This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Second Sunday after Epiphany. The Gospel reading was John 2:1-11.
For the next year, we are going to be doing something very special at Prince of Peace – we will be celebrating our fiftieth anniversary of ministry together! Fifty years ago, three Lutheran congregations in this area did something incredibly brave and faithful: they voted to close in order to create a new, larger, more vibrant and creative congregation, which we know as Prince of Peace. So, over the next year, we’ll spend a lot of time looking back at these fifty years, looking back at where we’ve been, how we got here, and what we’ve done.
But it won’t be all about the past. We will also spend the next year thinking and dreaming about the future, about what the next fifty years might bring, about how we are called to do God’s will in new and exciting ways going forward.
It’s going to be an exciting year. And we’re kicking it off in a really exciting way!
Happy Stewardship Campaign! I know, that may not sound like an exciting way to begin an anniversary year, but bear with me. For the next month, we are going to be celebrating our Stewardship. Celebrating the things that God has given us, the things that God has blessed us with, the things that God wants us to use in God’s service. And we’re going to be doing this through the lens of our anniversary.
And specifically through the lens of our anniversary logo.
This logo was designed by a group of people in our congregation. Around the outside it says, “Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Joined by God to Seek and Serve All People.” And it’s got four sections inside. Four quadrants around a cross at the center. Four aspects of our life together as a community, the life that God has given to us to enjoy, and to share with the world around us.
Each week throughout this Stewardship Campaign, we’ll be looking at one of these quadrants. Today, we’re looking at the one on the top left.
Let’s look at today’s gospel reading. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus performs a miracle. He turns water into wine. Now, one of the things that’s really astonishing about this miracle is its size. John tells us that there are six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each jar holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus orders the servants to fill them to the brim, so that’s between 120 and 180 gallons of water. And then, suddenly it’s not. Now it’s between 120 and 180 gallons of wine. And that is a lot of wine. The average wine bottle today holds about 750 mL, which means Jesus made somewhere between six hundred and nine hundred bottles of wine. Nine hundred bottles of wine. For a wedding.
Another surprising thing about this miracle is the question of why? Why did Jesus do this? Well, as it turns out, just like there’s a lot of wine, there are a lot of answers in this short story as to why.
- Why did he do it? Well, he did it because they had run out of wine at a wedding.
- Why did he do it? Well, he did it because his mother told him to.
- Why did he do it? Well, he did it because when his disciples saw it, they believed in him.
- Why did he do it? Well, because as John tells us at the very beginning, on the third day there was a wedding, and the “third day” is a sneaky way of telling us that this is all about the resurrection.
This story overflows with wine, and overflows with meaning.
And maybe that could be the point. Maybe the point is that Jesus is positively overflowing. Jesus overflows with love, and forgiveness, and healing, and grace. And here, in this story, Jesus overflows with wine, wine which symbolized joy and excitement and fellowship.
Jesus took water that was intended for religious purification rituals. And he transformed it into wine. He took religious purity rules and transformed them into joy and fun. And so maybe one thing Jesus teaches us here is that faith in God isn’t supposed to be all about being pure. Maybe faith in God is something else.
And maybe we too, even in the time of COVID, maybe we too can overflow with joy, and excitement, and fellowship, and fun. Because the wine that started overflowing at that wedding in Cana is still overflowing today. And one place it’s overflowing is on our communion table.
In just a few minutes, the wine in that cup will be transformed. And something else will be there as well. In just a few minutes, the same Jesus who fed a crowd with just a few crumbs, the same Jesus who gave sight to a blind man, the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead, the same Jesus who turned a hundred and eighty gallons of purification water into nine hundred bottles of wine, that same Jesus is coming here.
Coming here and transforming that little bit of drink into love, and forgiveness, and healing, and grace, and joy, and excitement, and fellowship, and fun. And in drinking it, God will transform you.
But that miracle is exactly what’s gotten us where we are. There is no way that three small congregations in 1972 could have the courage to close their doors, relinquish their identity, and start something called Prince of Peace, unless they been transformed by the joy of Christ. There is no way that that new congregation could get through all the birth pangs and all the conflict and controversy, and become the strong congregation we still are, unless they had been transformed by the joy of Christ. There is no way they could raise enough money to build this building, and expand this building, and repair this organ, and call these pastors, and feed all those people, and change all those lives, unless they had been transformed by the joy of Christ.
And, there is no way you would be here in this room today. Or watching or listening to this from your home, or reading this on a blog, unless you too have been transformed by the joy of Christ. And you have. And you will be transformed again.
There’s more for us. A lot more. And we have the joy to do it.