Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Transforming Power of Daily Discipleship. Homily for 1.20.13 from John 2:1-11

Homily for 1.20.12
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 
JOHN 2:1-11 (see below)
Year C

The Lectionary reading for today, this the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from early in St. John's Gospel, and concerns the wedding feast at Cana, and the miracle from Jesus who turned water into wine and saved that feast. This is a nice story, of course, but on a deeper level it opens to us many of the themes St. John will visit throughout his Gospel.

And, in fact, there are so many preaching themes here that just one homily cannot hope to do justice to the text. For our purposes today, therefore, I want us to think-through the metaphor St. John gives us in the transformation of water to wine, as it relates to the power of the living Christ to transform his followers. 

Here, then, is the preaching premise:
The transformation of the water to wine reminds me, the sinner, that the transformation of the human heart to the ways of the Christ are possible, even in this world of engulfing selfishness.

Can a person change who they are like the water was changed to wine? 

On the face of it the Christian answer comes quick and hard, and often without thought: 
“Well, of course people can change. Jesus changes them. That is the entire point, isn’t it?”
In fact, this question as to the possibility of change actually goes to the heart of what it means to the, “follow thou me” call of  Jesus. That is to say, transformational change is the indispensable and essential condition, or ingredient of what it means to have experienced the risen Christ in one’s life -- 
“I once was this _________, but now I’m this_________!
So, we are compelled to say that change is possible, but, honestly, this does not always align with my experience. What I mean is, it seems the things with which I struggled at the beginning of faith, I still seem to find my way back to that same old tired address. Is this really to be considered change? 

Of course, we know that conversion begins with our willingness to say yes to the Jesus-way, to follow him in believers baptism, which commits us to becoming part of the body of Christ, the church. So far, so good, as far as this goes, but what’s next?

I would assert that there is nothing new and nothing next.  And that, what in fact is required is a daily doing of the same thing we did from the beginning. Now, no, I don’t mean we are re-baptized, but I do mean we daily choose the path of conversion to Christ found in that baptismal commitment. Or, said differently we daily call ourselves to a determined heart change toward the Jesus-way of sacrificial love and forgiving reconciliation, and that this daily heart-change leads to the behavior change where we truly discover what it means to follow Jesus.

This, I believe, is what Jesus is driving at with his call to the disciples:
22  He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”23  Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.24  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.25  What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?26  Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:22-26)
This means we must never presume salvation; we must never take for granted the love and grace of the GOD who is there and who is not silent. For, as St. Paul reminds us, what we are offered in the individual redemption effected by the Christ is both... 
the GIFT -- 
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;9 it is not from works, so no one may boast.
and the DEMAND --
10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

But, if we drill down deeper here, what we find with an honest  assessment of ourselves is the daily struggle we face against our own selfishness and blindness. We find that conversion didn’t eradicate this bent toward self at all, and in some ways it is stronger than ever!  Or, said still differently, when confronted with the Jesus-way of sacrifice and forgiveness we see how far we are from him. 

We discover how our own woundedness leads us to wound others as well.  We find it makes us feel good -- even happy -- to justify ourselves, to make sure we are seen as hansom, pretty, smart, giving, sacrificial or whatever else to the expense of the other. 

This is called the rule of the false self and it has been lying to us from the beginning. It leads us to seek self-pity, self-pleasure and to use the other to meet our own needs.  And it is this selfishness that militates against the other, and Jesus’ death. For, it was the selfishness in the powers of darkness and empire that killed the LORD of Glory.

Notice, then, this false self perverts our humanity and it leads us astray from the calling to a true humanness that we find in the calling to the Jesus-way. Selfishness is sin at its most bleak, it leads to all other sins, and it is the reason Jesus came to forgive and to lead us to overcome. For, only then could there be true humanness and humaneness in the world.

My point here is that so deeply rooted into our hearts is this false self that a daily conversion is required! I must daily return to my commitment to follow the ways of the Christ. I must daily overturn my bent toward selfishness and exploiting others for my own gain. I must daily find what true humanness means in the challenges I face everyday. And, if I fail here I will easily become what I used to be. Without effort I will revert to the belief in scarcity -- so I grab all things for me, and I will believe myself and my story to be the center of the universe -- and not the movement of GOD to reclaim this good world now marred and broken by sin and selfishness.

Individually, then, this is what conversion means: To be converted from self to the other (see Phil.2:1-11).  

But, how can I, selfish as I am ever hope to make daily conversion part of the path I must travel. Thankfully, we have help. Never forget it is the power of the Christ who converts the water to wine, and it is the power of this same Christ, in the reality of the Holy Spirit who daily -- even hourly and moment by moment -- calls me to the Jesus way. I hear his still small voice when face with the selfish choice, saying, “No, No, that’s not the way, follow thou me. Follow thou me...”

Now, after conversion, I have a choice I never had before to do just that.


JOHN 2:1-11 
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it.  And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from — although the servers who had drawn the water knew — the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first,and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him.