sermons, songs, etceteras
This sermon and accompanying song were originally preached on January 16, 2022 at Oak Grove Lutheran Church in Richfield, MN. The live recording may be viewed here.
Song Lyrics are included at the end of the sermon
Scripture Texts for the Second Sunday in Epiphany are:
Isaiah 62:1-5 | Psalm 36:5-10 | 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 | John 2:1-11
You probably noticed that I’m dressed a bit differently today, and that’s because I will be playing piano in a bit. But first, I want to tell you about a message God has been speaking to me for literal decades and stirred itself into a song this week.
As far back as I can remember, the scriptures that have pierced straight to my deepest self were the ones that said I mattered, that my gifts were important, that while there is no-THING new under the sun, there are new souls born every day, with new particularities blooming all the time to shed new light and cast new shadows on our understanding of ancient things. I held tight to signs throughout scripture telling me that I couldn’t ask for too much or BE too much — but that my imagination was probably too safe and too small for a God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to Christ’s power at work within us, and whose plans for those God loves and calls are well beyond anything our eyes have seen, ears have heard, or our minds conceived.
These promises were important, because I grew up in the deep end of scarcity where i learned to be satisfied with crumbs, and never ask for more. And because I long believed, and to a degree still do if I’m honest, that there would never be enough space or breath for me to exist in my fullness, when I already bring so much muchness wherever I go. I believed what I was told, which was that I had to choose: motherhood OR career. school OR work. Music OR pastoral vocation. Queerness OR God. There wasn’t enough to say yes to both or all. So I learned to be satisfied with what fell at my feet, and to fear Want.
So it is quite something that in today’s gospel, the invitation to Go Big or Go Home blossoms again, and for no other reason than joy.
For Here we see God, in God’s first God-act of john’s gospel, giving excessively good abundance to people who didn’t ask for anything.
Without diving all the way into the historical significance of the catastrophe Jesus interrupted, let me just say this: Jewish wedding feasts back in the day were a whole thing that typically lasted a week or more as celebrants feted the newly married couple. To run out of wine at a wedding would be to run out of water at Woodstock. Absolutely ruinous. It would’ve brought the party to a screeching halt, especially at just three days in. The hosts would have been mortified, and the couple would have started their marriage under the humiliating, ominous cloud of scarcity.
This is the crisis Jesus averted when he turned those gallons and gallons of water into wine, with none but Mary and few servants in the know.
But it isn’t just the avoidance of catastrophe that’s so striking here, it’s that he turned what would have been an omen of doom for the couple into the extreme opposite. For while few ended up knowing Jesus had done anything at all, many no doubt noticed that they were drinking the best wine at the end of the celebration. It was a sign and promise of radical abundance for everyone, regardless of whether or not they knew it was a work of God. And that’s what I want us to notice first: Jesus turned emptiness into delicious excess for lots of people who would never know or praise him for it. That’s how God’s Grace upon grace works.
Second, I see a perhaps overly-confident stage mom nudging the son she loves to step into his fullness, as if to say “do what you do.” And Jesus, in turn, rolls his eyes, and does something as extraordinary as it is unnoticed, so the ruckus could continue uninterrupted. Joy, it seems, is so profoundly important to God that Jesus made its preservation at a wedding in Cana _The Moment_ to start the countdown to His final Hour.
Radical abundance, radical Joy!
It begs the question: what kind of world would we create if we had the audacity to ask Jesus for what he is already prepared to give? I suspect many of us are, as CS Lewis put it, so content making mud pies in the slum that we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
And finally, when Mary saw a need and nudged Jesus to do what he does, I think it was also an invitation to us to be all of who we are and do what we do, too, because our particularities are critical to the needs of the moment.
So In that spirit, I’m trying something new to me: I’m gonna be woman and preacher and songwriter all at once in this and offer up a musical prayer about baptism, and ordinary miracles, and joy: so that we, like john and Jesus, may be baptized in water and spirit. That we, like Jesus’s followers, may share what little or lot we have and witness it multiplied. That we, like Jesus, may step into our wholeness and see how God uses the gift of our particularities to honor the revelers, keep the party going, and unbridle our joy which is also a miracle.
(c) 2022 Amy Courts Koopman
Bury me like a seed
In a watery tomb
And I’ll breathe in the Spirit
like the Baptizer did in the womb
And maybe they’ll have my head on a platter
Or kill me like you,
On a tree in the late afternoon
And you’ll raise me to Bloom in
The garden you’ve planted
For saints and fools
Send me out to the wilds
Where all the wounded and frail
Are the ones who work wonders and signs
Of everyday finds like
Fishes and bread gone stale
Oh and give the ears and the eyes
To see everything, everything,
Everything, everything divine
Like life and like death
Every deeply drawn in breath
Finding root in you
Call me back to the room
Where all the empty jars stand
And tell me to do what I do
Like your mom said to you
When the turning began
And draw from me each desire and need
That feels too much to claim
Turn every want into wine
Like you did that one time
So the party won’t end
For the groom or the bride
Or for all of the comers
Who revel and wonder
At signs of abundance
The over-the-top-ness of you
For, joy is a miracle too
Oh, your joy is the miracle too