Fill the jars with water

January 20, 2010 § 3 Comments

This is a condensed form of the sermon I preached last Sunday, January 17th, 2010.  The Wedding at Cana, John 2:1-11.

And so Jesus turns to the servants and says, “Fill the jars with water.”  These stone jars, purification jars, hold about 20-30 gallons each.  About the size of a large trash can – there are six of them.  “Fill them with water.”  And the servants filled them to the brim.  “Take a sample to the head steward.” And so they did.  The head steward, the MC, the sommelier cannot believe his palate – this is good wine, excellent wine, beautiful wine.  Who serves the best last?  And he congratulates the groom for his class in saving the best for last.  The groom no doubt smiled and nodded, having no idea what the fellow was going on about.  No one but the servants knew where this fine vintage came from.  And yet it is a sign, a sign of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

Only the servants could see this sign.  And all of us who have come along since.  None of the guests knew what this wine meant, but that it was quite good wine.  So what does this sign reveal about who God is in Jesus?  About who God is in our life?

There are times when we encounter empty jars.  When we are confronted with people who are in moments of emptiness and scarcity, we have an opportunity to fill their jars, to respond to their insecurity, hostility, or despair with a word of hope, a gesture of respect, a prayer for their wellbeing.  Bit by bit we can help fill one another’s jars, not unlike those servants at the feast.  And yet, what we can do only goes so far – it is the stuff of water, of mere life and subsistence.  Only when we stand aside to witness God’s glory at work, do we see Jesus’ love transform those difficult moments in life — from emptiness, to mere life/getting by, to abundant and full life.  The good wine, the excellent wine, the beautiful wine of the fullness of life.  Of course, our own jars run dry from time to time, and we stand wanting.  In those times, we rely on those who love us to help fill our jars – but it is still God’s work that transforms. 

Last week, a terrifying, ultimate case of jars emptying occurred on the island of Haiti – we’ve all seen the news, I’m sure, and have seen the scope of this disaster unfolding.  Millions displaced; water, power, and food scarce; 50,000 – 100,000 – 200,000 dead – we don’t even know.  And of those who remain, some turn to violence and chaos in response to their absolute emptiness and scarcity.  So what can we do in the face of this?  Well, I think that first of all, our heart breaks and then we turn to prayer.  But prayer is not just about assuaging our concern or even guilt, it is about transforming us – like that water – to reflect God’s will.  In prayer, our hearts are opened to seek opportunities to fill the empty jars before us.  And so we give – through groups like Episcopal Relief and Development or the Red Cross – so that those jars may begin to be filled again.  It’s hard to see how abundance will come out of this chaos, this disaster, but that’s not our role – our job is to fill the jars.  And these jars have been standing empty a long time.  The persistent poverty of Haiti has magnified this tragedy manifold. 

So let us begin; the need is clear.  “Fill the jars with water.”

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