Let’s Get Personal – Celebrating Love

Scripture: John 2: 1 – 11
By Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
August 30, 2015

In almost every wedding ceremony, there is something that goes wrong. A young couple, very much in love, was getting married. Sue, the wife to be, was very nervous about the big occasion and so the pastor chose one verse that he felt would be a great encouragement to them. The verse was 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Rather, unwisely, the pastor asked the best man to read it out loud and to say that the pastor had felt that this was a very apt verse for Sue and the he would be preaching on it later in the service. The best man was not a regular churchgoer. And so he did not know the difference between the Gospel of John and the first letter of John. As instructed, he introduced his reading by saying that the pastor felt this was a very apt verse for Sue. Instead of reading 1 John 4:18, he read John 4:18 which says, “You have five husbands and the one that you now have is not your husband.”

Yes, in almost every wedding ceremony something goes wrong. As a minister, I have experienced my fair share of wedding bloopers.   In one wedding, the best man forgot the wedding rings. So we just “pretended” that the groom was putting the ring on the bride’s finger. Another time, I accidentally left the bride’s personal wedding vows on my desk in the office. I didn’t realize it until we were in the middle of the ceremony and it was time to exchange vows.  Believe it or not, she actually asked me a year later to officiate at the renewal of her vows on their one year wedding anniversary. That time we used traditional wedding vows.

More embarrassing than that moment though was the time the maid of honor in high heels, climbed the several steps to the podium to read 1 Corinthians 13 and tripped on her long dress, tearing the dress and fell straight on her face. The entire congregation “gasped”, the bride and groom’s mouths hung wide open. It was awful. Especially for me, because in that wedding, I was the maid of honor who fell on my face. It was one of my most embarrassing moments ever!

Almost in every wedding something goes wrong. In the Gospel of John, we read about another wedding in which something goes wrong: the host ran out of wine!

First, it is important to note that it was on the third day that Jesus went to the wedding. The 3rd day tells us that even when everything goes wrong, there will be hope, new life, possibility and a resurrection because it was the third day that Jesus was raised from the dead. It was on the third day that Jesus went to Cana in Galilee. Jesus appearing in Cana is more than geography. It is theology! Cana is a gentile territory, which means that the event about to happen will be a sign of hope for all people!

A wedding in that day was no small event. For several days there would be gift-giving, speechmaking, food-eating, and –you guessed it –wine-drinking. Food and wine were taken very seriously. The host honored the guest by keeping their plates full and their cups overflowing. It was considered an insult to the guests if the host ran out of food or wine.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the first to notice the problem. She goes to her son and says, “They have no more wine.” Jesus’ response may appear a bit harsh: “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” I do not suggest to our teenagers that you use this response at home with your own mom. Take out the trash. Woman, what does that have to do with me? The hour has not yet come. Make your bed. Woman, what does that have to do with me…If you do try this, your hour may come sooner than you had anticipated.

Actually, Jesus’ reference to his mother as “woman” was a common term in the first century that does not reflect irreverence or disrespect.

While timing is important to Jesus – my hour has not yet come – Jesus recognizes that people are more important. And so Jesus tells the stewards to take the 6 stone jars (6 in the Bible is a number of incompleteness – it is 1 less than 7), and to fill them to the brim with water. The stewards do this. And then Jesus says, “Now draw from the jars.” As quickly as you can say, “Mondavi” out comes the wine. This makes for a grand total of 180 gallons of wine, which fill over 2000 4 ounce glasses. That’s a lot of party fuel! What a wedding gift!

But I believe that the miracle is not just about changing water into wine, but about using the 6 stone jars. Those stone jars were sacred containers set aside for a religious ritual. Those 6 stone jars were used for ritual hand cleansing. Guests would dip their hands in sacred water as a way of symbolizing a desire to remain pure from the sin of the world.

So, why would Jesus use these sacred stone jars for the water-turned-wine? Certainly there other empty jars Jesus could have used.

Wine jars, wine jugs, wine bottles, wine kegs, wine skins – whatever they have been using – were sitting there, empty, waiting to be filled. So why the stone jars? Why the sacred icons of religious tradition? Why intentionally do something so potentially offensive? Through his first miracle, Jesus intentionally desecrates a religious icon. He purposely chooses these sacred jars to challenge the religious system by converting them from icons of personal purification into symbols of relationship celebration. Jesus takes us from holy water to wedding wine. From legalism to life. From religion to relationship…His new wine demands new wine skin (Bruxy Cavey, The End of Religion, pg. 34- 35).

How often I have been confronted by a “religion” that says, “Marriage is between one man and one woman”. “Same sex marriage is a threat to the sanctity, the purity of heterosexual marriage.” This last summer one Christian preacher stated that he would set himself on fire if same sex marriage became legal. A week later when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage, he said that he didn’t mean his words literally. Traditional Christianity has created a religious icon of what marriage should and should not look like. But 2000 years ago, Jesus uses symbols of religious purification and transforms them into symbols of relationship celebration.

I tried to live a life that would honor the religious icon of what marriage should look like. I wanted to fit in with society. I wanted a husband, 2.3 children, a dog, and a white picket fence.   I got the dog! But in my effort to lead the life that I thought I was “suppose” to lead, I hurt people in the process and I hurt myself.

I remember meeting with Richard Blakley and sharing with him my struggle. I said, “The Bible says this about homosexuality; the Bible says that about it.” You know what he said? “Jill, Jesus gives us two commandments: Love God and Love one another. Jesus is most concerned about the quality of our love for another, rather than the gender of the person we love. We look on the outside, but God looks at the heart.” This was in 1983 that Richard said this to me. What other minister in Redlands would have said that? Richard was way ahead of his time…just like Jesus! I always held Richard’s words close to my heart for years to come.

It was only when I finally embraced the unique person who God called me to be that I discovered freedom, love, and abundant life. And being authentic to who God has created me to be has enabled me to be a much better minister to others.

I am in the middle of a sermon series entitled “Let’s Get Personal”. Today I would like to share with you my relationship with Karen. In 2008, I met Karen on-line. She was living in St. Louis. After a year of doing the long distance relationship, Karen and I decided to bring our lives together. She moved to San Diego. Within a year of moving to San Diego, we decided we wanted to get married. We began planning for the wedding. As a minister, I knew that I had to invite everyone in the church to the wedding or no one in the church to the wedding. We decided on inviting everyone. I was not sure how my congregation was going to respond. Yes, they were an “Open and Affirming” congregation – but it’s one thing to be “open and affirming” to members of a congregation. It is quite another to be “open and affirming” of your minister. And there were many people in the congregation who had never attended a same sex wedding.

And I admit that I had a bit of trepidation at first walking down the aisle with Karen. I wasn’t sure what the response would be. But as Karen and I walked down the aisle together, vibrant love, amazing grace, and abundant joy surrounded us. The sanctuary was packed. Our photographer never showed up (that is what went wrong on our wedding day), so four people from the congregation grabbed their cameras, stepped up, and saved the day. Two others videotaped the wedding. We were filled with elation as we walked out of the sanctuary to “O Happy Day.” The wedding was exquisite. And the reception just as beautiful. Everything was provided by members of the congregation. The reception location, the bouquets of flowers, the delicious food, the bartending with our own specialty drink (which we did not run out of), the music, the gorgeous, church shaped cake. It was quite amazing. And I believe the holiest moment of the entire day for me was when our DJ, played the song “YMCA”. At that moment, I looked out at the dance. There on the dance floor were black and white, young and old, male and female, gay and straight, Democrat and Republican dancing joyously to the “YMCA” at their minister’s same sex wedding. Tears filled my eyes as I thought, “There it is – there is the Kingdom / the Kindom of Heaven right here on earth!” And I couldn’t help but believe it was the kind of wedding and reception that Jesus would have attended with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye!

In almost every wedding ceremony, something goes wrong. But then there are times when the Spirit makes everything just right! Amen.