Are you open to abundant, transformative, never-ending love?

It’s been just about three years since we as a nation lost 20 young children and 6 adults to tragic gun violence in Newtown, Conn.

I can imagine that many of us remember that day, where we were, what we were doing. I can imagine that many of us were devastated and still are devastated by this senseless violence.

I can also imagine that many of us have not really thought about that day, December 14, 2012, very much over the last three years — we’ve sadly been confronted with gun violence around the country almost daily since.

But what I hope for all of us is that the extreme violence of that day in December — or any of the extreme violence in our country today — does not have the last word, but that the love and forgiveness demonstrated by many people transforms and shapes us into a more loving and peaceful society.

I remember very clearly that in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, our 24-hour news cycle spoke of almost nothing else, day and night.

I remember I came home one night after a long day, turned on the TV, and saw Anderson Cooper interviewing the parents of Catherine Hubbard, one of the young victims.

I almost turned the channel because I didn’t have the stomach to hear any more, but when I heard Anderson ask her parents not to explain the horrific details but instead to tell the whole world how they will remember their 6-year-old daughter, I decided to sit down and listen.

These grieving and heart-broken parents pledged that they would remember an incredibly loving, energetic, red-haired little girl who had a gigantic heart and a tremendous love for all of life, especially for animals … They would remember a loving child who would hug them all the time saying "Mommy, daddy, I am going to hug you so tight that you feel it all the way down in your toes!"

Catherine’s parents ended the interview by saying they were making a very conscious decision not to live in hate for the murder of their child, but to live honoring and remembering the abundant love Catherine shared with them and with everyone she met.

Their story about Catherine's love, their witness to me and to the world, their choice to live in the light of love instead of in the shadows of hatred has been infectious, and since seeing that short interview, I think about them often, and I am determined to remember Catherine’s and to tell her story.

I’ve really been changed by witnessing this interview. I’ve really been transformed by these parents who pledged to respond to their daughter’s murder with love instead of hate. Catherine, even in death, and her parents — even to this day — witness to our broken world that love can and really does transform us.

In today’s gospel, Jesus shows us in a very dramatic way that love transforms. Jesus presides over a transformation at a wedding in Cana, a sign to them and a sign to us of God’s abundant, infectious, transformative love.

It’s a story we all know very well. But the more I sit with this passage and read this story the more I am intrigued by the details being focused on. In this very brief passage, we’re given very precise details about the volume of water Jesus changes into wine.

Let’s read it again: “Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim” (John 2: 6-7).

So I began to wonder, how much wine are we talking here? If each water-jar is at maximum capacity of 30 gallons, then we’re talking 180 gallons or roughly 900 bottles of wine!

Now we also know from the story that this abundance of wine comes at the very end of the feast, so not only will they have more than enough wine for the remainder of the feast, but they will in fact, never run out of wine! Or in other words — the feast will never end!

The people at this feast, once at risk for running out of wine that would have brought great shame upon them, were welcomed into a feast that Christ himself presides over that will never end! God transformed their shame into great joy!

Now this is Jesus’ first sign in John’s gospel — his first miracle. And clearly we can see that Jesus wants the world to experience and witness the abundant, transformative, never-ending love that God has for us. This never-ending love that is in fact Jesus Christ himself.

But what is so transformative about this story is that Jesus witnesses to God’s love for the world at this wedding. And this witness sets off a chain reaction.

The disciples and all those at the wedding witness this abundant love and experience it and are transformed by it. And they in turn witness to this abundant love by retelling this story of Jesus over and over again.

And when we hear this story we witness this love and experience it and are transformed by it. We witness to this abundant love also by retelling it over and over again. But we also witness to this abundant, never-ending, transformative love by coming to this table with our hands outstretched to receive this love.

This love that we receive changes us. Transforms us. Allows us to decide to live in the light of love instead of the shadows of hatred. Turns our shame into great joy. A joy that we must share.

This love, this Cana love, can and does transform the world. It already has. And will continue to. Through Catherine Hubbard. Through her parents. Through you. Through me. One witness at a time.



Note: On Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, St. Margaret's was pleased to welcome The Rev. Nicholas Sollom, Assistant Pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Plainview, N.Y., while Mother Jennifer was away. We look forward to seeing him again, and are grateful for our relationship with Good Shepherd, and Pastor Eric Olaf Olsen, with whom we periodically share activities and worship throughout the year.