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Becoming good wine…

January 18, 2010

Psalm 36:1-10; Isaiah 62:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

Epiphany 2C

January 17, 2010

SMC

This last week we have seen again the devastation of human suffering pressing up against our TV screens and into our hearts.  Those voices who view this as some kind of divine judgment against sin, only add to the sense that somehow something is messed up in our world.  We sense the groaning of creation and join in that groaning as we wait for the children of God to be revealed—for a more full expression of the redemption of all things through Christ (Col. 1:20).

What will it take to make things new in Haiti?  We sometimes sing:  “Would you be poured out like wine…would you be broken like bread to feed the hungry?  The question is…are we willing to be made into good wine—to be poured out?  Will our lives synergize with the new thing God is doing—bringing peace, healing and hope—or will they reflect the old chaotic, creaking order?

Our scripture texts this morning point to this reality—that through Christ God is doing a new thing.  In a world of devastating earthquakes and a new year which brings reminders of the not yet of redemption in our lives and situations—we listen intently to this word of the possibility of a new name, renewed relationships, and strange signs. 

The new thing God is doing through Christ invites us to become good wine.  I offer this as a metaphor that is implicit in our texts.  Salvation, healing and hope for the world—like the making of a good wine—involves a process. 

The Diagnosis

The psalmist diagnoses the condition of the old in the verses that preceded our CTW (36:1-5).  This old dying world is what it is because of hearts that are set on a way that is not good.  There is no fear of God before the eyes of the wicked.  They flatter themselves in their own eyes that their iniquity cannot be found out and hated.  They have ceased to act wisely and do good. 

A New Name

Yet the steadfast love of the Lord does not give up on the world.  The new thing that God is doing through Jesus Christ involves identification with the world.  Whether it is with our suffering brothers and sisters in Haiti, our neighbor across the street, or our own need for redemption, healing, and hope—we begin the process of becoming good wine, by naming…confessing that things are not as God intends through Jesus Christ.  We don’t callous ourselves.  We don’t stand outside in judgment.  We move into the places of brokenness and seek Christ. 

This movement is reflected in the story of TNT.  In 1993 an endowment was set up for reaching out to at-risk street kids of Ephrata…  In 2000, Ephrata Mennonite Church hired Mike Wenger to a position they had no idea what it looked like—Youth evangelist.  The week before he began the job 150 kids showed up in the parking lot of EMC after being kicked out of the parking lot of Cloister shopping center for loitering.

They continue to reach out with the unconditional love of God, even in the challenge of relating to messy people.  Youth and broader culture being messed up by pornography.  Youth being messed up by marijuana.  Through Jesus Christ, God is making all things new.  TNT is a ministry of hospitality and presence…a place of refuge for those who are hurting.

The ministry of TNT is embodying the prophetic vision of Isaiah.  A vision which sees the God who pursues, who offers hope, a new start.  We see the possibility of “being called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.” (62:2b)

So in the midst of a culture that is increasingly being shaped by the distortions of pornography, the good news is that God pursues and offers a new nameTo males who have been brainwashed by pornographic media to see girls/women merely as sexual objects to be used—God offers a new nameTo girls and women who have been led to believe that their value comes from their sexual function—God offers a new name

To all who have bought into a broken image and identity God offers the possibility of newness through Jesus Christ.  “You shall no more be called Forsaken, and your land shall no more be called Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married…

Chosen

Becoming good wine involves being picked.  The good news for all of us is that through Christ God has pursued us, chosen us, and given us a new name.  We are chosen—picked.  Whether we are young or old, single or married, from whole or blended families—God chooses us.  Whether we are professional, working class, or unemployed—God picks us.  Whether you are from Sunnyside, Bird-in-Hand or Bent Creek…Cusco, Port-au-Prince or Manhattan—God chooses us. 

Crushed and Aged

Good wine is not made just by picking grapes off the vine.  The process also requires a crushing and aging process.  The text from 1 Corinthians (12:1-11) suggests some of what is required in this part of the process.  It is a picture of crushing of our independence and divisiveness into a blending with others who confess Jesus as Lord.  It is a picture of the body of Christ where many different kinds of gifts and stories are brought together by one Spirit, one Lord, and one God who activates the fermentation process as we come together. 

We find our place in the vat by confessing Jesus is Lord.  No one can say this except by the Holy Spirit (v.3).  So we can’t force people into the vat—that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  But as the Spirit moves in our lives to confess and follow Jesus as Lord we see this critical movement from independence and doing our own thing to mutual submission to others.  Needless to say this goes against the grain of our cultural values as Americans…as Westerners…as modern, enlightened individuals on a journey of self-realization. 

As we confess Jesus as Lord we are joined together with all others who confess Jesus as Lord.  This will mean being in relationship with many different kinds of people—many different kinds of gifts.  (vv 4-7)  And we see that the Spirit is given to each in order to serve the common good

Kathy Escobar writes about the difference between cultivating community and building churches.  Cultivating community requires a long view because real relationships with messy people (which we all are in some way or another) is hard.  Deep life change never happens in a snap.  And many Christians never stay around long enough in any one community to get to this level.  The crushing and aging process requires slogging it out over the long haul with people.  To hang in there even when it is brutal and our patience is tried. 

Poured out

Aged wine is poured out in ordinary places as a sign of grace—as a sign of the presence of the Kingdom of God.  We are poured out in the places where we are located…ordinary places like weddings where they have run out of wine.  Places like earthquake devastated countries where there is a need for the necessities of life and many different kinds of gifts.  Anywhere there is a need for healing and hope we are sent continue the work of Jesus.  We are sent to be a presence to people who are living in darkness and despair. 

Would you be poured out live wine?  May we continue to learn what it means to be chosen, crushed and aged together in Christ, so that we might be poured out for the healing of our world.

AMEN.

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