By. Rev. Brian Hiortdahl
I’m excited to be meeting this week with the talented Mark Weiser to talk about worship and
music planning, but I’m also a little nervous. I’m not sure what he’ll think of the new pastor’s sensibilities. I had selected four hymns for this week:
+ Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey (I heard believing is important for Christians)
+ September by Earth, Wind and Fire (Oh, it’s January)
+ Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars (Billboard’s number one song for
wedding reception, plus I picture Jesus winking at the wine steward and saying,
“Don’t believe me? Just watch. Uh.”)
+ and of course, Celebration by Kool and the Gang, because that’s what worship is.
It’s a celebration.
I could maybe be talked into Can’t Stop the Feeling or Shake It Off, but I draw the line at The Chicken Dance – that’s just not fair ... it’s fowl. The point is that Christian worship is really a wedding party, “the marriage feast of the Lamb” we sometimes call it, a reveling in the deep joy of true love present now and secured for the future in sturdy, sacred promises.
It is no accident that John chooses the wedding at Cana as the setting for the first of Jesus’ signs, because Jesus is a wedding. He is the marriage of heaven and earth; he is the union of God and humanity. To all who trust in his name, John sang at Christmas, he gives power to become children of God: he brings us into a new family and a new identity. So worship is a wedding reception, a celebration with meal and music and reunions and hugs and memories and toasts and blessings and prayers dripping with hope for a happy future.
At least, in theory.
Even God has to deal with gossiping guests, obnoxious relatives and other party poopers.
It’s the price you pay for welcoming everyone—that, and running out of wine.
Walter Brueggemann names the issue at the bottom of both these problems in his watershed essay, The liturgy of abundance, the myth of scarcity.
The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance, he writes.
Genesis I is a song of praise for God's generosity. In an orgy of fruitfulness, everything in its kind is to multiply the overflowing goodness that pours from God's creator spirit. And as you know, the creation ends in Sabbath. God is so overrun with fruitfulness that God says, "I've got to take a break from all this. I've got to get out of the office."
Several psalms pick up the refrain, exploding with praise for the reliable generosity of God.
But in Genesis 47, something switches:
Pharaoh dreams that there will be a famine in the land.
So Pharaoh gets organized to administer, control and monopolize the food supply. Pharaoh introduces the principle of scarcity into the world economy. For the first time in the Bible, someone says, "There's not enough. Let's get everything."
Since then, Scripture has recorded and history has relived version after version of the same story: in Brueggemann’s words, the contest between the liturgy of generosity and the myth of scarcity--a contest that still tears us apart today.
Will there be enough for everyone?
It’s the question at the heart of so many headlines: the refugee debates, the school strike,
the decline in church attendance, water shortages in California (before God fixed that this
week), Brexit and austerity and the furious production cycles that fuel global warming.
The fear that there won’t be enough drives and divides us.
Brueggemann continues: We who are now the richest nation ... never feel that we have enough; we have to have more and more, and this insatiable desire destroys us.
Whether we are liberal or conservative Christians, we must confess that the central problem of our lives is that we are torn apart by the conflict between our attraction to the good news of God's abundance and the power of our belief in scarcity--a belief that makes us greedy, mean and unneighborly. The gospel story of abundance asserts that we originated in the magnificent, inexplicable love of a God who loved the world into generous being. The baptismal service declares that each of us has been miraculously loved into existence by God.
And the story of abundance says that our lives will end in God, and that this well-being
cannot be taken from us.
In the words of St. Paul, neither life nor death nor angels nor principalities nor things—
nothing can separate us from God.
What we know about our beginnings and our endings, then, creates a different kind of present tense for us.
We can live according to an ethic whereby we are not driven, controlled, anxious, frantic or
greedy, precisely because we are sufficiently at home and at peace to care about others as we have been cared for.
But if you are like me, while you read the Bible you keep looking over at the screen to see
how the market is doing.
Jesus’ mother reads the writing on the ticker.
They have no wine.
They don’t have enough friends or money to provide sufficient wine.
The church doesn’t have enough children or dollars or volunteers or programs.
The classrooms don’t have enough resources to meet the students’ needs and the district doesn’t have enough money to meet the teachers’ demands.
The story of scarcity continually chokes the abundance God hard-wired into creation.
Which is why the world needs the church more than ever.
We are the community of Jesus, who is the wedding of heaven and earth and the savior of the world, which means, among other things, the one who restores the joyful celebration God intends life to be.
We are the community of Jesus, who is the power of creation, the Word, transformed into human skin and bones, who came that you might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) The third day of the wedding at Cana, the day of resurrection, is also the eighth day in John’s gospel, the day of new creation, the day that abundant life survives sabbath and flourishes anew.
Jesus saves the day at Cana just like he saves the marriage of heaven and human at the cross. As your new chief steward, I have no idea how. I only know that we bring what we have and pour it out and let him transform it from water into wine, then share the vintage love he gives us with a desperately thirsty world. On our better days, we do whatever he tells us, though on other days we get that backward and expect him to do what we suggest on our terms and timeline. We bring our water to worship—our tears, our rainstorms, our stories that are unsafe to drink, our gifts we fear aren’t enough, our offerings of service and money and time and attention and praise watered down with worry—because he told us to.
We love our neighbors generously and awkwardly—because he told us to.
We come to this room and share whatever we have—and somehow it is more than
Somehow Jesus transforms water into wine and sinners into saints and scarcity into abundance and fear into faith and worry into joy and the likes of us into top shelf children of God.
Let’s all celebrate and have a good time.