-Fr. Ed Cardoza
One of the things that I like to do when I travel is to visit churches. It makes my other half slightly crazy. But, it is something that I insist on doing, and when I am over in Europe I tend to do it in a more fervent practice because there are some real gems in the architecture of churches and church buildings give a good insight into the context of the local community. Last year when I was in England just off of a town that some of you might be familiar with because we have one here, Dedham, England, we have Dedham, Massachusetts. I was off on very tiny country lane that brought me a Hamlet, it was a true Hamlet, it was a place where houses still have thatched roofs, and it looks as if you are stepping back in to history. Your car, even though you are driving a small car, barely fits down the lane, because the lanes were really created for single horses and small wagons. I went into this church and it was what we call a "untouched church." As most of us know through history there was a lot of turbulence during the reformation and then what British, London may refer to the interlude when Cromwell came in. A lot of the windows got smashed in the church, a lot of the statues had their heads cut off and there was sort-of a purification that happened. When you go into some of these areas you find that some of the churches are intact and when you talk to the individuals who inhabit these villages they often talk about all of that history as not impacting them because they simply practiced the ancient faith. I think what means for people in Europe is that when you are outside of the city centers were a lot of the turbulence is happening you just go on with the simple practice of offering the prayer of the church, the presence of the church, the sacraments of the church. So, this church was unique in that it was untouched by the Reformation, but it was also untouched by the Victorian Age. The Victorians loved to come in to some of the building and say "Well, we need to push this roof about 20 foot higher, we need to build off a portico and while we're at it, let’s take this wonderful painted plaster naive and let’s wallpaper it and let's put some velvet curtains over there and how about some wrought iron." It was untouched by the Victorian Age and it was never modernized. So I went in there and, first of all, there was a certain smell that comes with those churches. You can smell the residue of the candles and the wax and the incense. It has this real, real pungent smell of a place that has been lived in and prayed in. I looked at the alter which was really quite simple, and there was a triptych stained glass window. We have a triptych stained glass in this church. I suspect it is from the old church up the street. But that is just a fancy way of saying three panes of glass. In those three panes of glass was on the left a depiction of the Wedding at Cana, the reading that we heard from the Gospel today, and in the middle window was The Last Supper, the offering of the Eucharist, and then on the right was the Crucifixion. Now what is unique about that is that the Crucifix is usually in the center panel. But in this window we have the wedding of Cana, we have the movement over to the Eucharist and then the Crucifixion itself. It is this very stunning window in that church. Now why would I bring that up today? Well it is a good introduction to the Homily. But, because it the Gospel of John is really interesting with what it proclaimed as the first sign of Jesus. The Gospel of John is not called these actions and activities miracles. The Gospel of John calls these signs. They are signs that Jesus' first sign there is one in which he takes water and turns it into wine. Now, there is a very interesting character that is present during this, and that is the mother of Jesus. Not Mary, never named as Mary. Not spoken of individually, always of spoken of as her role, the mother of Jesus, the mother of the son of God. We will hear nothing more about this mother in the entire Gospel until the foot of the cross. And then the gospel of John says the mother of god was present at that foot of the cross. The gospel goes on and says to Mary, the mother of God, "Behold your son, Mary," and to John the beloved disciple, "Behold your mother." So what does this mean, this shift between one time showing Mary the mother of God with Jesus at as this sign, this miracle of changing this water into wine and then the cross. Think back to that image that I raised up that the beginning of this, that whoever designed that church wanted us to make a profound connection between this offering at the Wedding of Cana and The Last Supper. I actually believe that is what the evangelist is trying to do. Now, there is a very funny part of entering that Gospel and I think I would be remiss in saying that there are really moments in the Gospel that when you read it that you want to giggle. This is one of those moments, because what is really happening here? (as Mary) "Jesus you are going to do this." – (as Jesus) "I'm not going to do this." -- (as Mary) "Um, just do what I just told you to do." And, Jesus does it. So, that commandment - To honor your mother and father, to do as your mother tells you, is sort of lived out here. It is as if Mary is saying "I know what you can do. You need to do this." Jesus is sort of coming into his twenty-something, his thirty-something, and saying "This isn't my time. This is not the moment. What concern of this is mine that they have run out of wine? Everybody is drunk. They, don't know what the wine is here. What concern of this is yours and mine?" And then he uses this very interesting phrase "My hour has not come." Pay attention to that line because that is not the hour for doing signs or the hour for doing miracles that for the Gospel for St. John has specific reach into the sacrifice of us. So Jesus himself is introducing into this passage that there is a connection between the changing of this water into wine and his own passion of the crucifixion; and I'll come back to that. The second story that I want you to consider is one from my own particular youth. Now some of you have Italian ancestry, I do not have Italian ancestry, but I did grow up in East Boston where the majority of the people who lived around me where Italian. In fact, there were neighborhoods in my neighborhood of Boston where if you went out you would not hear English spoken and that is because the majority of folks who were out and about shopping where the Nannas, the grandmothers. Who we in Portuguese call the avós. These Nannas mostly communicated in Italian in all of the dialects whether it be Sicilian, whether it be Roman, whether it be Neapolitan and you kind of got used to certain Italian words and one the Italian words that I loved was "abbondanza." Abbondanza: abundance, fullness, and abbondanza was never said without a visual example. So when you sat down at somebody's table and there was eggplant Parmesan, lasagna, roasted lamb, green peas, chick peas, and it went on and on. Somebody would say "abbondanza", this is a sign of abundance. Abundance. When I went off Disney World when I was eight years old and I actually flew over my neighborhood - Logan airport is in East Boston. I looked down on all those triple-deckers. I didn't see much tar and gravel. I saw lots of containers of tomato plants and green beans and egg plants because that abbondanza, that abundancy, was coming from people’s gardens. So summertime is a time of abbondanza. Christmas eve and Christmas day it was a sign of abbondanza. There would be sever or twelve fish dishes and then the next day we would have lamb, a turkey and it would go on and on and on. Just when you thought you were finished the table cloth would change and the dessert table would be set - abbondanza. Easter was a time of abbondanza. My favorite scriptural verse - if I died put it on my stone, you hear that, this is what I want on my stone - "I came to give you life so that you might live it abundantly." That's Jesus' deep desire for us. "I have come to give you life so that you might live it abundantly." This Gospel is about abundance and it is about abundance is such a subtle way that maybe our 2016 mind misses it. But this has been an entire week of celebrating at this wedding. We're at the end of it folks, it is time to go home. And what happens? The wine starts to trickle off and three days into it Jesus says "I'll do what you say ma. Go and get those jars." Do you know how big those jars are? Well I think me, and Chris, and Sarah, maybe Alison could all fit into it. That is how big that jar is. And we've got several of them. Imagine going to Shaw's and picking up 30 gallons of water six time and trying to fit them into your vehicle and then bring them into this church or this house. That is how much water was turned into wine. And it wasn’t just your ordinary wine. It was the best wine. So good that the chief steward had to go and cover himself and say to the bride groom "This is really good stuff! Why are you serving this now? I didn't make this mistake. We should have served this first." SO what is happening in this Gospel? What is happening? I think this is a beautiful Gospel after we have concentrated on the birth of Jesus. God becoming one of us. Taking on our flesh. Taking on all of our senses. I think what is really being said here is our God is a God of abundance. A God who offers us all things and that when we really think about Jesus becoming one of us it is in fullness, it is completion, it is in totality, it is the complete offering. And so there is something about this that to the ancient reader would have been a sensory overload. When I have come to you as one of you I could do all things fully and completely - savor it, enjoy, draw from that abundance, eat of that abundance, drink of that abundance. We make a big mistake when we place God up in the cloud away from us as if God does not know our joys and our happiness. God knows our sorrows and our griefs, but God knows our joy and our happiness. That is why I think those window choices were made by stained glass artist when he constructed that church in England. The Wedding of Cana, the giving in abundance, the Eucharist, that Eucharist that we are about to remember here and to participate of, to be fed of, to be nourished of, that same Eucharist that connects us to that long ago moment where Jesus gathered with those who he loved and broke bread and shared wine in abundance, and that moment of the Crucifixion which for some seams foolish to St. Paul says, it seems foolish that you would worship this God that is in a cross. But, when you see that cross and that sacrifice in the lens of abundance you begin to recognize that God offered himself fully and completely so that he may have a life and that life may be lived abundantly. That is the message of those stained glass panels. That is the message of the Gospel today. So I leave you with a question. Where in your life is God setting a table, and offering, of abundance? Can you, and will you, enjoy it? Fully and freely? And allow it to satiate any hunger or need that you have? Can you take that abundance and share it with others? Share it with others. For all of us, when our mother tell us to do something, will we do it?
-Fr. Ed Cardoza
I like to call this Sunday liturgical time warp. Last week we were dealing with Jesus as an infant as a child. The kings from the east had arrived and just seven days later we are dealing with and adult Jesus being immersed into the baptismal waters. We are dealing with John, doing John's best, to mitigate the impending desire of many to find out who is the messiah and John, like so many of the pictures that he is depicted in, is pointing away from himself towards Jesus. On confirmation retreat, I think it was one of the confrimands to be hopefully, perhaps Tommy, who said "What happened to Jesus as a child, as a teenager, as a 20-something? Why don't we know much about this?" Now the truth is we know a little bit about it. We know that there are these stories of Jesus running off and getting lost in the temple. We know that some of our Gnostic Gospels, or gospels that are not part of the cannon of the church, or gospels that our church holds being the gospels, indicate something about Jesus. My favorite of which is from the Gospel of Thomas where a bird is sort of smashed into the ground and Jesus goes and grabs the bird and brings the bird back to life. Imagine what it was like being a child and a teenager trying to get your head not only around growing up but also knowing that you are becoming God. I would imagine that Jesus, like most of us, was looking for affirmation in his vulnerability and part of the Gospel story to day, I think, is about that. For we are told in the Gospel that when Jesus has been baptised and has been praying that the heavens open up, a dove comes down, and that a loud booming voice says "This is my son. My beloved. He is mine and I love him and he will do great things. He is a good and faithful servant." All of us in our lives, particularly as we deal with our parents and deal with our extended family and in-laws are often trying to find that affirmation as we stretch out and and begin to wonder how we manage and deal with people growing older, people passing away, transitions in families. All of us desire a sense to be affirmed. You are beloved. You are loved. You are doing well. You have served me well, my son and my daughter. So I think it is important to know that in this gospel we see a very human side of a God who wants to meet us in our own vulnerabilities, in our own struggles, and in our own losses as we partake in the transition that is life. So if you are here today seeking that sense of affirmation I think this Gospel says to you: You are beloved. You are well loved. When you do of my well and return love I am there and I am affirming and holding you and the ones you are preparing for.
The second thing about this reading that strikes me in the Gospel is, if you go back a few weeks ago, there was that moment when Marry showed up at Elizabeth's house and Jesus was still in Mary's tummy and John was still Elizabeth's tummy and there was this incredible meeting in utero of these two historical characters meeting each other. Elizabeth padding it on feels John leaping for joy at the arrival of Mary who is carrying Jesus. It is a very interesting story. But it is particularly interesting when you think today, just a few weeks later, we have that experience of John and Jesus meeting in person, in the flesh. That John is trying to create a highway for God, open up the highway, but he is also recognizing his role. He is not the Messiah. That is good for us who are attending to people. We are not the Messiah. We are not limitless. There is only so much we can do. So much we can tend to. We can give love, but we can't give it in the same way that God and the Messiah can give it because we have limits. God is unlimited and unbounded. So that is the other interesting part of this story. That John is saying I know what my limit is. I know what my vocation is. I know what purpose is. And I know who I am, and I know who Jesus is. I am not going to become the Messiah. I am going to baptize in the spirit*. But Jesus will come. He is the son of God. he will open the way. He will not baptize simply by water. He will baptize by fire. He will baptize by the spirit.
Lastly, some of you may have seen this frontal before. We found it sort of tucked off in the church and I wanted to bring it out today. We were supposed to have a baptism and that family is going to baptize hopefully in the next few weeks but, like most families, we get trough the holidays and things get a little crazy. We'll get to that point. But I knew we would also be celebrating the baptism of the Lord and we'd be hearing this gospel. And as I looked at this, and I encourage everybody to look at this. It is really interesting. It is a very interesting needle point because is it from Genesis God touching the waters and seeing the waters are good? Is it the top half of this gospel story? If you can imagine where the poinsettia are, having an image of Jesus of John. Is it the deliverance moment when God decides through Moses to part the seas? But what we know is, there are some interesting parts to this. We have a hand that is red that's inflamed. Which is usually a sign of God the Spirit. We have that breaking into creation, touching the waters of creation, stirring up the waters of Creation. Then we have those two angels that tend to make an appearance when God breaks into our existence. On the Arc of the Covenant we know that there were two angles bowed into each other for presence and here we have these two angels bowing into each other. Perhaps their hands are extended in sort of a Superman pose and they are flying. Or, I might suggest, that their hands are doing a very important act that is referenced in the Acts reading we had today. This laying on of hands. This laying on of hands which is a profound and ancient acts. It is one of the acts that ties each of our sacraments together. Every Sunday which ever Eucharistic prayer we use when we call down the Holy Spirit you will see my hands go over the bread and wine and that is the symbol of God breaking into creating. God breaking into the bread. God breaking into the wine. And this frontal is important because it signifies that we are the beneficiaries of a God who breaks into our lives. The good parts. The bad parts. The difficult parts. The dark parts. All the parts of our lives God is breaking into. So as we think about these practices of baptism - the immersing into the water - just think about it, what would have it been like to see Jesus, the son of God, taken by John the Baptist, someone who was fully human, and immersed into the river. Once, and back up. Twice, and back up. Three times, and back up. And that water pouring down over the Son of God, and the Son of Man, and prayer being said and the Spirit coming. What would have been like to see that? Was Mary there? Mary who had already seen these angels show up and say "I'm with you. Something great is about to happen to you." And Mary who said "Hold on, how can that be. Don't do that. I need to give you consent." And she does. And the spirit comes. And he is born. Was Elizabeth there? Did she see this baptism? Did some of the people who see it get moved? Were they frightened? Were they scared? What happened? And let's move with that and ask ourselves, here, today, January 10th, 2016, what part of my life needs to have God's hand laid upon it? What part of my life needs to be redeemed and reconciled? What part of my life is asking for healing? All of us, the baptized, have the power to pray, to tend to, to minister, and to care for one and other and in doing so, God shows love. That is where God is. It is true, you have seen it here, many of you. The Bishop laid hands on my head. The priest joined him laying on of hands and I went from being a deacon to a priest. It is true that go and take my own hands and make bread and the wine the body and blood of Jesus Christ through the prayers of this church. The power of God. Through Gods promise that when we do this and remember this, this happens. But it is also true,that when we meet each other in the hallways, when we talk in this church, when we respond over email, when we text one another and say - I know things are hard, or changeling, or difficult or hard and I am there for you - that God shows up, that God tends, that God creates community and that we are affirmed brothers and sisters. We are beloved. God loves us. Let us take that love and always share it with other brothers and sisters to let them know in their mourning, in their challenges, in their difficulty, in their joys, in their loves, that God is there, redeeming, purifying, drawing creation unto God help and saying "All will be well." AMEN