Sermon, Jan. 20th, 2012

*** remember this is an oral event

Mmm mmm good. That cup, that cup of wine pleasantly surprised that chief steward. We are told this party planner didn’t expect it—didn’t expect that wine to taste so good. Because, he knew that the best was always served first, and then after a couple of hours, and maybe even days of partying, they’d roll out the cheaper, inferior wine, when everybody was probably a couple of three sheets to the wind. But this it was the finest wine.
The steward was so surprised because he had fallen prey to a very common human problem–lowered expectations. Something I think we all know a thing or two about. Through the actions of ourselves and others, you know when we don’t treat each other well, when we are not treated well, when someone doesn’t follow through—the many disappointments we face each and every day leave us kind of empty and hollow. I think especially of people who struggle with addictions, addictions to whatever—drugs, alcohol, gambling, cigarettes—people who want to quit, who try and try and fail and fail.
Or think about the people our society continually dismisses and discounts, the elderly, the poor, the un-employed, and under-employed, children who struggle living in broken homes, broken families, stressed and violent neighborhoods. No one expects much from them; so no one really listens; no one seems to take the time, the problems are too much, too big. We may feel even feel that way ourselves. Feel ignored and empty.
It is very human to allow those feelings, those experiences to determine our reality—the way we think and act. Paul Bloom, a cognitive psychologist at Yale University studies how our minds determine what we like, how we determine what we value. Basically it boils down to this, we as people judge a book by its cover. Although we know we shouldn’t, but we do judge things, objects and people by the story that comes and surround it.
One of the ways he’s determined this is actually through wine. Studies show that if people believe they are drinking expensive wine (because of the bottle or the presentation) they enjoy it more—it tastes better. They’ve even tested people by putting them in functional MRI scanners and giving them wine through a tube, and giving them information about the wine, and he says, “if you believe you’re drinking expensive stuff, parts of the brain associated with pleasure and reward light up like a Christmas tree.”
So, what does an experiment with wine in the 21st century have to do with Jesus turning water into wine in the first? I think everything. For you see, Jesus came to change, to change the world, to change us. It is perfectly natural for us to continue to believe the story that we are empty, that life is worthless, that our lives are meaningless. But, Jesus enters our world, our days, our lives to tell us a completely different story. Just as he came to an ordinary human event, a wedding, he comes to us today. Just as he took empty jugs and filled them with the finest wine, he fills us as well. He turns our pain, our emptiness, into joy, into exuberance, into meaning.
Jesus is giving us another story, we don’t have to wait until the bitter end, God values each and every one of us—right here, right now. Of course, this is easier said than done. There’s always been a lot of resistance to this kind of thinking and living. Afterall, Jesus died on the cross because he was showing, telling, and living the story of the kingdom of God, not the story of the religious leaders, not the story of the kingdom of Rome—but of God.
We remember another martyr who gave his life to belief that our life is determined not by the story the world, our culture, our color, or other circumstances lay on us, but by the story that God claims for us. We remember that of the of so many words spoken by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, he declared these words I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (Washington, 1963).
Today, God is still raising us up, God is filling each and every one of us, giving us the wine of strength, of compassion, of delight, filling us up so that we can change, we can live the new life God is calling us to right now. We do not give in to the lowered expectations of this world. No we will surprise it, surprise the people around you, shock them with words of love, shock them with acts of generosity, surprise them with your courage to say and do the right thing. This week, you be a miracle, a sign, of the kingdom and let them taste the richness of God in you. Amen.

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