Sermon--St Francis Episcopal Church, Greensboro, NC 1/20/19

Porter Taylor

Epiphany 2C—1/20/18---- John2:1-11

St Francis Episcopal, Greensboro


Let’s start with a quote from the theologian, Alan Jones:

There are only two feelings. Love and fear.

There are only two languages. Love and fear.

There are only two activities. Love and fear.

There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results.

Love and fear.

Love and fear.[i]


Today’s gospel story is Jesus first public act in John’s gospel

And it sets the agenda for his ministry

            He is always moving us from the house of fear to the house of love.

Now the fear today may not seem earth shattering to us

            But that’s because we are not hosting a wedding reception.

                        What happens if you are the parents of the bride and there’s no wine?

            For that matter, what happens if you are a guest?


Will you feel uncomfortable---maybe you try not to look at the host or hostess?

            Maybe you try ignoring the problem---you pretend we aren’t hungry or thirsty

            Maybe it’s becomes the source of conversation---

            “Can you believe Porter Taylor invited us over and there’s nothing to drink?”

                        “Didn’t his moma raise him better?”

            Or maybe you find some to blame—

“I’ll be those Democrats took all the wine and hid it for themselves”

            “You know those Republicans came early and drank all the wine”

                        Or maybe you just leave--- “If there’s no wine I am out of here.”

It’s not accidental that the author of John’s gospel reminds us

that “this was Jesus first sign---and it revealed his glory”

Because this first sign of Jesus is a revolution in the way we see and think and behave.

            Our old way is based on the scarcity principle---

A belief that there’s not enough---

Not enough wine or food or shelter or safety or admirable politicians or fill in the blank.

If we embrace the scarcity principle---then we are always anxious and reactive

Because even if we have enough for today---there’s tomorrow and the days after that

            If we embrace the scarcity principle—then my neighbor is not my neighbor

            He or she is my competitor for a limited supply of what we both need.

When we have that perspective---that way of seeing the world

            Then it’s hard to experience the world as a wedding party.

            Because there’s this anxiety about whether there’s enough.

            And this anxiety shapes the way we see each other.

The scarcity principle keeps us in the house of fear and away from the house of love.

Now, I have not come to make us depressed.

I have come to say that this Gospel---this good news—is exactly the cure

            For what ails us as a society today.

Because instead of finding someone to blame—staying in the house of fear,

This gospel reminds us that we can change the world by our behavior where we are.

            Jesus doesn’t begin his ministry in Jerusalem but in nowhere Cana

                        Which is like starting not in Greensboro but Fuqua Varena

Here is the good news

When we feel there’s not enough—food, leadership, kindness, equality, bipartisanship, fill in the blank_______________

            Instead of fixating on someone to blame

            Instead of walking out and isolating

            Instead of starting a party of our own

Like Mary we must turn to Jesus with our fears and ask for what is needed.

            Mary doesn’t say--- I knew we couldn’t trust the parents of the bride

            Remember who they voted for?

            Or look around and see the neighborhood they live in?

No—she turns to Jesus and simply says this is the problem:

            “They have no wine.”

You know what we call that?  Prayer

            “Okay Jesus—I don’t know what to do with this---it’s up to you”

Notice when Jesus is less than polite, “Woman what concern is that to you or me?”

            Mary doesn’t react; she doesn’t get into with Jesus.

            She doesn’t tell him that he was raised to be more polite to his mother.

She says to those around him, “Do whatever he tells you.”


I think about this as I think about our country and our calling as Christians

            We are not called to sort out who is right and who is wrong---

            That doesn’t mean we don’t have principles; it means we don’t have labels.

            It means we don’t waste our lives asserting who is to blame.

We are not in the fear business or the blaming business

We are in the salvation business---we are in the communion business

Our task is to fill the water jars with what we have and ask for God’s transformation.

If you think about it, this story is a different version of the feeding of the 5,000

And in some ways, in John’s gospel it’s the beginning book end

            And the final book end is the feeding of the disciples on the beach.

At the end of John’s gospels,

the disciples have been fishing all night and caught nothing.

Then they see Jesus on the shore and he tells them to cast their nets again

And the scripture says “they were not able to haul it in

because there were so many fish”


The cure for what ails us as a society and a nation is not finding who is to blame

No---the cure is the Christian virtues----faith and hope and love.

And like the wedding guests as Christians

We have been commissioned to follow Jesus last words---Feed my sheep

            That means we are not in the label business

We are in the love and communion business

Our job is to throw away our labels and our fears and to invite everyone to the party—

I know-----It won’t be as easy as the wedding in Cana.

            But it’s the same story—it’s always been the same story.,

And the truth is, if the world is to change from fear to love

It will take the love of Jesus and disciples like you and me.

To show us what that looks like here’s a story from the 15th Century.

in Ireland the Ormond’s and the Kildares were locked in bitter conflict.[ii]

            The two clans fought---and the bloodletting inflamed their hatred of one another.

One battle led to another---until finally the Kildares got the upper hand

and threatened to annihilate the Ormonds.

            In desperation the leaders of the Ormond clan went inside the chapter house

of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and locked themselves inside—filled with fear.

For weeks the Kildares surrounded the place and laid siege.

But one day—the Earl of Kildare like the Prodigal son “came to himself”--

            He remembered the WAY

                        And he walked up to the Chapter House door

and shouted for the Ormonds to open the door, and come out and find peace together.

There was no response from inside---

            He banged on the door—still silence.

Then with his sword, “he gouged a hole through the wood of the great door.”

            He knew that the Ormonds each had swords

But he stuck his arm through the hole.

For a moment the world hung in the balance.

            And then his hand was grasped by the Earl of Ormond.

                        The door swung open and the feud ended.

                        And I’ll bet there was a feast and the water turned to wine.

So it was and so it can be—which is why we are here.

There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results.

Love and fear.             

Choose LOVE

[i] Alan Jones, The Soul's Journey: Exploring the Spiritual Life With Dante As Guide


[ii] Story told by Br. Geoffrey Tristram SSJE on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2007, at the House of Bishop’s meeting.