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All right, kids, it's "Help Dan draft tomorrow's sermon" time. Text is John 2:1-12, Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.
I know People on This Website probably want to talk about those awful kids from Kentucky. But because of the text, and the weekend, and the congregation I'm preaching to, I am taking a different angle.
Besides, the situation with those kids is easily enough addressed theologically: hatred is inconsistent with the values of the one who came "that they all may be one," for both "Jews and Greeks."
There really cannot be any question about that.

Anyway, here's the text: bible.oremus.org/?ql=414926527
1. Because I am speaking to a Congregationalist church, I will start by asking if they can name a social movement American Congregationalists have helped lead. The correct answer, of course, is "Just about all of them."
2. Congregationalists were at the forefront of Abolitionism, of course, and they were strong supporters of the Civil Rights Movement a century later.
3. But they also helped lead the Women's Sufferage movement, and the drive to establish public schools (they wanted to keep the Catholics out). They supported birth control and legalized abortion, and yes, some of them were in favor of eugenics.
4. But the most interesting movement for our purposes is of course Temperance. IIRC, Carrie Nation was a Methodist, but several of the other leaders were Congregationalists.
5. There were a number of reasons for this. Congregationalists, like many Protestants in the 19th century, were interested in health. The Christian Science church was founded by Congregationalists, for example.
6. Around the same time, Thomas Bramwell Welch begins to pasteurize grape juice to prevent it from fermenting, and John Harvey Kellogg moves to Battle Creek Michigan to oversee a sanitarium run by Seventh Day Adventists.
7. The Temperance movement was also concerned for women. Carrie Nation's first husband neglected her and eventually died from alcoholism. Abandonment and domestic abuse were rife in those days.
8. But it must also be said that there was an element of class warfare involved in Temperance. Good English stock - the upper crust of society, including again many Congregationalists - drank wine and brandy. The rabble Germans and Irish drank beer and hard liquor.
9. There's an area called "the Holy Land" near our city, so called because many of the towns are named for Catholic saints: St. Peter, Maryville, Gregory Nazianzus (no, I am not kidding). It's also historically a German area, as in, they spoke German up into the 1970's.
10. You can imagine what those people thought about Prohibition. Indeed, there was a lively bootlegging scene there throughout the 1920's. One of the local restaurants is named "Capone's," because according to legend, Scarface himself visited back in the day.
11. When someone later asked an oldtimer about the underground brewing, he responded, "We weren't about to let a bunch of English come in and tell us what to do." That's the farmers talking to the city slickers like the ones I am preaching to.
12. All of this makes an interesting backdrop against which to read the story of Jesus, his disciples, and his mother (but I repeat myself) attending a wedding.
13. The story is unique to John, and it appears quite early in his gospel. The changing of water to wine is the first miracle in John, the first visible sign of Jesus' power and purpose.
14. Interestingly enough, John also places that story just before Jesus' cleansing of the Temple. So from very early on in this gospel, we have Jesus in conflict with the religious authorities, and...him wanting to keep a party going?
15. I mean, think about the sequence here. John begins his gospel with the grand cosmological assertion that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The very universe is arranged for our salvation, John says for an entire chapter...
16. ...which results in two things: Jesus making a bunch of wine, and Jesus overturning some tables and getting rough with a bunch of money-changers.
17. John really couldn't make the point more clearly. God, the creator God, the only God of salvation, has come into the world for the sake of justice - and to bring joy.
18. And what joy! As usual when this God deploys the power of creation, it results in a superabundance - somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of good wine. Even in a day when wedding feasts could go on for several days, that's a lot of wine.
19. God wants the flourishing of the whole human being, and that includes the joy of celebrating a wedding. Yes, even with a little too much wine.
20. Notice that Jesus doesn't say anything like "Now, don't drink too much of this." He doesn't even blink when the stewards report the guests (presumably including his disciples) are already drunk.
21. Likewise, when Peter is charged with drunkenness on Pentecost, he doesn't bother saying "We're Christians, we don't drink!" He only says, "Hey, it's a little early for that."
22. (Peter never visited downtown Madison before a noon Badger football game.)
23. And when Paul advises his readers against drunkenness, it's not a complete prohibition. It's more to say that there is a time and a place for getting stink-eyed, and that's not always and everywhere.
24. What I am getting at, of course, is that drinking and even drunkenness were accepted as simply a fact of life in Jesus' day. It's what you did at weddings, and it was okay. There were limits (don't drink like a Greek), but they were fairly broad.
25. And as I implied earlier, joy and justice go hand in hand. God wants to humanity to live free from oppression, but he also wants them to live full lives, which means experiencing happiness, playfulness, full-on rejoicing.
26. It's not good enough for God that the poor should live miserable but free lives, nor that they should be denied all the same pleasures privileged folk like you and I know. No, they should get it all.
27. Prohibition is alive and well in our day, of course. It's just directed at drugs, rather than alcohol. As with the original Temperance and Prohibition, there's a definite class element here.
28. Though whites and minorities use drugs at about the same rates, blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to be arrested for drug possession, serve much longer sentences for their convictions, and experience much greater consequences after serving their sentences.
29. One of those consequences that people are becoming more aware of lately is felony disenfranchisement - taking away a felon's right to vote - a tradition created in the Jim Crow South and used then as now to keep blacks from the ballot box.
30. America's prisons are filled with disproportionately minority non-violent drug offenders, including from a neighborhood in Milwaukee that incarcerates the highest percentage of black men in the nation, up to nearly 2/3s: milwaukee53206.com
31. The War on Drugs is expensive, it's counter-productive, it harms communities, and it's racist.
32. And before you write off the message as not applying to you, consider this: the majority of drug users in the US are white, simply because whites make up about 70% of the population.
33. And! The fastest growing market for marijuana consumption is the 50+ segment. Who smokes the Devil's Lettuce, or at least munches on the Devil's brownies? It's the old white folks like you and me.
34. (Source for that assertion: theguardian.com/society/2019/j…)
35. (A number of years ago, at a Thanksgiving Eve service, I asked the congregation to name what they were thankful for that year.
36. One Baby Boomer thanked his friend Steve, sitting a couple rows in front of him, for providing his "special medicine" for arthritis. Dude outed his drug dealer in church.)
37. I do not know, but I strongly suspect, that Dr. King would have supported decriminalization of marijuana, were he here today.
38. I couldn't find anything he'd said on the subject, but then, it wasn't something that was exactly on the national docket in his day. Today, I think he'd look at the racial inequalities and endorse the idea. Probably.
39. And what about Jesus? Would he have been in favor of the Wacky Tobacky? It's hard to say. On the one hand, he certainly wasn't against having a little fun.
40. His disciples were accused of being gluttons and drunkards, after all. But drugs, even marijuana, have never played as central a role in our society as wine played in Jesus' community.
41. And, well, it is still illegal. Jesus was conservative enough in his personal morality that I think he'd say, "Maybe not on this." He wouldn't judge those who did, but he wouldn't exactly get enthusiastic about it, either.
42. On the other hand, he would have been keenly aware of the injustices that go along with criminalization, and he certainly would not have tolerated hypocrisy on the subject.
43. You brood of vipers! I can hear him railing now. You prohibit beer and spirits, but you sip Merlot at your dinner parties! You issue criminal charges for marijuana for others, but for yourselves you take it "medicinally"!
44. Because God wants justice for us all, and joy. That includes the justice and the joy of not going to jail and having your life derailed for doing something for which others get a slap on the wrist, if anything at all.
45. So there you have it. I hope the congregation will report to their pastor that he let a drug fiend into the pulpit.
46. (I'm not, but where's the fun in that? Amen.)
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