January 20, 2013


So I just found out that I seriously messed up the math in the sermon below.

(6 jars x 30 gal.) x 8.5 lb. wt. of water/gal. = 1530 lb.,
or only about 3/4ths of 1 ton.
Not 5+ tons.
Sorry. I hope the point holds nevertheless.

Stone Jars

Sermon for Year C, The Second Sunday After the Epiphany
By The Rev. Torey Lightcap
January 20, 2013
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

This isn’t a long-ago-and-far-away fairy tale
  About something miraculous that we need to try and explain away
  Using our rational, modern powers of scientific perception.
It’s a mystery, to be entered into, to be lived into
  Just as Jesus Christ is not just some dry historical figure,
  But rather the living breathing incarnation of God,
    The embodiment of God’s desire for relationship with you and with us all.

Now, six jars of water at thirty gallons a jar is …
  Well, it’s a lot of water.
And it turns out to be quite a lot of wine, too, doesn’t it?
Unless you’ve been directly involved in the manufacture of wine,
  Or unless you have been to significantly better parties than me,
  I doubt that you would have had occasion
    To have a hundred and eighty gallons of wine sitting in your front room.
You probably have to use your imagination, and that’s okay.
But I’ll tell you this: it’s more than five-and-a-half tons,
  And that’s a lot of vino, even for people who can sip fast.

I think probably any of us would be able to imagine just one gallon of wine.
We like to buy milk by the gallon, after all,
  So we know how hefty one gallon would be, about how much space it would take up.
Little tacky to imagine it in a plastic milk jug, but …
  Well, it’s that, times a hundred and eighty.

Point is, Jesus is blessing humanity in a big way.
God is pouring out a major blessing in a major stream.
Blessing humanity, and writing it with big letters so no one can ignore it.
The amount of grace in the room is just beyond belief.
“Gallons of grace,” as a Lutheran friend of mine likes to say of this passage,
  “Gallons and gallons of grace.”

As a child, a kid, a youth,
  Maybe you hear this truth and you think,
    Nice image, Father, but there is no way I’m ever going to need that much grace.
I’m going to earn my way to heaven if I can,
  Climb up that ladder myself, earn my ticket,
  And anyone just try and stop me.

Or maybe it seems completely immaterial,
  But the point remains: that we believe the lie that we can do life ourselves,
  On our own terms.
That God’s grace is somehow unnecessary because we know how to be good enough.

Then you live your life a little.
Things fall apart some. A few relationships end badly.
You find yourself holding a grudge or two.
And you think, Well, maybe now’s the time to dip into that grace.
After all, there are five tons of the stuff.

Time goes by and you find yourself more worn down by the calendar.
You know who you are now,
  But to find out you had to pay with the price of your innocence.
And to give up your innocence you made some trades.
It looked fun at first, but later on it came back and hurt.
All in the name of the process of self-discovery.
You thought you’d learn something amazing about yourself,
  Find some incredible key that would unlock the mysteries of life,
  But what you’ve discovered instead, in all likelihood,
    Or at least what I’ve discovered about myself
  Is that I’m not all that exceptional or beautiful or smart,
    And I certainly don’t deserve any special treatment.
I’m not capable of making it on my own.
Just about every day now, in one way or another,
  I pull on my shoes as I pray and I think,
  Well, time to get on down to the Grace Bank and make another withdrawal.
And I’m glad to know there’s so much there,
  Even if, in all honesty – …
  Well, even the most theological of us do find ourselves wondering from time to time
    Just how long it is until we run out.
How long, how many more major or minor mess-ups until God runs out of patience?

You know what, though?
I try to make it a point to talk to at least one very wise person each day,
  And to listen as deeply as I can.
And from those who are the most contemplative in their advanced years,
  I’m hearing the same thing over and over, and that is this:
  That although we mess up with God, ourselves, others … royally, all the time …
    In fact,
    The bank never runs out; the account never goes dry; the grace is never not there.
It turns out that that five-and-a-half tons of grace was just the opening deposit
  On an account that has drawn endless interest and always will.

It turns out, in other words, that in the end,
  You’re safe, you’re secure, you’re loved – that God is good all the time,
      Whether or not you can see it, whether or not you express thanks for it –
  And that ultimately everything really is going to be okay.

Such extravagance! Why?
Because! Simply put, God is in the business of forgiveness.
God is – and I know, this is metaphorical language, but –
  God is the parent to beat all parents.
God will never not love what he has made.
Because you are loved, your forgiveness is total and eternal.
And the grace flows on and on.

Each and every day brings many more chances for you, in turn,
  To help spread this same message
  By what you say and by what you do.

It was a hard week at St. Thomas.
We lost a good one, Anne Elizabeth Blackburn, who died too soon,
  And whose life of late had been a kind of a jumble of things
  That we may never completely understand.
Even so. I think I knew what was in her heart,
  And I still think I do,
    And I don’t want to lose that,
      Because the memory of it teaches me about those endless flowing gallons of grace.

It teaches me, despite the fact I don’t understand most any of this death,
  And I shake my head in blue denial
    And stick my hands deep in my pockets and try to close my heart off
    And let the clock go to work on me and let time pass
  Because I still can’t quite get my mind around it.
A cold, stiff wind blew in hard from the south on Friday morning,
  And it almost seemed cruel, but we had to say goodbye to her.
But saying goodbye doesn’t mean closing the books on someone for good.

Because it is so abundant …
  Because five tons was only a start …
  The life of God flows even through our memories of those now passed,
  Training us count our blessings and to number our days,
    And teaching us that truly there is no end of grace.

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