When You Change the Way You Look at Things… The Things You Look at, Change…

I imagine that we’ve all looked at pictures, similar to the one on the bulletin cover and seen one image or the other.

Perhaps you’ve even struggled to ‘see’ the other one and you can only see the image one way. What do you see? Profiles of two people? A table. A vase. Or a wine goblet?

The reflection title is a quote from Wayne Dyer, the author of many self-help and self-actualization books. Whether or not you’re a fan of his or not, and I can’t say that I have read any of his books, the quote resonated with me.

In keeping with the series Jesus Doesn’t Care… my reflection could have just as easily been entitled, Jesus Doesn’t Care… If You Believe in Miracles… But I didn’t think of that until after the bulletins had been printed!

In the gospel reading this morning, John tells of Jesus’ first miracles, changing the water at a wedding feast into wine.  As you listen to the reading, ask yourself, what is this passage really about? Is it the miracle, the wine, Jesus’ interaction with his mother? Or something else entirely.  Let’s listen, as the story unfolds in John 2: 1-11:

2:1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2:2 Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 2:3 When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”

2:4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

2:6 Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 2:7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 2:8 He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it.

2:9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 2:10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

2:11 Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

What I was struck with in this passage is the idea of scarcity and abundance. Mary’s words, ‘They have no wine,’ could just as easily been us, seeing what we don’t have.

Churches are really good at looking at what they don’t have and we are no exception:

What are some of the things we say around here that we don’t have enough of?

Time, money, people, children, the Joint Needs Assessment Report highlights some of these.

Quite frankly, I am looking forward to the new system for finding a minister, because even the term ‘Joint Needs Assessment’ encourages faith communities to look at what they don’t have, rather than what they do. We so often look at things through the lens of scarcity and fear instead of abundance and freedom.

As Debie Thomas writes, on her website, Journey With Jesus, “The wedding in Cana story is not — finally — a story about scarcity.  It’s a story about abundance. Lavish, excessive, extravagant abundance.” 

I asked my Facebook friends to tell me about their images of scarcity and abundance.

Some of them were typical of what you might think:

  • An empty fridge and a full one
  • Dry, cracked earth and a lush vegetable garden
  • An empty bowl and a full plate
  • My most recent images were from New York: the many homeless people sleeping on the street bundled in any scraps of fabric they could get their hands on, alongside the huge amounts of food served in any restaurant we were in.

But others were about perspective or the way we look at things:

  • It’s like when you have six or seven kids for Sunday school and someone can only recall the glory days of 60-70 in Sunday school.
  • I picture more of the WAY someone perceives something…. so like two people looking at the same thing and one is thinking of all that isn’t there, and the other is seeing all that is….
  • An over programmed, busy “life” = scarcity (picturing a frenzied person in a car rushing to get where they think they need to go) versus simple life = abundance (a person strolling down the road, going somewhere they want to be)

I messaged the person who wrote that last one and asked her if she would elaborate, and this is what she said:

“When I was at the point of leaving work, we made a lot of conscious choices.

We had begun to realize the extent to which we had been conditioned to think you had to do certain things, that you had to be busy, that kids needed to do extracurriculars all the time, that we needed to sit on boards and committees, that we needed to live in a spacious house, that we needed two incomes to survive, etc.

All of these things were causing stress in ways that went unexamined…so we started examining them. We made a decision to get rid of at least half of what we owned and move into a moderately-sized three bedroom apartment with limited storage. This has helped us to not focus on things but on experiences and thus each other. It has helped us to feel healthier and grounded.

We got rid of things like microwaves, dishwashers, Keurigs, etc. so we can appreciate chores and fully engage in what we are doing. We were able to go down to one income by committing to a simple life. We cook almost every meal at home and eat whole foods. We invite friends in instead of always buying tickets for this or that, like we did before. We take advantage of free events around us which are more community-oriented. We haven’t had internet or cable at home for years and adults and kids both spend a lot of time reading, playing board games, creating, imagining, dancing, being goofy, etc. And most importantly, we interact with each other much, much, more and are really present to what we are doing.

More than anything, we have replaced busyness with freedom. We no longer spend every week night running from extracurricular to meeting. Instead we ask, “Why am I doing this?” and if it is not a life-saving reason we don’t start or stop doing whatever it is. This minimalist lifestyle feels like home for us. It has restored energy and priorities. I can’t imagine ever going back.

It takes a lot of intention to live this way, however, when the rest of the world values consumerism. We find strength in gravitating towards those with similar values as our own. This is a process. We still have changes to be made but we are on the road. It’s not like we have found joy… joy has always been there…all around us…everywhere. We are just taking the time to notice it, to fully immerse ourselves in it. (Ali Anningson, personal correspondence).

Change the way you look at things… and the things you look at change… That’s a very personal change in perspective.

Let’s look at things as a country: On the national front, Canada has been examining its relationship with First Nations people for decades now and so has the United Church. The Truth and Reconciliation Report outlined 94 Calls to Action regarding that relationship. Each week, we acknowledge that we live and work and worship on un-ceded territory. The treaties in this part of Canada are called Peace and Friendship Treaties, outlining how we are to live with each other and share. Not dominate, not impose, but share and consult.

A conflict over who has the right to make decisions about energy projects on traditional territories has taken a series of rapid turns, reverberating across the country from the locus point of northern British Columbia. It has revealed, at many levels, how settler society fails to understand and accept the Indigenous right to self-determination. It demonstrates an acceptance of unbalanced power relationships, and once again calls into question Canada’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

On December 14, 2018, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued an injunction ordering Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and supporters to cease denying Coastal GasLine (CGL) access to their territory. CGL plans to build a liquefied natural gas pipeline through Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.

While Wet’suwet’en First Nation had given its approval to the CGL project, the hereditary chiefs of its five clans had not. Citing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they maintain that their right to free, prior, and informed consent was not being honoured.

The significance of this may be difficult for non-Indigenous people to comprehend. After all, elected Chiefs and Council made a decision. However, under the terms of the Indian Act, Chief and Council only have jurisdiction over lands on reserve—not on the entirety of the traditional territory. (https://www.united-church.ca/social-action/act-now/wetsuweten-and-right-free-prior-and-informed-consent)

The Right Rev. Richard Bott, the spiritual leader of our United Church of the next three years wrote this prayer about the situation in BC.

We speak, God of all Creation—
but are they just pretty words?

Words like “right relations” and “reconciliation,”
like “consultation” and “rights-based legislation.”
But, when push came to shove on the unceded lands of the Wet’suwet’en,
actions showed willingness to use
force over conversation—
legalism over discussion—
Settler rules over Indigenous lives.

Open our hearts with truth
to the fact that these actions give lie to our words.
Open our minds with wisdom,
that the leaders of the governments of Canada and British Columbia would stop the relentless move forward;
that they would stop the destruction,
stop the imposition of will;
and listen to the voices
of the Hereditary Chiefs of the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans
of the Wet’suwet’en people,
on their unceded territories.

We pray that the officers and constables of the RCMP on those territories would be filled with the gifts of calmness,

of compassion, and of restraint,
that no harm would come to the people,
standing in defence of life and the land.

We pray for peace and understanding in the complexity of conversation between the Band Chiefs and the Hereditary Chiefs;
but, even more than that,
we pray that our Settler ways
would not use their disagreement
as a way to impose our wants.

O God, we cry to you,
help your peoples.
O God, we cry to you,
help your peoples.
O God, we cry to you,
bless the world
with your love.

In Jesus’ name, I ask these things…
amen.

What does this have to do with our gospel reading? About changing water into wine?

The way I have reflected upon it this week is that it’s about scarcity and abundance, it’s about a change in perspective. This land we call Canada is plentiful!  There is enough for all! As another moderator, Mardi Tindal once famously said, “There is enough for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed.

What are our places of perceived scarcity? What are our places of plenty that we simply need a change in perspective to think about them differently. What are the gifts, spiritual gifts that we have in abundance? Paul writes about the very eloquently in his letter to the young church in Corinth. Let’s listen to his words from his first letter with ears of abundance:

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

12:2 You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.

12:3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

12:5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

12:11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

I love verse 7!

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. Each of us! Not just some of us! And for the common good, not just for us as individuals! And this place has so much abundance!  Can you see it? Feel it? Celebrate it?

Jesus’ mother, out of concern for her host, came to Jesus with a problem, and Jesus offered a solution. But the solution was one of abundance. To close this reflection, let’s watch this video. It was produced for Christmas, but I think still applies. And ignore the stereotypical gender roles.

What If We Saw Everything As a Gift? 

Maybe we can be like Mary. Maybe we can notice, name, persist, and trust. No matter how profound the scarcity, no matter how impossible the situation, we can elbow our way in, pull Jesus aside, ask earnestly for help, and ready ourselves for action. (Journey With Jesus)

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity in seeing abundance! Amen.

John 2: 1-11, 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

Elmsdale Cooperative Ministry 

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