Sunday, January 17, 2016

Signs of God's Abundance

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
January 17, 2016

Year C: The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

Signs of God’s Abundance
            On Thursday evening we once again had a fantastic Stone Soup Community Supper.
            The crowd wasn’t the biggest ever, but it was diverse and beautiful.
            There were parishioners, neighbors, and friends. There were people I knew well and people I had never met.
            There were people who were hungry for food – and there were people who were hungry for companionship, hungry to break bread with others, to talk and to laugh, to see and be seen.
            And, there was food! Lots and lots of delicious food, prepared this month by Trish who worked very hard to make something special and very tasty.
            At one point during the supper I found myself just looking around and being aware of the abundance – aware of God’s abundance – that I – and I think all of us there that night – were experiencing in Carr Hall.
            Signs of God’s abundance.
            The abundance of the earth.
            The abundance of generous and talented people who cook such wonderful things to eat.
            The abundance of our hall and kitchen and those who clean and maintain them.
            The abundance of all these different people – all different kinds of people –making their way to St. Paul’s to be fed.
            This month – every month, actually – Stone Soup is a sign of God’s abundance.
            In today’s gospel lesson, we heard about another powerful sign of God’s abundance – a sign, no coincidence, that also involves a feast.
            We’re told that Jesus and his disciples along with Jesus’ mother are at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.
            Jesus’ mother informs her son that the wine has run out.
            It’s every host’s nightmare – not enough food, not enough drink.
            At first Jesus seems shockingly rude to his mother – “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” – but Mary knows her son and, sure enough, he instructs the servants to fill the huge stone jars with water.
            We’re told that each jar held twenty or thirty gallons.
            And, of course, we know the rest of the story. Instead of water, the huge jars are miraculously filled with wine. And, not just wine but the finest wine, the finest wine that has, shockingly, been saved for last.
            It’s a richly symbolic story.
            Jewish hearers and readers of the Gospel would have been reminded of the Hebrew prophets – the prophets who dreamed that the arrival of the Messiah would be marked with a wedding banquet where the tables would groan under the weight of delicious food and cups would be overflowing with wine.
            In fact, we heard some of that wedding imagery in today’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah, comparing marriage to the union of God and God’s people: “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”
            Some of you know that we had a beautiful wedding here at St. Paul’s last Saturday afternoon. I had the joyful privilege of officiating at the wedding of our wonderful neighbors, Adam Krieg and Katie Lynch.
            There was so much joy in this room as we all celebrated the union of these two fine people, rejoiced at the life they share, and anticipated the new life they will bring into the world.
            Again, looking around the room, I was aware of God’s abundance.
            Signs of God’s abundance.
            Now, while the wedding banquet is a great symbol of God’s abundance, fortunately it’s not required to attend a wedding – and, no, it’s not even required to come to Stone Soup – to see signs of God’s abundance.
            There are signs of God’s abundance all around us.
            I’ve been working on our 2015 church statistics and there are signs of God’s abundance all over this place!
            Here at St. Paul’s, we continue to grow with, on average, 108 people in church on Sunday.
            There are some of us who’ve been coming here for decades, remaining faithful even during the lean years, keeping this place going despite the odds.
            There are some of us who’ve been coming here all along who’ve now taken on new ministries, welcoming people at the door, reading the lessons and prayers, sharing the Blood of Christ, offering healing prayers, serving on the vestry, and more.
            Signs of God’s abundance.
            There are some of us who’ve been away for a while but our now making their way home. I sure know what that’s like!
            And, then there are some of us who have found and are finding a spiritual home here at St. Paul’s - and are bringing new ideas and new energy with them.
            For example, who would have thought even six months ago that we’d begin “Stratford-Upon-Duncan,” a new monthly series of Shakespeare readings along with an elegant High Tea?! Pretty amazing!
            Yes, there are signs of God’s abundance all around us.
            There’s our choir, which, under Gail’s brilliant leadership, has grown into an amazing all-volunteer ensemble, enriching our worship week after week.
            There are the special events we’ve hosted, most recently our glorious Christmas cantata last month and the spectacular Martin Luther King service on Friday night.
            There’s our Craft Guild knitting hats for babies in need and prayer shawls for the sick and suffering.
            There’s the altar guild going about its work, making sure everything is all set and beautiful for our three Sunday services.
            Then, there’s our generosity, giving more to the church and giving more to the community, including all those gloves that we gave away at the homeless memorial and the growing amount of food that gets given away each month over at Church of the Incarnation.
            Yes, just like at the wedding in Cana, there are signs of God’s abundance all around us. St. Paul’s is filled to the brim with the best wine.
            But, you know, Jesus’ ministry began at Cana  - but it didn’t end there.
            Jesus wasn’t a one-hit wonder.
            No, in a world that was often hostile and cruel, in a world that believed there just wasn’t enough, in a world that thought if you win I lose, in a hostile and cruel world, Jesus spent the rest of his earthly life as a sign of God’s abundance - sharing God’s abundance – sharing God’s abundant love, sharing God’s abundant mercy, sharing God’s abundant forgiveness, sharing God’s abundance right up to the cross, and Easter morning, and beyond.
            Unfortunately, our world is often hostile and cruel, our world believes there’s just not enough, our world believes that if you win I lose.
            In a hostile and cruel world, we who see signs of God’s abundance – we who drink in signs of God’s abundance are called to be signs of God’s abundance - to share God’s abundance with the hungry world all around us, to share God’s abundance with people who face far greater problems than a lack of wine.
            We are called to be signs of God’s abundance – to share God’s abundance with those who lack shelter, food, companionship, and, most of all, love.
            So, in the year ahead, let’s invite even more people to the banquet here at St. Paul’s.
            And, let’s head out into our neighborhood and into our world as signs of God’s abundance, sharing God’s abundance.
            There are signs of God’s abundance all around us.