, through his first sign – his first miracle – changing water into wine. This is a story about purpose . . . abundance, joy, celebration . . . and one which reveals the nature of God through Christ, which includes oodles & oodles, buckets- and stone jars-full of Grace. These gifts of abundant joy and grace which Jesus offers through our Gospel story today means that as Christians, our Sunday morning worship – and the whole of our lives for that matter – ought to reveal that same joy and abundance. I mean, think about it, Jesus never would have said, give me a good funeral over the celebration of a wedding. In fact he interrupted every funeral he ever attended. Including his own! First, there was the day he met a funeral procession on his way to the city of Nain. A widow's son had died. On that occasion, Jesus stopped the funeral procession, touched the funeral bier, brought the young man back to life and returned him to his mother. He broke up funeral #1. Jesus also went to the home of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue whose little girl had died. The mourners had already begun their weeping and wailing. Jesus entered the room, took her by the hand, and restored her life. He broke up funeral #2. Then, he went to Bethany when he learned that his friend Lazarus had died. Lazarus had been buried in a tomb for four days. “He stinketh,” the KJV says. But Jesus went to the tomb, called him out, and Lazarus walked out alive. Jesus broke up funeral #3. And finally, of course, the reason we’re here today on this Sunday morning, is that early in the morning of that first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other women went to Jesus’ own tomb to complete his burial process. They found the stone rolled away, and an angel announced to them, "He is not here; he is risen." Our Lord, Jesus Christ even broke up his own funeral. But the wedding celebration – and the party after – Jesus kept it going. Because Jesus is Lord of the living. And as Jesus’ disciples, we must keep it going as well. Our lives are meant as testimony that God is the God of life. I read a story this week, which offered a great image – a wonderful example of carrying on as Jesus’ disciples. It was about a composer named Puccini. He wrote some of the great operas like Madame Butterfly. In 1922 Puccini learned from his doctor that he had cancer. In spite of his illness, he wanted to write one final work: Turandot. His students said, "But, master, what will happen if you're not able to finish the work?" Puccini answered, "My disciples will finish it for me." In 1924 Puccini died, and the work of Turandot was not yet finished. But his disciples did what they promised they would do, and completed the work. The first performance of Turandot was given in Milan in the La Scala Theater. It was directed by Puccini's greatest student, Toscanini. Toscanini directed the music right up to the point where the Puccini put his pen down and died, and at that point, Toscanini stopped the orchestra, laid down his baton, turned to the audience, and said, "Thus far, the master wrote, and then the master died." After a long pause, he picked up the baton, addressed the audience, and said, "But his disciples have finished the work." Toscanini directed the music to its conclusion. That’s where we come in. We are the disciples of the Master. We are called to complete the joyful, life-giving work Jesus began, to continue the “wedding feast,” if you will. And, in so many ways we already do. I’ve heard people say, many times, after visiting our church, that this is a “happy” church. Initially, I would hear that and think that it sounded trite or shallow. But it’s not. It’s just the vibe here. We laugh out loud. Hearing well-timed hiccups, or watching our youngest children make a grand bow after bringing the Communion elements up to the altar. Having our teenagers lead yoga and stretching exercises with homeless families at Family Promise. Laughing throughout our Vestry meetings. Hearing the assertive and faithful prayers of our children when we pray the Lords’ Prayer. All of this is the joyous expression of our faith, a continuation of the wedding party! Today’s Gospel shows us what Grace looks like, tastes like, sounds like and feels like. Hold this miracle in your minds’ eye and prayers as we live each day as God’s people. May the joy of our faith glorify the name of God, who is the God of the living. Amen.