The readings and collect for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany may be found here.
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. 2The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. 3You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married” (Isaiah 62:4). These are God’s words given to his people through the Prophet Isaiah. I read these words over and over this past week and each time I did, I saw the images of Haiti. I saw pictures of the dead, the injured, the homeless, faces caked with the mud of tears and dust and I heard God’s words, “But you shall be called My Delight Is in Her.” I saw the pictures of the land in ruins, piles of rubble that were once buildings, homes that will never again be lived in and I heard God’s words, “And your land shall be called Married,” married to your builder, your creator.
There simply is no way to reconcile those words with the images. They just do not fit together. They stand side by side as paradox. Whether it is an earthquake of national proportions or an earthquake that devastates us personally and more individually – the death of a loved one, a divorce, the loss of a job, cancer – the paradox exists and cannot be resolved. On the one hand God’s words are true and, on the other, earthquakes are real.
The paradox leaves us wanting to know, “Where is God?” As we look at the pictures of Haiti, as we encounter the earthquakes of our own lives we cannot help but ask, “Is there enough God or has the wine of God’s presence run out?” That question comes out of the recognition of our own powerlessness over much of our life and world. More often than not we do not control life and it does not always turn out the way we want regardless of how good we are or how hard we work. The earthquakes of life leave us wondering where God is.
Many already have and others will continue to offer answers and explanations. Some will say it was God’s will and someday we will understand why it happened. Some will be quick to condemn and blame, “It’s their own fault; you know what kind of people they are. They made a pact with the devil and this is God’s punishment.” Others will simply give up, believing that the earthquake only confirms what they thought – there really is no God or if there is then God does not care. Still others will glibly reply, “Something good will come out of this. God will fix it all.”
Every one of those answers is an empty jar, drained of wine, dry and parched. To settle for quick easy answers only perpetuates the injustice, denying the dignity of the Haitian people and the glory of God in, among, and with God’s people. Those are not answers of faith and they are not Jesus’ answer to the question.
This is not the first time the wine seems to have given out. Jesus dealt with this at the wedding in Cana. “They have no wine,” Mary said to him. She does not say, “There is no wine,” but “They have no wine.” The issue is not about the wine. It is about the people. We can debate whether or not the wine of God is present but the real debate is about what we will do. What will we do now that an earthquake has struck Haiti? What will we do when an earthquake shatters the life we have built?
Jesus offers none of the usual responses we hear or often seek in such situations. There is no discussion about why the wine had run out. He does not blame or condemn. He does not suggest that this is the bridegroom’s punishment. He does not say that this happened so that the guests can learn a lesson or that someday they will understand why. And he does not say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything.” Instead he invites them to participate. God is always inviting us to participate in God’s life and work. “Fill the jars with water,” Jesus says. That is his response, “Fill the jars with water.” The servants filled them to the brim and the chief steward tasted water that had become not just wine but good wine.
There are empty jars not just in Haiti but all over the world, in our own town, in our parish, in our neighbor’s life, and in our own life. These jars are waiting to be filled not with answers but with water. Our work then is to carry water much more than it is to seek or offer answers. In many ways this carrying and offering water is the only faithful response to the earthquakes of life. And there are people carrying water. I heard about a young woman who escaped just minutes before her house collapsed. She spent the next two days unburying and rescuing her neighbors. That is a servant carrying water. I read about a gathering of survivors, lost, injured, homeless, grieving, who stood together in a park singing through the night, “Blessed be the Lord! Blessed be the Lord! Blessed be the Lord!” Those are servants carrying water.
We all have water to offer. The distance from our homes to Haiti may seem unbridgeable and the need overwhelming but we do have water to carry and offer. We offer water through our tears, compassion, and mercy. We give water in our generosity and donations to the relief efforts. We carry water through our prayers, our remembering the dead and caring for the living. Water is offered in every hour spent rebuilding homes, schools, and lives. Every time you speak out for justice and the dignity of the Haitian people and all humanity you have offered water. Whenever you live in hope and refuse despair you carry water. You give water in your love. To trust resurrection more than death is to offer water.
Whether it is a drop, a glassful, or a bucketful the water we offer makes a difference. It fills the jars. And you know what happens then? The same thing that happened at the wedding in Cana. The water we offer becomes the wine of God’s presence – the blood of Christ and the cup of salvation.