Sunday, January 20, 2013

Parties & Gifts

          Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is about the gifts of the Spirit and John’s gospel reading is about a wedding party. Gifts and parties, they kind of go together don’t they.
          Have you ever thought about this journey, this following the Way of Jesus as being a party? Parties are full of fun, good food, laughter and dancing, and stories. Is it possible that we’ve missed something? Is it possible that God’s kingdom here on earth is a party?
          When I was growing up what I heard was that being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, meant that I had to give up doing certain things. Some of those things were fun, like dancing, playing cards, and wedding parties with wine just to name a couple.
          Now I learn that isn’t what Jesus was saying at all. God is love. God loves you and me and our neighbors. God helped Jesus keep a party going by turning water into wine when they ran out because there were more guests than there was wine. God diverted a disaster for the bride’s father by having Mary go to Jesus and telling him it was time. God wanted to help keep the party going.
          Okay, so fast forward to now. Is this party still going on or have we put the lid on the good times? What do you think?
          John wrote his gospel writing about Jesus’ signs. The other gospels call them miracles but John uses the words signs. This turning the water into wine was the first of his signs.
          What did this sign mean, the turning of water into wine? It’s pretty neat being able to turn everyday, ordinary water into the best wine ever produced. Do you think it was just about the wine or is there something else to this?
          Could it be that Jesus was trying, in that different way that he had, to show us that the kingdom of God that had come to earth was like a wedding party? That’s probably not the way Jesus’ ancestors thought about it. Shoot, it’s probably not the way most people today think about the kingdom of God.
          Or…maybe the water was a sign or a symbol of the old way, the Law, and by turning it into premium wine he was showing that with the arrival of the kingdom of God things were going to change for the better. Maybe it meant that the old order was going to change, be made new, be better. Maybe it meant that there’d be less injustice, less oppression, fewer families going without, more…love, premium love. Maybe, what do you think?
          Think about how things changed after Jesus came, performed his signs, died and rose again. Think about the things we can do now that we can’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t do without the gift of Jesus’ Spirit in our lives.
          A party isn’t much of a party without gifts, right? So, with Jesus’ ascension there was, first, the gift of the Holy Spirit and then…the gifts of the Holy Spirit on each person who by faith came to know Jesus.
          Most of us have picked up all the wrapping paper from the Christmas gifts and some of us have birthday gifts yet to unwrap, which makes me wonder, “Have you opened your gifts from the Spirit yet?”
          Oh, you didn’t know you had a gift from the Spirit. Paul tells us we all have gifts from the Spirit, all of us. You didn’t know that? Sure you do.
          If you don’t believe you’ve received a gift from the Spirit maybe you should ask your family or friends what they think your gift is. I’ll bet they can tell you. One thing I know for sure is we all have gifts. Sometimes they’re disguised and not easy for us to identify. They’re there nevertheless.
          So, ask yourselves, “Where’s the party (God’s kingdom) today…and what gifts does God’s Spirit have for me today?” You might wonder how any of us are to know the answers to these questions.
          Friends, God didn’t just talk to the folks we read about in the Bible. He speaks to us today in his word and in our quiet times, in our work, through his Spirit, through our friends and our enemies. If we have ears to hear we can hear his Voice.
          But there might be some of us who are more interested in the party. How are we going to find God’s party? Again, I believe God will lead us to the party. It just might not be the kind of party we’re thinking about.
          It might be a soup kitchen party. It might be a visitation party. It might be a good guys food boxing party. Or…it might be a real party with kids and games and noisemakers and music and dancing and cake and cookies and other goodies. 
          What if we woke up and every day was a party and there were gifts? What would that be like? Do you think it could happen? Do you think that may have been what Jesus’ signs were about?
          Parties and gifts, that’s the Good News, that’s the Gospel message today. Let’s make a real effort this week and in the weeks that follow to find the wedding party and use the gifts we’ve been given by the Spirit.
          Thanks be to God for his amazing grace-filled gifts. Amen.