Sermon – Jan 20, 2018

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

Today our lectionary gives us the third story of the revealing of Jesus to the Gentiles. In the coming of the Magi to the infant Lord on Epiphany, we were reminded that Jesus was sent by God for the sake of all people…not just a few special chosen ones. In his baptism by John in the Jordan River, we hear the very voice of God declaring Jesus to be his son and commanding the people to listen to him. Jesus is given heavenly authority to teach his people the deeper truths of God and how we, as his children should live our lives. Today at the wedding feast at Cana Jesus is revealed as Lord over all nature, able to alter the elements of earth as he pleased. In changing the water into wine he gives those with eyes to see a glimpse of his great power and for the first time begins to live into his identity as the Son of God.

I think that one of the most important lessons of the event at Cana is found in Jesus hesitancy to show himself openly by performing such a miraculous act. It was his mother who actually pushed him into it. Jesus, although obviously a friend of the wedding party, having been invited to the festivities with his family states his indifference to the plight of the host when all of his wine had been consumed. His mother ignores his protests and sends the servants to him with instructions to do whatever he says. His mother is convinced that he can and will do what he is able to do to help remedy the lack of wine and save the party. In the end, he does just that and the wine that he made was nicer than that which the host had first provided. God’s grace is indeed abundant.

So, what is the lesson in these stories for us today? Looking at the Gospel in light of the reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians we hear that each of us has been given gifts by the spirit…gifts are given “for the common good”. While for most of us those gifts may not rise to the level of miraculous but we will be ready and able to offer insight and help into many situations for the benefit of others. Sometimes we will be given the opportunity to provide comfort in affliction or resources in times of dire need. Other times it may be like the wedding at Cana and we will have the chance to perform a service that makes someone happy or provides joy to the community at hand.

Our tasks as followers of Christ and the builders of God’s kingdom is to recognize our own gifts and to use them to the fullest while keeping an open mind to see the gifts in our brothers and sisters and perhaps help them find opportunities to use those gifts in the service of others. Like Jesus and his mother Mary, someone else may encourage us to use our gifts in a time when we are unsure of our own abilities. There are moments when others may see us more clearly than we see ourselves. It takes a bit of courage to act when one is uncertain of one’s abilities but God provides what we need when we need it for the good of the community. I trust this truth and have experienced it in my own life. We do not always know our own strength or recognize our own gifts but we can and should be open to the possibility that God can and will call us into the ministry that is best suited for us….where we can be the most help to our communities and to the world.

As followers of Christ, we are not called into this new life to be idle. While worship and quiet time with God is a blessing and absolutely necessary for our spiritual health and wellbeing we are called to work for the sake of God’s people and this good creation. There is so much pain and suffering in this world…some the results of our own actions…some the consequences of the actions of others but can we really call ourselves followers of Christ if we do not extend some effort to help bear another’s burdens and to relieve another’s pain. When we commit ourselves to follow Christ we give up the luxury of apathy…the freedom to not care what happens to others. We rise from our baptisms new creatures ready to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the love of Christ. This is a sacred commitment and should reshape the rest of our lives.

As we move through this life the world we will be exposed to many messages from friends, acquaintances….coworkers, neighbors and the incessant chatter of the media….”it is personal success that matters… get your own before someone else does…. Excess is good…accumulation is fun….the poor are poor because they deserve it….you want to be successful…rich and beautiful….who cares about anyone else…you and yours come first.” We may at some level believe this nonsense because it is so tempting. We may even tell ourselves that it is good for the economy or that it is the natural order of things that some have a huge excess while others have nothing…that God somehow will this state of existence. These are just the stories we tell ourselves so we can give ourselves permission to ignore the suffering of those around us. The more wealth we accumulate the more insulated we become to the plight of those who have less.

We are all the beloved of God…precious and beautiful…fragile and wounded but equally loved by the one who created us. We are all brothers and sisters separated only the arbitrary barriers that society erects between people and that we build ourselves to keep out those who seem somehow different. We are called to be one people…one community…the body of Christ bound together in love and service to one another. In granting us the gifts of the Spirit God has given us tools to strengthen the community by strengthening our relationships with one another. He has given us all we need to do the work we are called to do and to begin to create the Kingdom here on Earth. Gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and faith, healing prophecy and discernment….gifts given to each as the Spirit wills. It is up to us to recognize those gifts and to pray for the courage to use them in the service of Christ.

But spiritual gifts are not all that we are given…we are also given love….coming down from the Father and poured out on his people… given…love received…and then given back to others. It is this love that allows us to be kind to those who may have never known kindness. It is this love that drives us to use our own hands and time and resources to heal and reconcile broken relationships and to comfort and heal the emotional and spiritual wounds of those around us. God has given us all that we need and if we work together many into one we can do so much more than we can on our own.

As the days become longer and the light returns to the world let us open our eyes to truly see those whom we encounter….to recognize our brothers and sisters and to seek ways to be a blessing to them. Every day in many ways, both subtle and obvious God is revealing Christ to us. How we respond when we recognize the Holy One in our midst is up to us. Will we welcome him with love or will we ignore him because we don’t want the commitment of caring for someone else. However, we choose to respond our Lord will continue to love us. Whether we use them or not the Holy Spirit will continue to impart spiritual gifts to us. Whether we accept it or not God will continue to forgive us and love us and desire a relationship with us. God is ever faithful, waiting until we realize the depth of our own loneliness and despair and reach out our hands for help. No one is beyond the reach of the love of God in Christ Jesus…not you..not me…not anyone. In the Kingdom of God the good wine of God’s love never runs out…..let us take every opportunity to drink deeply ourselves and to offer it to everyone we can so that our joy may be complete.