The abundant, overwhelming blessings of God.
God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. Ephesians 3:20
I am a believer in expectations. I have certain expectations for my children and family - for those I work with and around - for those I interact with. Expectations on how we treat each other, how we live together, how we respond to each other. My kids know what is expected of them and how they are to treat other people. I have expectations and hopes for the future, but I have to admit, somewhere along the way, my expectations and hopes became diminished.
While I don’t relate 100% to Eyore one of Pooh’s friends, who is constantly in a spirit of dismay or pessimism - I do not have high expectations for things always being a rose garden or working out 100% like we may desire it to. I am more of a “Yeah, that happened” sort of girl. My therapist would probably say that it is a self-protecting mechanism I put up for myself to prevent myself from perceived disappointment. I don’t have high expectations for things that may never happen. And while that may be good to protect me from disappointment, it also hinders me from great expectations, and when it comes to faith and God, great expectations may need to be more of the norm than the exception. The Bible teaches us that we have not because we ask not. Just because we ask doesn’t mean that it will be given to us, but if we don’t ask, what does that say about our faith? What does it say about our belief in this God who is an abundant, extravagant God?
Epiphany is a season of revelation. Today the Gospel text is in John, though next week we will move into Luke and stay there for a few weeks. John begins his gospel with what many refer to as Jesus’ first miracle, though in John, none of Jesus’ works are referred to as miracles per se but are rather called “signs”.
Miracles point to a truer revelation about Jesus. Miracles or signs, show us who Jesus is. And it is a fitting way to move through Epiphany, this season that we are in, and a Season that we should relish before we move into Lent.
Epiphany is about revelation and revelation for revelation’s sake is really not the point. Revelation is about revealing and the question is, is, what is the deeper reality Jesus is revealing about himself in this story? What are we supposed to see about Jesus through this story?
We all know the story. Jesus attended a wedding where the wine ran out and his mother came to him and asked him to do something about it. In this sign, in this revelation, in this first act of Jesus’ public ministry, a few things are worth noting. First, he performs this sign at his mother’s urging. Mary is never referred to by name in the Gospel of John. But his mother was there. And his mother was there at the end of his life. And I do not want to make to much of it, but it is worth noting. It shows us some of Jesus’ humanity. Our mothers are some of our first influencers, and some of the last. Our mothers, the first ones who showed us love, or withheld it, are the ones who have lasting influence on us. Whose presence continues with us, who may even have the power to cause us to do something we may not be ready to do, their influence in our lives, for good or bad, runs deep. I digress.
At first Jesus responds by saying, “What concern is that to me?” (Why do I care that they have run out of wine?) He wasn’t necessarily going to act, he said, “My hour has not yet come”, but then as his mom moves forward (almost as if she didn’t hear him speak) telling the servants to do what Jesus tells them. She knew who he was and the power that the had. Jesus seems to relent and lavishly has jars brought and filled - six stone jars that hold 20-30 gallons each. 20-30 gallons each.
Jesus doesn’t just fill the wine jars but fills them to the brim with wine that was noticeably better than the wine that was served earlier. An abundant, lavish act.
An abundant, lavish God. Providing things that we don’t necessarily need. Providing things that maybe we haven’t even asked for. Providing things that are more than sufficient. Just because. Just because. For enjoyment, for pleasure.
It is through these gifts of lavishness that we learn something. Lavishness - bestowing things that are above and beyond - just because - they speak to us. They touch us deep down in our souls because we know and are humbled by unwarranted extravagance. It can teach us our value and how we are loved. It can make us feel things deep in our souls that maybe we weren’t able to feel any other way. And I suspect that is exactly what Jesus had in mind.
Grace is a spontaneous gift from God to people - generous, free and total unexpected and undeserved. It shows divine love.
Jesus shows us what abundant grace is. John 1:16, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Turning water into wine is revealing of abundant grace. What does abundant grace taste like? Like the best wine when you are expecting the cheap stuff.
It’s one thing to say, “Jesus is the source of grace.” It’s quite another to have an experience of it.
We have all experienced God’s abundant grace. Sometimes we are more aware of it than at other times, and the work for us, the challenge for us, is how can we live our lives with such awareness of this grace?
Back to the verse from Ephesians, “God is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or think”… this verse challenges me - challenges us - to think more. Ask more. Where are we limiting ourselves by being like Eyore, and diminishing our own expectations and hopes? How can we hold on to and believe in the abundant, lavish grace of God?
I have been fortunate in my life that I have had friends who have come along side of me at times when I had low expectations, or little hope and have lavishly given to me, sharing with me from their portion and graciously gifting me with something I needed. And not just need- not just water, but they gifted me like Jesus did to the people at the wedding. They gave me the “best wine” when water would have sufficed to quench my thirst.
Experiencing abundant lavishness in life from friends, much as Jesus did for those at the wedding in Cana - it changed me.
It made me feel loved, humbled me, and I knew that they weren’t doing it because they had to, they were doing it because they wanted to. And they did it extravagantly.
Jesus wants to bless us. Jesus wants to give to us not just what we need, but that which we can’t even imagine. If we are open to receive it.
God has blessed St. James. St. James was a mission church until 1991? - which means that it was supported by the Diocese of Virginia some. The Diocese contributed some to our annual budget. The church has come a long way in 30 some odd years. God has blessed St. James. In receiving of this grace, how can we continue to move forward not diminishing our expectations but holding onto the fact of abundant lavishness and grace and paying that grace forward?
St. James is full of faithful people. And God is in the business of lavishingly bestowing on us things that we dare not ask of. God is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or think. So I want to challenge us all this morning. We are limited by what we ask and think and sometimes our limited thinking hinders us. Our fears hinder us. What would it be like for us to open ourselves up to God, and not sit like Eyore, wondering when the sky may fall, but be more carefree like Tigger - bouncing around, joyous, glad to be alive and existing, without a care in the world (I wouldn’t take it to that extreme) but believing that God will take care of, and bless us lavishly; because that is the business that He is in. That God would provide not just what we need (water) but provide wine (and very good wine at that ).
We don’t need to settle for the water. We can ask for the wine as Mary did. We can expect Jesus to act.
In this season of revelation, what is being revealed to you about this extravagant God? What do you need to hear? What kind of extravagance is God holding for you? How and where may you experience abundant grace this week? How and where may you be able to show abundant grace this week? How can we remain open to this extravagance? How can we raise our expectations about what God may do for us?
What may this extravagance teach us about Jesus and his love for us?