January 16, 2022: Sermon by Rev. Diana Peters

A-Bun-Dance

Eric Sellgren, a retired Anglican priest, tells this story, which he says is true.  It’s about a young woman in England whose husband died and left her with three young boys.  Her name was Mary and her only income was her widow’s pension plus a little money she earned sewing for people. 

Anyway, one Friday evening she discovered a large rip in her oldest boy’s jeans. She tried to patch them, but after a while she realized that the material was too thin and too worn for that.  So, what was she going to do? There was no money for new ones.

That night she prayed to God. "Lord, it may be a very mundane thing to pray for, and I know you have greater things to attend to, but John’s jeans won’t last any longer, and I know that the children at school will laugh at him if he wears jeans with great patches and holes in them.  Is it possible to have a new pair Lord?"  And then, she later said, it was as if a warm voice just behind her said: "Child – I’ll show you whether a little boy’s needs are too mundane for me to trouble with!"

On Monday Mary dressed the children for school - John in his patched jeans.  But before they could leave, the postman came. There was a letter from her mother with a £5 note in it, saying "To buy John a new shirt as I forgot to get him one at Easter as I promised".  They were all delighted. Surely Granny wouldn’t mind if it were a pair of jeans rather than a shirt.  She’d go to the store straight away.

BUT SHE DIDN’T NEED TO!  Soon after a parcel arrived at the door, containing a pair of jeans!  It was from another relative whose note said, "I was in Manchester yesterday at a shop where they were having a sale on jeans, and I thought of John, and posted them right away.”

Now, believe it or not, jeans came almost literally flooding in. By the next week-end Mary had received 5 pairs from friends all over England who suddenly felt compelled to send them. Some were new - some were ones their own children had outgrown.

But there was something more that excited Mary, more than the quantity – each of them was just a little bit bigger than the last. John was given enough jeans to last for about three years. And the new jeans would be good for handing down to his younger brothers as they grew.

The GREATNESS of God’s grace, and the economy of it were the things that made Mary marvel.  After that, it’s said, she continued to live her life by Prayer, taking literally St. Paul’s command:  "In everything, with praise and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." (even if you think they’re mundane)

We heard a similar story in this morning’s Gospel - Jesus invited to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. A young couple filled with joy and excitement at the beginning of their married life. But catastrophe threatens! The wine begins to run out! What’s to be done to save their reputation - will they be tagged forever with the terrible title, "The couple whose wine ran out at their wedding"? 

Some may say, a rather mundane thing – not worth asking for a miracle over.  But Jesus’ mother didn’t think so.  "They have no wine", she says to her son.  And though Mary, like the other Mary in my story, had no idea what he would do, she still believes in him so much that she turns to the servants and tells them to do whatever Jesus wants.  And Jesus, God in human form, takes water and turns it into wine.

But not just a little wine.  If my math is correct, about 180 GALLONS OF FIRST RATE PREMIUM WINE!  No wedding party on earth could drink 180 gallons of Jesus wine.  So why did Jesus do it?  Why 180 gallons of wine when far less than that would do?

What each of these stories has given us today is an example of abundance – God’s radical, extravagant, even ridiculous abundance!  Enough jeans to last for three years . . . Enough wine to supply 10 weddings.  Abundant jeans – Abundant wine.  From a God who, evidently, wants us to know that his concern for us, his grace, his gifts, are all available in abundant amounts.  And why?  Well, it seems, for no other reason than God loves us – abundantly!

You know, many people have discussed, even argued, about why Jesus would perform his very first miracle, not to save someone’s life, not to feed a starving crowd, not even to dazzle the masses with the glory of his power.  No, he turned some water into wine at an unknown couple’s wedding and only a few servants and his disciples even knew he’d done it.

So why, we ask again.  Well, I think it’s all about abundance. You remember:

  • Jesus loved to tell people about the coming Kingdom, and this was an illustration of the abundance of that Kingdom.
  • Jesus liked to tell people not to worry about having enough (i.e., look at the lilies of the field), and this was a super example of how God could provide more than we’d ever need. 
  • Jesus told stories to show how God would do what was best for us (i.e., what parent would give a snake to his hungry child when he asked for a fish), and this miracle really illustrated God’s concern for us even in mundane circumstances.

God’s response, he seems to be telling us, is going to be abundant.

But maybe he’s also telling us how we should respond.  Maybe he’s telling us we should have an attitude of abundance too.

A friend and mentor of mine, the Rev. Rick Myers, once preached about why we should practice an attitude of abundance, and I’ll never forget the illustration he used. And after I pass it onto you, you’ll probably never forget it either!  He said that if you didn’t practice abundance, you practiced the opposite – scarcity. 

     That is, Scare-City – a tense place to live where you’re scared you’ll run out of what you have.  And so you hang on tight to it, hoard it, whether it’s your time, your money, your talents, your friendship, whatever!  And, of course, hanging on tightly, you risk nothing, and consequently, you gain nothing.

     But the other response, he said, was to practice abundance – that is A-Bun-Dance.  And that attitude is one of joy, celebration, and gratitude.  It’s an attitude that puts you in a generous place, because you feel you have been treated generously.  And it’s a place of freedom – freedom from worry, doubt, guilt; freedom from Scare-City.

I think he’s got a point there.  Think about it.  When have you been happier?  When you were fretting about not having enough?  Or when you were feeling blessed with an abundance?  And the irony is that two persons can have exactly the same amount and one can be in Scare-City, while the other one’s doing A-Bun-Dance.

Paul was doing A-Bun-Dance when he spoke to those Corinthians about the abundance of gifts given by the Spirit.  Gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues – everything that community would need, they had an abundance of it.

The prophet in Isaiah’s doing A-Bun-Dance reminded us:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord. .

You shall be called My Delight Is in Her.” 

Is in YOU! An abundance of God’s love and delight, for You!

And even the psalmist is Bun-Dancing, proclaiming:

How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

 

And the Gospel showed us, you give us an abundance of the finest wine, so we may celebrate your love.

Isn’t that exactly what we need to hear right now? Right now, we need to be reminded of the abundance of our blessings. Think about it - many of us are living in Scare-City right now. The Covid Pandemic has us scared that we’ll lose everything, from our stash of toilet paper to our very lives. Political differences have fractured our unity, polarized our leaders, restricted some of our basic freedoms, divided families, caused us to put up higher fences around the Scare-City in which we live. And all that gets so serious that eventually we’re in danger of even losing our hope for the future.

Scarcity causes us to retreat from the world, pull ourselves inward, hoard our gifts and talents, and turn our backs on others’ needs.

But an attitude of abundance does exactly the opposite. It allows us to look outward, see others’ needs, share the abundance, and to have hope for a better, more equitable future.

Now, you may wonder, what can we do to heal this country and ourselves from dwelling in Scare-City. Well, I wish I knew. But I think it starts right here, right now, asking ourselves, “Where do I live?” “Where does my family live? “Where does my church live?” “How can I/we live recognizing our abundance and living abundantly?

And what can we do for our country, our world in fact, where currently Scare-City is all too familiar a mindset and activator? Well, Mary, the British widow in our story, took her needs to God in prayer, and was answered abundantly. Our little prayers are not so mundane for God to take notice of them. And our country, our world needs those prayers desperately. We need to pray abundantly. Because we are not meant to be people of Scare-City, but a people who possess an A-Bun-Dance of wonderful gifts from God.

So pray, live abundantly, receive abundant gifts, and give abundantly. Because whatever the need, whatever our neighbors need, whatever the country needs, whatever the world needs, we will have enough.  And Beloved, isn’t that worth doing An-occasional-Bun-Dance?!

Amen.