12 step Eucharist St. Marks Episcopal Church, Wednesday, April 3, 2019, Lent 5C Extravagant Gift

Lent 5C John 12:1-8 The Extravagant Gift: Mary anoints Jesus

April 3, 2019, Wednesday 5:30 pm, 12 step Eucharist

Today’s story begins soon after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. It is six days before the Passover. The Pharisees are looking all over Jerusalem for Jesus to arrest him. Jesus returns to a safe house in Bethany, a village on the Mount of Olives, less than two miles east of Jerusalem, the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, who arrange a private dinner for him on Saturday evening at the end of the Sabbath. It is a small event, the twelve disciples and a few other friends. Martha and her friend Suzanna serve the first course of olives, figs, grapes, dates, nuts, and pomegranates. Lazarus reclines around the low table near Jesus. The room is dimly lit with olive oil lamps. /

Mary quietly enters the dining area carrying a large heavy alabaster jar of costly perfume made of pure Spikennard imported from India. It must have cost Lazarus one year’s wages. In fact, it’s worth is more than their house! Mary silently sits beside and slightly behind Jesus, bows her head and does not speak or make eye contact with Jesus. She smashes the jar and pours out the thick aromatic amber-colored essential oil and massages Jesus’ feet. The whole house is now filled with this powerful sweet fragrance. Mary then spontaneously removes her headscarf letting down her long black hair and wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair.

Jesus does not say a word. Mary sits still and does not move. Their silence is broken by low murmurings among the guests who are choking on their wine.1 “Indecent. Scandalous. Risky gesture with the hair. Total financial irresponsibility.” Never have they seen such a costly perfume used to anoint someone’s feet, then wiped with the hair of a woman not married to the man!/ The guests are blind to the beauty of the offering. They only see a mess, a waste,/ but Jesus in the gospels of Mark and Matthew calls this “a beautiful thing”./ He sees an extravagant gift offered as a supreme act of love and thanksgiving./ Judas speaks the negative voice of zero sum, scarcity mentality, ”Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” Others murmur similar practical, pragmatic questions while the sweet musty aroma of priceless ointment cannot be hidden,/ as it permeates the whole house. The guests discuss the complicated emotions aroused by the gift and the giver for the rest of the evening.//

We do not normally associate smells with Christian witness except when we occasionally use incense or when we meet with the aroma of breakfast the first of each month, but this story tells us to be on the look out for them.

Typically, generosity should breed generosity. When we have been given an extravagant gift, we are moved to give more ourselves.// Occasionally going through the drive-through line at Starbucks Coffee the person ahead will pay for our coffee, and we are often inwardly encouraged to do the same for the person behind us. I remember once the barista announced that we were the twenty-fifth car in line to “pay behind.”

Sometimes, however, when we are given a gift we forget that it is a gift and see it as “mine, mine,”/ a mind-set of scarcity instead of a mind-set of abundance.2 We hold on to it, do not develop it or care for it, like the man given one talent. Sometimes we not only do not care for it, but we destroy it, and we all know what I am talking about. //

Each of you here has been given many extravagant gifts. I wish you could hear the stories of those who are here in recovery about the extravagant gift they have been given, Sobriety. Good health, education, the love of a parent or friend or child or spouse, the creation, are also all extravagant gifts that we should be telling each other about. I hope those in small groups tonight will share their stories of extravagant gifts. I hope each of us will go home tonight and share a story of an extravagant gift with a family member or friend. Thank that person for the gift if you can. If not, pay it forward. Lastly in our prayers tonight, give thanks for Mary for reminding us of the extravagant gift of love of God through Jesus Christ which is constantly offered to each of us.

Joanna. joannaseibert.com

1 Anne Carter Florence, “A baccalaureate Sermon: smashing Beauty,” Journal of Preachers, Pentecost 2004, pp. 18-22.

2 B. Stephen Shoemaker, John 12:1-12, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, pp. 140-144.

Closing Eucharist, Walking the Mourner's Path Facilitator Training, Trinity Cathedral, March 1, 2019

Closing Eucharist Mourner’s path facilitator training Trinity February 27, March 1, 2019

John 11:21-27

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

What a journey we have been on. Susan, Tricia, and I have had the privilege of spending two intense days with a group of very gifted people who have been training to minister to those grieving the death of significant persons in their lives. In doing so you have walked in the shoes of those you will be ministering to by sharing your own loves, losses, and triumphs.

You have listened and told each other the stories of your own loved ones who have died. You have shared their pictures. You have talked about how you learned to grieve as a child. We have talked about the physical side of grieving. We have learned that tears are helpful and appropriate in our grief. You have shared what you miss the most and what you are doing to live on, how the relationship continues in a very different way and about small victories in your life. You have talked about how difficult it is to live on and make decisions by yourself especially when the one you loved was bigger than life. You have talked about things you remember about your loved one. You have talked about best and worst times. Finally, last night you wrote a letter to your loved one that you will offer at this altar.

Many of you will minister to those who will question where was God in all this sadness and tragedy that they have experienced. Sometimes the God of their understanding seemed absent or at some great distance. Many will come through this experience with a very different relationship with God.

Each of them will have a different story and will be at a different place on this journey. That is what will be especially beautiful about the groups you will mentor. I know each of you will respect the other and not insist that your neighbor’s journey be like your journey.

We have also tried to look at grief from a Christian and an Anglican viewpoint, very subtly using the traditional Anglican tools of scripture, tradition, and reason.

What does say Scripture tells us about death? Devote followers of Jesus, both Mary and Martha, question why he was not there to save the person both he and they so dearly loved. We know that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Our mentor is telling us that weeping is appropriate. At his own death Jesus asks God, “God where are you?” He is telling us that doubting, arguing, feeling abandoned are feelings just as Christian as feeling held in God’s arms.

All of us know the Easter story. We know in our minds that our loved ones are experiencing a new life in the resurrection. But there is a part of our hearts that still wants them here with us physically to tell us in their very subtle way answers to the questions we still are struggling with. /

What does our Tradition tell us about death? Karl Barth, Friedrich Schleiermacher, William Sloane Coffin Jr, and John Claypool all preached about the death of close family members. It is interesting how all of these towers of faith were shaken to their roots. As they looked for hope, they wrote profusely and vividly about what did not help them in their grieving. One of the universal dead end theologies for these preachers was the often-quoted phrase that the death of someone was God’s will. This is not the God of their understanding, and I know it is not yours. After the death of his son in a car accident when the car went off a bridge into the water, William Sloane Coffin preaches, “my own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that my son die; as the waves closed over his sinking car, God’s heart was the first of all our hearts to break.” /

Lastly, what does reason tell us about death, which really means what is our own experience about grief and death. Death is not a period at the end of a sentence, but more like a comma. Some have talked about how our loved ones who had died are not only in a new relationship to God but also to us. Death changes but does not destroy our connection with those we love. We have shared experiences of knowing the presence of loved ones after they have died, doing things we knew we had never been able to do before because of some presence very near to us guiding, still caring for us. The Old Testament gives us a wonderful description of this experience. As Elijah is about to die, he asks his beloved companion, Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha responds, “ Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” You know the story. As Elijah ascends in a whirlwind into heaven, he leaves for Elisha his mantle or shawl as a sign of his spirit. That has often been our experience. Those we love but see no longer have left us a spiritual mantle that all of us here will be wearing, carrying with us, knowing that their presence with us no longer will depend on time and space.

We all have seen that shawl about each of you. I think you have felt it as well. Our prayer today is that we all will continue to feel the shawl around us, the spirit of love, endurance, humor, strength, the shawl we will carry with us as we form new Mourner’s Path groups. You will be the vessel holding these groups together, supporting them, helping them see the shawl that each of them is wearing.

May you also continue to feel the loving arms of this group and our God often silently holding you in your new journey.

Lastly, Corinthians tells us that love never dies. Love never dies. The love we have for and from their loved one is still there and never dies. I don’t understand it. It is a mystery. I know I look at pictures of my brother, my grandparents who have died and I can feel their love and in turn feel the love I have for them. Buechner and Nouwen tell us that our bodies die but the love we have for others and the love we feel from another somehow returns to God and is kept for all eternity. If you are a mystic, you have no difficulty understanding this. If you are a person who understands by rational thinking, this may be a difficult concept.

I know in my heart that the love we have for each other will never die.. I believe that in some mysterious way this love never dies and is carried forward to make a change in those who have died, in ourselves, and in the universe.

Bless each of you as you continue your ministry, a ministry you have already been doing whether you know it or not. May you continue to heal and hold others as you have helped heal and hold each of us. We give thanks and rejoice in your ministry ….and for a few more days send you out into the world with : Alleluia, Alleluia. Alleluia.

Joanna Seibert

Jeffrey J. Newlin, “Standing at the Grave,” This Incomplete One, pp. 121-130.

Gary W. Charles, “The E Prayer,” Journal for Preachers, 47-50, vol. 29, no. 3, Easter 2006.

Prayer 63 In the Evening Book of Common Prayer, 833.

Thomas Long, “O Sing to Me of Heaven: Preaching at Funerals,” Journal for Preachers, 21-26, vol. 29, no. 3, Easter 2006.

Epiphany 7C Forgiveness, Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, Gulf Shores, Alabama, February 24, 2019

Epiphany 7C Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, February 24, 2019

Luke 6:27-38

“Jesus said, ‘I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful…Forgive, and you will be forgiven."’

Are there any Methodists in the congregation? Maybe used to be Methodist? Well, I have been an Episcopalian for over 50 years, but there is still a little Methodist in me, so I read fairly religiously the writings of William Willimon, former chaplain at Duke and former Methodist Bishop. This is what he has to say about this passage from Luke. In a former congregation in rural Georgia, it was the custom of one of the laity to pray after the sermon. After Willimon had preached a tough sermon on this difficult passage on Sunday, the lay leader got up and prayed, “Lord, today we’ve heard your word. And we don’t like it.”1 / I think most of us might agree.

Huston Smith, one of our great experts on world religions writes that Christianity shares many affirmations or statements of truths with other faith groups. “Love your neighbor, Help those in need. Obey God.” But Jesus’ declaration that we should love our enemies is found solely in Christianity.1

Willimon asks us to imagine someone who has greatly harmed us or our family. I’m talking about the kind of person we don’t want to see again. Whenever we hear his or her name, our heart rate increases, our palms get sweaty. Can you imagine extending your hand in love to that person and telling them you forgive them? Ouch! Too radical!!

Willimon believes that this sermon of Jesus is not a list of rules and duties for us to follow but instead is a picture of the kind of God that Jesus represents. This is a portrait of our God described to us by Jesus. Our God loves his enemies. Our God still does good to those who hate him. Our God blesses those who cruse him. Our God prays for those who abuse him. We have a God who is merciful, who does not condemn, who forgives.1 This is a God of love.

We may strive to follow Jesus, but we all know we will have great difficulty because of our humanness, but our God is constantly merciful, forgiving, loving. There is no act that cannot be forgiven. There is no one undeserving of forgiveness./

Let’s talk more about forgiveness. Hold onto your stone. Forgiveness is a radical, outrageous thought. You all may have wondered why we offered you a stone as you came in today. If you did not get your stone, see me or my husband after the service. But please! Do not throw it at us if you do not agree with what I am saying! The stone is an idea from a book by Bishop Tutu and his daughter, Mpho, The Book of Forgiving. Tutu reminds us that if we cannot forgive someone, it is like carrying around with us a burden, a large stone, that interferes with our living. I am asking you, if you can, to carry this stone with you the rest of the day in one hand. You may find it difficult to take communion, to eat, to use your phone or computer, among many other things./ You know those signs on cigarettes, “smoking may be dangerous to your health.” We should have similar signs on billboards and on television intermittently displayed: “not forgiving can be dangerous to your health.” Tutu quotes studies where forgiveness reduces stress, depression, anger. Revenge is dangerous to our health. It never improves it. 2, 3//

I don’t know about you, but when someone has harmed me, I begin to think about them all the time. I think about how I would like to harm them ( in a subtle way of course) or how I can expose them for who they really are. They live rent free in my head. They become my God, my higher power. That is when I decide I must do something about this, They are the last persons I would like to be my higher power./

We begin to notice people who have been able to forgive. We reread this passage in Genesis and realize how Joseph’s ability to forgive his brothers saved a nation. We remember why we continue to go to musical productions of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The music keeps ringing in our ears but it is the story of Jean Valjean, released from a French prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread who in desperation takes silver from a bishop who gives him shelter. When Valjean is caught, the bishop says he gave the silver to Valjean as a gift, and then says, “you forgot some other pieces,” and gives more silver to Valjean. As you know, this bishop’s unconventional and unconditional kindness completely turns Valjean’s life around to one of serving others.. We remember Nelson Mandela who forgave his guards of 27 years of imprisonment. Mandela writes, “If I had not been able to forgive my guards, I would still be in a prison.’ That is what not forgiving is like. It is like living in a prison where our life becomes very small and begins to center on the harm done to us./ Perhaps Charles Dickens gives us one of the best examples of what happens when we cannot forgive in his story, Great Expectations. Remember Miss Havisham who was jilted by her lover on her wedding day and lives the rest of her life in her decaying wedding dress seated at a rat-infested table set for a wedding feast as she plots revenge on males. Her life stops. /

Soon these resentments intermittently produce uncontrollable anger which erupts out of our body like a dragon. The anger brings with it a huge amount of energy. /Then the miracle.//

When we can transform and release that energy from anger to energy for healing, this energy will be used for us to become the person God created us to be. What helps the most is the knowledge that the person who has harmed us is still hurting us as long as we cannot forgive them.

Last year at St. Mark’s in Little Rock at a Forgiveness Workshop, Mary Dwyer from Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.,4 spent a weekend trying to teach us some of the basics of how to start the journey of forgiveness. She reminds us that forgiveness is the only conditional part of the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive our sins, as we forgive others.”

Reconciliation involves two parties./ Forgiveness involves only one party.

Mary cautions us about forgiving too soon.

Mary then describes a process of active imagination with God and the person who has harmed us. She calls it the Forgiveness Prayer. After a period of Centering or contemplative Prayer, we imagine our own sacred space with God very close to us. Mary actually imagines that she is sitting in God’s lap. I am still just sitting beside Jesus. My sacred space would be sitting on the white sandy beach of the gulf coast watching the waves come gently in as the sea gulls fly in and out at the water’s edge. We then invite someone who has harmed us to come into our sacred space with God beside us. We tell them all that they have done to harm us. Then we ask them if we have harmed them and then ask them for forgiveness. Sometimes having a picture of the person who harmed us may be helpful as we speak to him or her. This is not a one-time event but may require many encounters. For me, the Forgiveness Prayer is so helpful when the person who harmed me refuses to talk about it. The Prayer allows us to talk to that person in a safe place in our imagination where we cannot be harmed again, but also to acknowledge mistakes we may have made as well.

Mary also recommends praying daily for the person who has harmed us until we are ready to forgive. Praying does not change the person that harmed us but praying can change us. The change may be slow. I have people like this who have been on my prayer list for years.

St. Augustine has been quoted as saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

We do not have far to look to see others whose resentments for harms done to them have definitely poisoned their existence. Some try to hide it. Some openly live a life of resentment. It changes who they are. Anger, bitterness, self-centeredness live in that body. Wholeness is excluded. Some become almost paralyzed by the resentment and cannot deal with life on life’s terms. They in turn begin to resent others who do not appreciate the harm that was done to them. Addictions creep in as temporary harmful solutions to the increasing pain that the resentment brings. That person who harmed them is still hurting them. It is a very sad, isolated life, an icon of who or what we do not want to be.

Forgiveness is our only option if we want a relationship with God and a relationship with others.

Forgiveness never pretends that a wrong has not happened, but forgiveness is a way of remembering where a past wrong is not denied, but with forgiveness the injustice is deprived of its power to shape our future. Our response to others and what has happened to us is not predicted or determined or dependent upon the behavior of someone else. Forgiveness does not erase the past/ but is the pathway to a new future, a resurrected life.5

Good luck with your stones.

1. William Willimon, “Living with the God we Got,” Pulpit Resource, February 24, 2019, vol. 47, no 1. Year C.

2. Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu, The Book of Forgiving, HarperOne 2014.

3. John Buchanan, “One New Book for the Preacher,” p. 42, Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2015, vol 38, n 4.

4. Contemplative Outreach Ltd. www.contemplativeoutreach.org , a network of individuals interested in the practice of centering Prayer as taught by Father Thomas Keating.

5. Amy P. McCullough, “Preaching Forgiveness,” pp.22-23, Journal for Preachers, Pentecost 2015, Vol 38, no 4.

Joanna joannaseibert.com

Epiphany 5C Call of Peter, 12 step Eucharist, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, February 6, 2019

Epiphany 5C. call of Peter

February 6, 2019 12 step St. Mark’s Episcopal church

Luke 5:1-11

“Yes, Mrs. Simon Peter speaking. What! Zebedee, slow down, I can’t understand you. You are alone on the shore with two boat loads of fish that are about to sink, and Simon Peter and James and John are off talking to a new rabbi! Give me a few minutes to find someone to care for my mother who is in bed with a fever, and I and everyone else I can find will be right there!”

“Can you believe this is happening? Right when we are in the middle of building a new home in Capernaum.”///

Don’t you just love Luke’s action-packed, somewhat humorous story of the call of Peter, James, and John! Jesus calls a frustrated and tired Peter to go out deeper where he catches so many fish that his nets are about to break. James and John’s boat comes to help him and their boat as well become so filled with fish that they are about to sink. Jesus tells them, “Don’t worry, you will become fishermen of men.” When they come to shore, Peter and his partners have changed their priorities, their old way of life, and leave everything including John and James’ father and their boats filled with fish and follow Jesus.

We are here in this place because we too desperately want to know what it is like to be called by and hear the voice of God like Peter. Today Luke clearly tells us what that call looks/ and sounds /and smells like.

Consider where Peter is, and what he is doing when he is called? Peter is not doing anything particularly religious, but is busy at his workplace trying to make a living. We may hear God call us in this church, but we are very likely to hear that voice in our everyday life, at home, school, at work.

This call often also comes in an interruption in our daily routine. Pay very close attention to the interruptions that present when we are much too busy for them: people and places whose names do not appear on our agendas./

God consistently comes to us where WE are. Luke tells us that Jesus begins his ministry in synagogues, but he doesn’t call his disciples by putting an ad in the Galilee Democrat Gazette saying, “Local teacher needs staff. No experience necessary. Apply to Box 534.” Instead, Jesus makes a personal appearance to our homes and workplaces when he calls.

Notice that Jesus tells Peter to go out into deeper water to fish. Those in 12 step Recovery know exactly what motivates Peter to go in another direction. We most often make these life-changing decisions when we like Peter, are exhausted, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” We hit a bottom and have no more answers. One of our children gets into trouble and we can’t fix it; our spouse is sick and is not getting better; we lose our job and have difficulty finding another one. Our addiction is ruling our lives. Suddenly we are open to a memory from childhood, a conversation with a stranger or an old friend. We read again a scripture passage, or see an old movie that motivates us. We make a call or are given the courage to speak to someone we know who is in recovery. And God comes to us and transforms us in ordinary relationships with people who understand where we have been,/ and our nets become filled to overflowing.

Notice how Peter’s confession of his humanity, his shortcomings, his 5th step is so important to his call. Part of Peter’s greatness is this ability to see his own powerlessness. But that same power which causes him to fall on his knees also lifts him up. Jesus says to him, “Fine, now we are ready to get going. If you hadn’t had any awareness about yourself, this wasn’t going to work.”

Let’s return to the two boat loads of fish left by the Sea of Galilee. Is Jesus telling Peter now to give up fishing? Is that what catching people instead of fish means?/ My experience is that God uses the talents we have perfected in our worldly vocations for God’s purposes. The skills that Peter learned in fishing will be used now for the kingdom. Nothing is ever wasted. Fishing may now be the best way Peter will meet others who are seeking the Christ as well as others seeking recovery. As a fisherman Peter learned patience; working in community; putting out a net, a feeler, a fishing line to find something completely unknown beneath the surface ; seeing God’s presence in nature, feeling God’s pleasure in the sun and wind on his face and the salt in his hair, being constantly surrounded by images in a natural world greater than himself.

So, this is the call. Do you hear it? God is calling each of us, most a bunch of rank amateurs who can’t distinguish port from starboard. We are not called because WE are able, but because God is able, because God is constantly getting into the boat with us, into the messiness of our lives, usually at odd and inconvenient times, and leading us and going with us to deeper waters, a new life, where our nets will repeatedly be filled.

Joanna. Joannaseibert.com

Epiphany 2C, John 2:1-10, Wedding at Cana, Extravagant Abundance, St. Mark's Episcopal Chruch, January 20, 2019

John 2:1-10, Epiphany C2 Wedding at Cana, Extravagant Abundance, St. Mark’s, January 20, 2019

Joanna Seibert

Are you having any difficulty understanding any of the details of this most famous of all Jewish wedding feasts? If so, come with me to make a visit to Mary, Jesus’ mother, to find out what really happened. Let’s travel back to the late first century. It is many years after the resurrection. We must journey to Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, now in present day Turkey. We hear that the disciple John/ brought Mary to Ephesus when the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem became particularly severe.

Our guide leads us to a very small stone house on an uneven plateau near the top of a hill just to the left of the road from Jerusalem.1 The door is already open for us, and we are escorted in by a young woman. The main part of the house is divided into two by a fireplace in the middle.. We sit by the fire, but then stand when Mary slowly enters from the door to the right.2

“Mary, thank you for seeing us. We have made a rather long journey from Arkansas just to find out a few more details about what really happened at the wedding at Cana.”

Mary motions for us to sit down. She ponders our question for several minutes, and then speaks.

“ Our whole family went to this wedding at Cana, a dot in the road about 10 miles north of Nazareth. He was thirty when it all happened.

There was no warning;

He had never done anything like that before at other gatherings,

But this was a really big wedding.

It was our friend, Isaac Levinson’s daughter

who was marrying Jacob Abramson from the nearby big city of Sepphoris,

and everyone in our village was invited.

So, I say to him,

‘Listen, Jesus,

there’re going to be a lot of nice girls at this affair.

You’re 30,/ and you’re not getting any younger.

So, don’t be backwards about being forward

just because your old mother is there.

I’ll not be watching and checking up on you.’

Well he just rolls his eyes the way his father used to.

So, I say no more.

We get to the wedding

and into the reception,/ a huge crowd, probably more than the bridegroom expected, so we eat first.

What a spread:

Breaded octopus,

roast quail in pomegranate sauce,

pickled locusts,

mushroom omelets for the vegetarians.

Everything is magnificent,

except for the olives.

Now personally, I don’t like olives

but everyone who ate them said they were very salty.

So between the salty olives and the heat

(It was close to 90 degrees.)

there were a lot of thirsty people thereon this third day..

We must have been sitting at the table for hours.

People were talking at the top of their voices./

And then I notice it gets distinctly quieter./

So I turn to Jesus and say.

‘I have a feeling that the wine has run out.’

He just turns to me, rolls his eyes and says,

‘Mother, your powers of observation are beyond priceless.’

But I know from the way he says it that he must be up to something. I know if I had noticed it, he would have sensed it long before me;

so when I see him rising from the table

and going into the kitchen,

I say to one of the waiters,

‘You see that man walking towards the kitchen,

that’s my son.

Follow him and do what he tells you.’

Well, exactly what happens after that, I don’t really know.

There are about a dozen different stories.

According to Jesus,

he just asks

for the big water jars to be filled “to the brim.”

Then he helps lift them one at a time,

gives them to the waiters

and tells them to take them to the chief steward.

I can still remember the delicious sweet taste of this new wine,/ but I did not crave more. I was satisfied with what I had at that moment. Its aroma was earthy. I stayed in the present moment as I drank it and was filled with thanksgiving and gratitude.

Well, in no time at all, the noise level is back at its peak

and everyone is congratulating Jacob

on the Beaujolais nouveau./

When Jesus comes back to the table,

I say to him,

‘Jesus, how come with all the water jugs in my own kitchen,

you’ve never turned your hand to this wine-making before?’

He just rolls his eyes the way his father used to

and says,


I just wanted the family at this wedding to experience a taste, just for a moment, of the miracle of joy and thanksgiving,/

just as you know every day in your own kitchen/ the miracle of a joy filled life/ of gratitude and forgiveness/ with no need for the wine.’2

Now Mary is quiet. We can tell she is going more deeply into the past. She holds onto her heart and proclaims in a voice louder than we thought was left within her, “ This whole miracle can only be described as extravagant abundance, extravagant abundance3./” Then she begins to giggle.

We ask, “Is there something else you remember?”

Mary speaks again intermittently through her laughter, “Jesus miraculously made 180 gallons of wine in those six stone jars “filled to the brim” that day. There was so much wine left over after Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana that the bridegroom, Jacob Abramson, quits his job working with his father and becomes an alcohol distributor for all the wine in our area of Galilee!”

Mary becomes more serious and cries out again, “extravagant abundance,3 extravagant abundance in the most unexpected places.”

Mary continues, “ Do you realize that from then on at every meal where Jesus is present, the many banquets, the feedings of the thousands, even and perhaps especially at his last meal with his family and friends, that Jesus always provides extravagant abundance/ especially when it is least expected it!

Later writers have sensed this. Do you remember in in The Brother KaraMAzov where Dostoevsky describes A/exei Karamazov falling asleep and dreaming about this wedding at Cana, It is a dream for him of indescribable joy. When he wakes from the dream, he throws himself down on the earth and embraces it. He kisses the earth/ and among his tears that are in no way sentimental, he forgives the earth and begs its forgiveness and vows to love it forever.4”/ Did you like Alexei become aware of God’s extravagant abundance in a dream or maybe on your trip here as you looked into the night sky, or as you walked outside and saw the majesty of the trees and the rolling hills around you even on this crisp, cold wintery day. Are you aware of God’s extravagant abundance of forgiveness? Is there something you think you have done for which God cannot forgive you? Listen to me, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, which we might do that God will not forgive us,/ and by the way God asks us to do the same./ This is the miracle of extravagant abundance./

There is long silence. We now decide to get a little braver in our questions. “We have always wondered why John, who takes care of you so well never mentions you by name in his gospel. He only refers to you as the mother of Jesus.”

Mary lifts up her head and looks us in the eye. “Well, you must ask John about that. I can only say that this story about Jesus and his mother at this wedding at Cana is only in John’s gospel, so perhaps John alone knows the depth of the extravagant love relationship between a mother and her son.’ /

Mary is quiet again and then speaks, “Well, that is all in the past.2

But after that day

There was a constant flow of invitations

from people who wanted Jesus to come to their weddings.”/

We can then see that Mary is thinking out loud,/ “Now, I have heard that at St. Mark’s you have many weddings, but you especially honor relationships and birthdays and marriages as people come every sabbath to your altar to pray on the anniversaries of birthdays and marriages.”/

Another long silence. Mary then motions for one of the women to come and help her up. As she rises,/ she bows and unexpectedly gives us a kiss, and softly says, “And as I take your leave, I only ask you to remember this story of God’s extravagant abundance3/ that God constantly offers us in the special events but also in the very ordinary parts of our lives,/ just as Jesus reminded me about the abundant joy I experience every day with him in my own kitchen.//

I ask you always to remember/ to invite Jesus into your special days, your birthdays, your weddings, your anniversaries,/ but also invite Jesus into your ordinary days, into your homes;/ invite Jesus into your kitchens;/ invite Jesus into your everyday lives/// ….and be ready/ for the miracle.”

Iona Community, The Wild Goose Worship Group, “The Wedding,” pp. 54-56, Present on Earth .GIA Publications, Inc. 2002.

Donald Carroll, pp. 1, 44, Mary’s House. Veritas 1843.

3 Ernest Hess, “John 2:1-11,” Feasting on the Word, p. 265, Year C, vol. 1.WLK. 2009.

4. Frederick Buechner, “The Wedding at Cana,” pp. 93-94, The Hungering Dark, 1969.

Joanna joannaseibert.com