What does glory look like?
Homily: Yr C Proper 2. January 17 2015. St. James Kingston
Readings: Isaiah 62.1-5; Ps 36.5-10; 1 Cor 12.1-11; Jn 2.1-11
What does glory look like?
Or, to put it another way, if you were given a task, if your life’s mission was to show people the glory of God, how would you begin? Where would you begin? What would be the very first thing that you would do? What would you show people? Who would you want there to see it?
You might choose a high mountain top as the place to reveal God’s glory. Or maybe a great temple. Maybe Canterbury Cathedral, or the Vatican, or Jerusalem. A place where great crowds could gather. People of influence: religious leaders, political leaders, journalists to spread the news.
And what does glory look like, sound like, feel like? Do you think of an awesome sunset? Or the glorious music of an orchestra or choir? A worship experience? The stars at night? How do you picture the glory of God?
We might turn to our scriptures. We might point to the fiery pillar of cloud that led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. We might marvel at the great vision of Isaiah of God filling the temple. We might think of a mighty act of power, a miracle, a healing, walking on water.
The prologue of John’s gospel tells us that Jesus came to reveal God’s glory. “The word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
Today’s gospel reading from John is the first act of Jesus’ public ministry, the first act in revealing the glory of God. And it’s not what we might have expected. Oh there’s a crowd alright, but they’re not there to see Jesus. They’re there for a wedding, in the tiny village of Cana of Galilee, a half day’s walk from Jesus’ hometown. Jesus is one of the guests. But unbeknownst to the bride and groom, unbeknownst to most of the guests, there is a problem. They have no wine.
Now for us, in our day, to run out of wine at a wedding might be a disappointment or an embarrassment or an inconvenience. But for this young bride and groom, it would have been a disaster. In their world, a wedding is a three day feast, and wine was the drink of celebration. A wedding had to have wine. It was not just a drink, but a sign: a sign of the harvest, a sign of God’s blessing and favour, a sign of joy, of gladness and of hospitality. To run out of wine was a tragedy which would bring shame on the bride and groom, a curse on this the day when they were to be honoured and blessed.
And so Jesus’ mother says, “They have no wine.”
And at first, Jesus kind of brushes her off. “What concern is that to you and me?”
But then something changes. Jesus pivots. And one thing I’ve learned is that whenever Jesus pivots, I need to pay attention, because we have reached a pivotal moment in the gospel. Something surprising is about to happen. Jesus goes into the back room, and with only the servants present, he has them fill up the six thirty gallon stone jars with water. Which becomes wine. And not just any wine, but the best wine. When he tastes it the chief steward at the wedding is amazed.
And Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
What does glory look like?
It looks like a God who is in our midst, a local who accepts the invitation to a wedding and wants to be part of the celebration, part of the community.
It looks like a God who cares about a poor young couple in a small village, who doesn’t want them put to shame, who wants them to know that they are blessed, who cares enough to want the best for them on their big day.
It looks like a God who cares about the ordinary stuff and pays attention to the everyday events of our lives, what we drink, and how we celebrate together, how we build community.
But above all it looks like a God of grace.
And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.
Jesus doesn’t just make enough wine to keep the party going. No, he makes gallons and gallons of wine, wine in abundance, enough to keep the wedding feast going for three weeks, not just three days.
Jesus doesn’t just make any old wine, the wine that was expected. No, he makes the good stuff, the wine that would normally only be served to the most important guests for the first few rounds, he makes wine that’s even better than that - and serves it to all the guests, without heed to hierarchy or social convention. Grace tends to break the rules.
Our God is a God that loves a party. Our God is a God that celebrates relationships and community. And our God is a God of grace, of sheer exuberance, of unimaginable generosity, of surprising and even shocking abundance. From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace upon grace upon grace. God’s generosity is as inexhaustible as 180 gallons of wine at a village wedding. There is no three glass limit.
Jesus, with a little prompting from his mother, and I suspect from his Father too, Jesus shows us what grace and glory look like. And so for his first sign, the first public act of his ministry, he changes water into wine.
And we need to be reminded of that. Because too often in our lives we are confronted with the threat of scarcity. Because too often we can imagine that God’s grace is not for us, or even worse, we can imagine it’s not for them. Because there are weeks in our lives when it seems like the wine has run out.
This week was one of those weeks for many people, for many Anglicans. As global Anglicans, we sent our leaders to Canterbury to meet with one another this past week. Meetings like that should be a blessing, should be a celebration, should be a time when we rejoice in our common faith and in the steadfast love and faithfulness of our God. They should be a time when we celebrate God’s glory and grace, and in turn vow once more to live grace-filled and generous lives as individuals and as a church. But unfortunately, this past week’s meeting wasn’t like that. The meeting seems to have been a burden. Specifically, the primates were burdened by disagreements over human sexuality, to the point where our American brethren, The Episcopal Church, were sanctioned.
The recent primates meeting looked a lot like a wedding where the wine had run out. It doesn’t look like there was much joy in the room. There was conflict and disappointment and hurt, a feeling of failure and shame that started within the room and has extended far beyond.
But my friends, we have wine. We have a communion whose starting point and centre is our communion with God and whose expression is in our relationships with one another, person to person and parish to parish. And we have a God who is generous, we see that in our gospel reading today, we have a God whose glory is revealed in our midst by a generosity which gives us not just what we need but more than we can ask or imagine. And so today we too will celebrate a feast, a feast that is not of our own making but of God’s making, a feast that reveals God’s glory to us, that reveals God’s presence in our midst, that reveals God’s steadfast love and faithfulness and God’s grace, grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.
So Andy, put some more wine in the cup today, because we all may want to drink a little more deeply. This is our feast, this is our communion.
For we have seen the glory of God.