When enough is enough (Haiti response sermon)

John 2:1-11      When Enough is Enough             January 17, 2010

I’ve having a hard time right now.  How about you?

I’m struggling.  I don’t know what to say.

The images coming from Haiti are absolutely horrific.

The stories are gut-wrenching and my heart feels like it’s breaking away, piece by piece.

It makes it harder because there’s noone to blame, you know?  It’s a catastrophe that nobody could have done anything about.  There’s nobody to fire, and there’s no way to really prevent it from happening again.

Things like this—they just happen.

So I struggled this week with finding words to say in the wake of such devastation as we’ve seen in Haiti.

I’ve struggled with knowing who to blame…and I’ve come to realize that if I can’t pin the blame on a person when something like this happens, then I tend to put the blame on God, you know?

It’s often not until we’re out of other options that we finally turn to God for an explanation.

I want someone to take responsibility.

When something like an earthquake or a hurricane or a tsunami happens, I would prefer if someone could be fired.  It would help me feel like it will never happen again.

Unfortunately that’s not the case.  As much as I would like some certainty in the world–it’s just not meant to be like that.

Like I mentioned to someone earlier in the week, certainty itself is the opposite of faith.

There are no guarantees in life.  These things happen.

And we can wear ourselves out trying to assign blame.

We can exhaust ourselves questioning God and chasing down the answers we need to make sense of this brutal world.

We can spend a lifetime in that pursuit and still there will be no guarantee—no certainty that a similar earthquake wouldn’t strike Millersburg tomorrow, or Honduras the next day.

And with every natural disaster, every war, every unexplained death we encounter we would have to start all over again…searching for logical reasons—cause and effect relationships that we can use to predict why this happened.

It’s exhausting work…trying to make sense of why an all-powerful, all-good God can allow such devastation to happen in our world.

And if you’ve come here this morning hoping the preacher would make sense of it for you—I think you’ll be disappointed.

All I can say is that God is not absent from us, or from the people of Haiti as some have suggested.

God did not make the earthquake strike because of anybody’s pact with the Devil, as others have suggested.

Instead, God continues to be where He always is and always has been—that is, on the ground in the midst of this disaster, suffering with those who suffer, healing with those who heal, hoping with those who hope and loving with those who love.

When tragedy strikes, it’s not a matter of who to blame—it’s a matter of who to be and how to respond.

And I think the wedding at Cana is a good scripture to help us think about who to be and how to respond in such a crisis.

Normally when I’ve heard this passage preached on, the preacher makes a big deal about Jesus being the life of the party.  We preachers really like to emphasize the fact that when Jesus shows up, he brings the wine and helps make everything a lot of fun.  If the preacher is a little more reflective, we’ll hear about the Jewish system of purification, and how the water that was on hand had a specific religious purpose.  They might go on about how Jesus turns all that conventional religious practice on its head when he turns this water into abundant wine for the enjoyment of the wedding guests.

All that’s good—but this morning I’m compelled to take a different route through this story in light of the recent earthquake.

This story happens on the third day of a wedding feast.  The guests had been enjoying themselves and their wine for the better part of three days.

And I think most of us are privileged enough to normally live life as if it was a party that just didn’t stop.  We can comfortably live from day to day without a thought to the others around us, and we drink to our hearts content.  Life is good at this party–where we’re surrounded by family and friends and we can do things we enjoy.  Life is good–we have plenty of food and wine and lots of reasons to celebrate.  Especially since Jesus and his friends are with us like this wedding at Cana.

Week after week we gather together in this place we call church and because of our abundance we never run out.

And since we’re good Mennonites, let’s use the metaphor of a potluck instead of a wedding feast that includes wine!  🙂

We have a kind of unwritten rule that when we come to a potluck, we bring enough food to feed at least our own family…and maybe a little bit more.  And if the majority of us follow that rule, there’s a good chance that there will be enough for everyone who shows up.

If Jesus shows up with his poor friends, but it’s OK because there’s plenty.

The rest of us can afford to bring extra because we have more than enough.

When we feast every day we forget what hunger feels like.

And so when an earthquake shakes the slumber from our eyes and we wake up and see the desperation in our neighbor’s faces, then we find ourselves astonished—unable to comprehend how or why such a thing can happen. We’re not used to such need.  We’re not used to such devastation.

Wine doesn’t run out in our world.

Earthquakes don’t devastate whole nations in our world.

But then we wake up to see that the wine is running out.  There’s not going to be enough.  The earthquake happens.

And as if we hadn’t thought about it before—we turn to God now—kind of like Mary.  We finally turn to Jesus who’s been there all along and we either expect him to supernaturally fix it all, or we blame him for it happening in the first place.

Well, maybe neither of those responses is really valid.

We often assume and we often hear that Mary told Jesus about this problem because she expected him to do something about it.  We think to ourselves that she somehow knew that Jesus had this gift of working out supernatural miracles, and she expected him to do one at this wedding, to help the family and the guests continue the celebration.

But what if there’s more here than that?

Mary doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to pin the blame for the shortage on Jesus or on the wedding planners or on the guests or on anyone else.

Rather, she just goes to her son, she goes to Jesus and tells him the problem.

And Jesus responds as he still does–by taking what’s offered and using it to provide abundantly more than anyone could have ever expected.

Our God is a God of abundance and of generosity.

An earthquake doesn’t change that fact–but that fact changes how we live when an earthquake happens.

Enough is enough only when the servants at the wedding do what Jesus tells them to do.  The servants are the ones who see the water turned into wine as they draw it from the jars.  They are the ones Jesus sends…the lowly ones, the marginal ones…the ones with no power, no money, and no prospects.  The servants are the ones who carry the fruits of Jesus’ labor into the feast, to fill the perceived human scarcity with God’s choice wine.  The servants are the ones who are first to see the shortage turned into abundance.

And at the end of the passage, the response is that the glory of God is revealed and the disciples come to believe in him.

Later in the story, after Jesus works a similar miracle with a few loaves and fish, Jesus tells the crowds that they are following him not because they heard a great teacher, but because they had eaten their fill.

Again, the God of abundance provides in the midst of need.  But He still uses what we offer to do so.

So can the same be true for a place like Haiti today?

God is still there…as He always has been.

So we can either spend our time questioning where He is… or we can find Him alongside the broken and the suffering, weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn.  It makes a difference!

God transforms need into abundance, but He still requires willing hearts to do so.

Like with the loaves and the fish, as Jesus fed the five thousand, He still needs material to work with.

So what might we offer?

Comments are closed.