Sermon, Interrupted

[audio] Old Testament: Isaiah 62:1-5 New Testament: John 2:1-11

We are in the second week of our sermon series “Lives in the Balance.” We all know that we need to have balance in our lives in order to keep healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. And last week we talked about how any healthy balance begins by being rooted in God, making time and space for God and God’s desires in our lives. This week, our attention comes to the gospel of John.

It is Jesus’ first miracle, at the wedding of Cana. He and his new disciples have been invited to the celebration, and there’s this almost comical exchange between Jesus and Mary, his mother, where he plays the shy kid and her the stage mom, telling him to go on out there and show them his stuff. Wine is the integral stuff of celebration, and the wine has run out. It’s up to Jesus to make a difference here. And so he transforms the water into wine; not only that, he makes excellent wine, not the cheap swill that would usually be brought out at the end of the party when no one was aware enough to tell the difference.

Jesus had many ministries. He was a healer, a teacher. He was a bold speaker of truth, turning over tables in the Temple. And he had made space for celebration.

Do we do the same? Does our life have that healthy balance of celebration and rejoicing that the Lord takes delight in? Because in this lesson, Jesus is...

You know what? I can’t do this. It just isn’t right. Well, I don’t mean that – I do think Jesus was saying something about the need for us to leave time for celebration in our lives. But if Jesus was anything in his ministry, he was relevant. Yes, we’ve planned a sermon series. Yes, we’ve got the music to fit and the cards in the pews and the info on the website. But how can we possibly talk about celebrating with all that is going on in Haiti?

Estimates range from 30,000 to 200,000 dead; 3 million people are being displaced, affected. The aftershocks of the earthquake will last far longer than the shifting of tectonic plates. Talking about dancing and celebrating just seems so wrong right now.

And then to add insult to injury, Pat Robertson comes along. With the kind of track record he’s had, the guy should be shuttled off to the side and made irrelevant, but he continues to baffle me with his popularity. This is the guy that blamed 9/11 on gays and Katrina on New Orleans’ lifestyle. The earthquake is because Haitians made a pact with the devil. It is time for the church to speak and to speak loudly. It is time for us to flip over the bizarre theological tables that are crowding our temples.

There is one place where I agree with Pat Robertson: evil has a foothold in Haiti. It’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and the truth is that the poor are the first to suffer when disasters hit. It’s a nation that is forged in the original sin of slavery. And when they were finally able to get their freedom and independence, their former colonial overlords in France made them pay reparations. Let me repeat that: the slave masters demanded repayment for lost income from their former slaves.

Our own country has a track record that is spotty. We occupied the island from 1915-1934, an occupation that Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains described as “brutal.” We have both supported and undermined democracy there, rendering us schizophrenic at best.

Meanwhile France is putting pressure on the international community to forgive Haiti’s debts. Now. Not before the earthquake, when it was still a country on the brink of chaos and plunged in debilitating poverty, but after. Hurray?

In 1989, San Francisco had an earthquake which measured 6.9. 63 people died. A tragedy, yes; but nowhere near the scale of what is happening in Haiti. The difference, as far as I’m concerned, is one purely of money and architecture.

But even though I don’t think it’s time to talk about celebration, I think the text may have something to say about this conversation. When Jesus calls for the purification jars filled with water, it reminds me of our baptism and our commitment to be willing to have our hearts break by the things that break the heart of God. And as Jesus transforms this water of baptism into wine, it becomes the substance of celebration, yes. But it is also what he shared with his disciples at the Last Supper, proclaiming, “This is my blood…” There’s plenty of blood in Haiti right now; I imagine that Christ’s blood is mingled with it.

There is, to me, a simple truth about suffering and God: God doesn’t cause evil to happen (and such an earthquake, with its immeasurable destruction, is surely evil). God, instead, is in the midst of the tragedy. God suffers with those who suffer. And because of this, there is the possibility that God can make this moment one of transformation. We are God’s vessels; and so we can respond with immediate need for those who are so desperate in this moment. But Haiti demands a long-term engagement so that we might open up the possibility of God’s justice to reign.

The promise of celebration remains, yes. This is the heart of our faith as a resurrection people, that out of death comes life, that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice shall be filled, that those who weep will rejoice. It is God who makes this true; it is our task to work alongside God.

There will be time to dance. But for now, it’s time to weep. May our tears fill jars to overflowing. And may we ourselves be transformed.