Friday, January 17, 2014

Starting on Empty

The second of seven homilies preached at the 2014 Kanuga Knitting and Quilting Conference in Hendersonville, NC.

Friday Evening
Psalm 3:3-5; John 2:1-12

Wouldn't that be a great trick to know, quite a charism we could receive at our baptism into the Body of Christ?  And why stop at turning water into wine?  We could turn cotton into cashmere.  Or burlap into silk!  That would be amazing...

My knitting friend Rita believes we do work miracles - knits and purls and magic loops - and it makes her giggle with amazement how just a little yarn and effort can become mitts or socks or contiguous sleeves.  A quilter told me this morning there are miracles where they are meeting in St. John's, too, when a jumble of triangles or squares or strips suddenly becomes a pattern.  Our empty hands take up needles and pins and fabric and yarn and beads and slowly sometimes, but surely, in the empty space in front of us, a garment or blanket or quilt appears where there wasn't one before.

This evening's gospel tells of Jesus' first miracle, when he turns water into wine.  But there is so much more to the story, more miracles than just the one.  Not only was there no wine left with the wedding party in full swing, but there wasn't even water in them, for Jesus asks for them to be filled. The jars were entirely empty.

We think of emptiness as nothing, but there is, I think, something there - there is space.  A place waiting to be filled, a place waiting to be transformed, a place waiting to become wine or a knitted felt bowl or a quilted wall hanging or holy.  Turning water into wine is impressive, but the real first miracle begins with the empty jars themselves, waiting to be filled by Christ, willing to let Christ use the space, to use the jars, to use us.  Jesus makes things holy by using them, filling them, and then they become not just full, not just transformed, but more than enough.

This morning we reflected on how we're not so empty, but rather filled with worries and fears and grief and frustration and busyness.  A preacher friend of mine has likened this kind of fullness to a sprawling subdivision devouring fields and forests.  Nothing can grow in an area completely covered with manmade things, she writes, just as a relationship with God cannot grow - we cannot see how we are made holy - if every moment is paved with our manmade concerns, manmade in the sense that is seems to be part of our human nature, and not God's to worry and fear and grasp.

But there is always, isn't there, a crack in the pavement, an unexpected flower, a place in the ceiling where something has dug through to the center where Christ is, a place of emptiness waiting to be transformed into new life.  In the season of Epiphany, in a weekend of retreat, we are invited to see how God in Christ has filled all the cracks, all the empty places, whether as small as a sliver in a sidewalk or as big as an ancient wine jar, with himself, blessing that space, transforming it, hallowing it, making it holy.  "Christ with us, within us, behind us, before us," sings St. Patrick's Breastplate.

The miracle, I think, is less about the water becoming wine than it is about the nothing becoming more than enough.  Less about it being wine that fills the jars than it is about Christ's invitation to fill them and his willingness to transform them.  Writer (and knitter!) Molly Wolf imagines what is in that wine in those wedding jars, in our communion cups.  "Who knows," she writes, "what happens in that space, when it mixes together, grace and complex carbohydrates, esters and alcohol and acids and love, inseparable."

We have surely been filled today, even as we empties our worries and distractions and busyness when we arrived.  We have been filled with new techniques, skills, stories, laughter, hot cider, inspiration, the help of friends, grace and complex carbohydrates (or didn't you have your Kanuga toast this morning?).  There is something in front of us - even if it is just a few knitted rows, or a few stitched together hexagons or triangles, or a new friendship, or a new perspective - that wasn't there this morning.  Maybe it is, as Rita believes, something like magic, something like a miracle, like turning water into wine, like making common things holy...yarn and fabric and friends and prayer, inseparable.

Remember that the miracle begins with our willingness to be empty, our willingness to be filled.  Christ behind us, Christ before us, Christ waiting to fill us, Christ within us... Amen.

No comments: