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We Are All Connected

We are all intimately connected as one body in Jesus. Isaiah celebrates our intimate union with our creator, describing us as the joyful bride of God. Though there had been alienation and rejection from both sides in the past, the prophet describes us as God’s delight. That connection is also emphasized in Paul’s oddly graphic description of church folks as body parts — we need each other because we are not a living, breathing body if we are somehow separated.

The community’s connection is seen in the joy shared in a wedding feast that does not splutter to a halt when the wine runs out, but continues unabated because the divine Jesus may demonstrate his power but as the human Jesus also recognizes his own connection and obligation to family, especially his mother, and community, symbolized in this wedding.

Isaiah 62:1-5
Every culture has different wedding customs and some of those are attached to the betrothal and engagement. This third part of Isaiah seems to have been addressed to a people who had returned from exile in Babylon to the land promised by God. They are rebuilding and assuming a new identity. They no longer have a king, but they do have a temple. Festivals that recall significant moments in their past history help that history come to life. Their book has a more prominent place in their life of worship. And their story, one of rejection and abandonment, is now one of intimacy and commitment with God. While many worry that they somehow fall short in appearance and worthiness, this text renames us My Delight Is In Her, and the place where we stand is renamed Married. The one who loves us is referred to as the Builder. Joyful wedding imagery permeates this passage, and we are called to see ourselves in a new light. This is the way we ought to see ourselves. Rather than measuring our deficiencies we see ourselves in the eyes of our lover, who is our creator. And all of this is the lover’s idea. It is the lover’s purpose. It is the lover’s delight.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
The city of Corinth was culturally, racially, ethnically, and economically diverse. While other regions of Greece might suffer from poverty Corinth made money moving someone else’s products. Located as the Isthmus of Greece, a spit of land around thirty-five miles wide, it offered merchants a chance to cut off many miles of dangerous sea travel. Smaller boats could be transported on carts, larger boats could be docked and unloaded, their cargo transported, and reloaded onto another ship. Wealth attracts people from all over. The Corinthian church no doubt reflected this diversity.

The temptation is to see differences creating boundaries. People have different talents, attributes, and preferences. The community would have included people of several nationalities. There would have been slaves, military veterans, merchants, those who had formerly worshiped their gods by sacrificing at a temple, others who had belonged to one of the mystery religions, or any number of other faiths that filled the empire. Their gifts were baptized with them, and could now be used for the body of Christ.

The apostle Paul insists that this diversity is not a problem. It’s not something we have to ignore, or transcend, or overcome. It’s essential to the body of Christ (apt image that). This is the will of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has brought us together and our individual gifts make us the body of Christ. The person who has one gift does not have a different Spirit than the person who has another. Rather the diversity which we think threatens our unity is what unifies us into one body.

Remember that Paul lived and worked among the Corinthians for a year and a half. They got to see how his gifts, both spiritual and economic (he practiced tent making and repair with his friends Priscilla and Aquila), fit together with theirs. This is the will of the Spirit, just as in Isaiah where the betrothal and renaming are the will of the love.

John 2:1-11

I remember at the dawn of the computer age that people would often donate their old computers when they upgraded. These older computers didn’t speak to other computers, and often involved learning some archaic computer protocols. The subtext was the old stuff was good enough for the church.

I remember another time the local food bank sent a list of things they hoped to include in their Christmas dinner baskets. While the list did not include high-end luxury items, there were some requests for some nice things to make the season bright. An old codger shook the list in my face (in his defense he had survived the Great Depression and knew what it meant to scrape by) and started to ask if these were the kinds of things poor people were demanding. “These things are what we’re happy to give,” I replied.

Even though it’s not clear that Jesus would have chosen the wedding feast at Cana for his first public sign, Jesus turns the water not into rotgut, but into wine so memorably wonderful that the chief steward is shocked. Abundance and goodness. Is this what we bring to the church? Is this what we provide to food banks and clothing banks and gift giveaways? We are telling those outside the church what we think of them and our good news according to the quality of our giving. Our giving is a sign, just as the act of wonder was a sign. Signs point to Jesus. That’s something important to know about the Gospel of John.

In her commentary on John, Karoline M. Lewis makes an interesting point. Each of the four evangelists describes a different first action in the public ministry of Jesus. For Matthew it’s the famous Sermon on the Mount. An exorcism of a demon is the first official act of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Luke describes the visit of Jesus to his hometown, and how preaching the Jubilee in the synagogue of Nazareth enrages the folks and nearly gets Jesus killed.

In John the first official act is the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. One of the most common and joyful community rituals, the celebration following a wedding, could be derailed by poor party planning. But thanks to his mother, who despite discouraging words from her son, who sets the events in motion, Jesus performs a great sign of wonder, bringing happiness while symbolizing the abundance and abundant life he has come to bring to all.

Mary really puts Jesus on the spot. They have no wine, she tells them. His response is stark. Literally he says “Woman, what to me and you?” Raymond Brown, who wrote a massive commentary on John, points to examples in the Old Testament to suggest this question could be taken one of two ways. Jesus could be saying that she is bothering him, and that he is an injured party. Or Jesus might simply be saying this is not his problem, why bother him with it.

Mary really puts Jesus on the spot, but there’s a good reason. Wedding celebrations, which tended to last a week, involved the whole village. This is not just a poorly planned wedding for one couple. This would have been disaster for the whole village. The family might never have lived it down. Everyone would have been humiliated.

In the face of disaster, despite an apparent lack of interest, Jesus acts.

This impending disaster allows room for Jesus to begin his public ministry.

We’re all connected. What happens to one happens to all. What does it mean that God on earth ignores what was planned because there is an urgent human need right now — a need for community, for blessing, for feasting, for good things?
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