Sermon Archives

Sunday, January 17, 2016
The Second Sunday after Epiphany (RCL, Year C)
The Reverend Areeta Bridgemohan, Curate
Dear Lulu

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

I recently came across a letter written by a little girl named Lulu, who was six at the time.1 Her letter was addressed to God. Here is what she wrote:

“To God how did you get invented? From Lulu xo”

She asked her parents to send it to God (by setting it on fire and putting it up the chimney – which is how they communicate with Santa). Her parents did send it; but instead of sending it by chimney, they sent it out to various churches seeking an answer for their daughter. One of the replies they received was from the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Here is part of his email reply to her:

“Dear Lulu,

Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It's a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –

'Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn't expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I'm really like.’

And then he'd send you lots of love and sign off.

I know he doesn't usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf. Lots of love from me too.

+Archbishop Rowan”

This wise and tender letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury tells Lulu how we discover God’s existence – we discover God when we look around at the world and perceive its beauty, or its mystery and feel a sense of awe and wonder. We discover God when we sit in silence and quiet down our internal chatter so that we can hear God’s voice.

The discovery of God is what Epiphany is about – recognizing the presence of God in our world.

The miracle that Jesus performs at the wedding at Cana marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in the Gospel of John. Jesus has just called the disciples, so I can imagine that although they can sense that Jesus has a special aura about him, special enough to leave their previous lives behind and follow Him, they don’t quite understand who he is – they are only now beginning to know him.

The author of the gospel tells us that after Jesus turned the water into wine, his disciples believed in him. Miracles helped the disciples have faith. They invited the disciples to experience Jesus first-hand and to interpret the miracles as signs pointing to his true identity.

The fact that Jesus performed this miracle is a sign of his identity as God. However, there is symbolic meaning in the actual miracle that Jesus performed.

Jesus sees six huge stone jars meant to contain water for the rites of purification. He has the servants fill the stone jars with water and turns them into wine, but not just any wine; he turns the water into high quality wine. Wine is a rich symbol in the biblical tradition, associated with prosperity, festivity and abundance.

Mediocre wine gives way to great wine. Jars that were empty are now full. Water for individual purification becomes wine for the celebration of the community. A wine shortage is transformed into a wine stock of 120-180 gallons. Through this miracle Jesus allows us to discover a God who meets our needs abundantly. Not only as individuals, but as a community.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of Jesus’ first acts in his public ministry is at a wedding – a celebration of the community, a gathering of family and friends. A gathering marked by hospitality and joy.

A setting that perhaps reminds us of this community that we are part of, our parish and the wider church.

I am just beginning my ministry, but I am very aware that many of you have had a rich and varied experience of belonging to this community. I am sure many of you can teach me much about both the joys and pain of being part of the church. The joys that come from close friendships made in this place or the experience of having been supported by this community in difficult times. But there is often also the experience of pain that comes from disappointed expectations and ruptures that occur in relationships. The church is a place where people will get hurt, simply because it’s full of human beings.

The communications released at the conclusion of the Anglican Primates meeting in England, shows us just how difficult being in relationship can be. The Archbishop of Canterbury invited the Primates from all over the Anglican Communion to gather last week for prayer, conversation and fellowship. They discussed many things, including General Convention’s decision this past summer to affirm and celebrate same-sex marriage.

At the conclusion of the gathering, the group affirmed their desire to continue to walk together. But the statement released also describes the pain felt by some areas of the Anglican Communion in response to General Convention’s decision. The Primates’ statement that caught the eye of the media includes the recommendation that the Episcopal church should be suspended from representing the Anglican Communion on a variety of internal and external bodies, for a 3-year period.

This recommendation, which the Primates do not have authority to legislate or enforce, will have ramifications. Not least for the quality of the relationship between the Episcopal Church and some of the provinces in the Anglican Communion.

It may not be clear what the concrete steps are to move forward, or how to respond to the demands or needs of those we are in relationship with.

But in this miracle at Cana, Jesus reveals God’s desire for us to continue to gather, to be a joyful community. This miracle offers the promise of God’s self-revelation to us, in surprising and unexpected ways, at moments in our life when we may feel that our resources are depleted and that we have nothing left to offer. In this miracle of hospitality, we discover that we can trust God’s grace which goes far beyond our own capacities.

At the church where Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz Weber serves, parishioners hold house brunches to welcome newcomers. In her welcome she tells the newcomers:

“at some point, I will disappoint you or the church will let you down. Please decide on this side of that happening if, after it happens, you will still stick around. Because if you leave, you will miss the way that God's grace comes in and fills in the cracks of our brokenness.

And it's too beautiful to miss.

Don't miss it.”2

Amen.

1 http://rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2389/the-ar...

2 Nadia Bolz-Weber, from On Being with Krista Tippett 10/24/14