Jan 14, 2007
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The Hour has Come
One of the things I like about being a pastor is performing weddings. It is a gift to be involved in such a celebration. Yes, I said celebration. Now, those of you who have been integral in the planning of such a celebration know as well as I do that sometimes we forget that it is supposed to be a celebration and we can quickly slip into the stressful morass of the particulars of the event.
Where will it be held?
What do we do with a church with two aisles?
Does your cousin really have to come?
Why cant I wear my navy blue tuxedo?
And lets not even think about the reception. Holy cow! Heavy hors douvres? Sit down dinner? Do we invite everyone who comes to the wedding or just the first one hundred?
Isnt your cousin vegan?
Here we are this morning thinking about a two thousand year old wedding reception. And to no ones surprise something has gone awry. Yep, even writers two thousand years ago knew about wedding anxiety. The wine runs out. Let me tell you, brothers and sisters, had the bar gone dry at my wedding before the party was through, Im not sure what would have happened.
So with this build up, we encounter one of the stranger stories in scripture, the Wedding at Cana. And, to give it just a little more weight, this is the story that the author of John uses to begin the earthly ministry of Christ Jesus. Here we are gathered at a celebration, no, THE CELEBRATION, and the wine runs out. And Mary walks up to Jesus
Well, arent you going to do something?
Im sorry. What?
Woman, you have got to be kidding me. My hour has not yet come.
Mary looks to the servants and says, Do whatever he tells you to do. Here I imagine she just walks away
like my mother, all our mothers, might do.
We have just heard the story. So we know what happens. But now the wedding planner or hotel manager or whomever is in charge of what happens at the reception walks up to the groom and says, Where have you been keeping this good wine (all 180 gallons of it)? And why wasnt it served at the beginning of the reception? You always serve the good wine at the beginning of the celebration
We never hear what the groom says in response. But there it is
Quietly the ministry of Christ begins. John calls this the First Sign.
And the disciples believed.
Lawrence Wood, a pastor and theologian, says that this was Jesus wedding gift. Pastor Woods wonders, What do you give the bride who has everything? Do you give the latest greatest thing on Ebay knowing that it will simply collect dust on a closet shelf, or do you do something else, give something intangible?
Jesus purpose in providing the celebration with 180 gallons of wine is not to get every one liquored up. Pastor Woods suggests that gifts like this one are the best kind of gift. The gift that Jesus provides brings a place to life. It was for everyone there. It contributed to the day, to the memories of joy, instead of gathering dust in a cabinet or attic.
Jesus gave such a gift. And the disciples believed. No one else seems to know what happened. The servants do their thing. The steward does not even question the origin of the wine and the gospel writer tells us, The disciples believed. What a gift!
It brought joy.
It contributed to the day.
It brought no attention to the giver.
It caused some to believe.
That belief grew and spread, and more came to believe,
more came to taste the good wine until
About nineteen hundred and thirty years later someone else came to the party and gave us such a gift. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr. I dont know about you, but when I think of Dr. King, I think about that great speech he gave in Washington DC. I have a dream. But that speech is not the gift that I want us to think about today. That moment is not what I want us to recall. Lets look earlier. Lets look to the first sign.
Was it when he went to college at the age of fifteen? Was it when he went to Crozer Seminary? Was it when he married Coretta? Its hard to say. Some tell a story about King sitting in his kitchen with a cup of coffee, sleepless and praying to God that he would not have to take up this journey, this leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. But he heard the voice of God that night. His hour had come. Perhaps his acceptance was the first sign.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had many gifts. He was a preacher and teacher. He was a stalwart leader of the people. He was a prayerful man, wise. But this is not what we celebrate this morning. We celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. because he turned his gifts over to the people for the common good. He gave of himself for the benefit of all regardless of race or creed. By remembering Dr. King we recall his selflessness. [His gift] contributed to the day, to the memories of joy, instead of gathering dust in a cabinet or attic.
And many came to believe.
You see, this is the nature of the gifts of the Spirit. Paul tells us that the gifts of the Spirit, things like wisdom, healing, the ability to perform miracles, prophesy and discernment, are to bring harmony and not to build up the stature of any one person or even a community. These gifts are for the common good. We are simply vessels for such gifts.
Pauls list is not exhaustive. There are many gifts. There are many opportunities for God to work through us.
Kings ministry provides a clear example for us. He had gifts. And he gave them all to us
gifts of the Spirit are gifts of God through us for the people. This is how Dr. King lived.
And in the end his final gift to us was hope.
Hope is the thing that causes you to turn your life around. Hope is the thing that causes you to reorder how you live, how you love and how you share your gifts. Hope is the thing that takes you out of yourself and causes your eyes to look outward to the needs of the world.
Real hope brings about change. It reveals Gods Kingdom. It is not casual wishing or even desire. It is the impetus for real and lasting change. It is contagious, says Sarah Dylan Breuer. It makes the wise foolish and the foolish things wise.
Hope often gets a bad rap. Hope is often perceived as the lightweight member of the faith, hope and charity trio. We sometimes think of hope as empty, or out of focus, or akin to a pipe dream. But those things are not hope. In the wedding feast at Cana Jesus gives hope to his disciples through his miracle. Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus reveals God. It brings belief. This, brother and sisters, is hope. Hope reveals God to the world. It causes others to believe and to have hope themselves.
Dr. King gave us hope. And we were changed.
This is why I can stand here in this pulpit, a Baptist minister born after Dr. King died, and still be moved by his life, ministry, and prayer. Though there is much work left to do, we can celebrate the steps we have made.
Hope moves us from where we are and propels us into the future, a future known only to God, but that will, in the end, prove to be a gift to all humanity. I am the recipient of such hope. Through hope I came to believe. And through hope the world will come to believe and be changed.
I know Ive been changed.
This is the Good News that we have been given. This is the good news that our gifts were given to reveal.
The hour has come
At Community Church, we have been given a context to nurture and share the gifts of the Spirit for the benefit of all. And there are a diversity of gifts here, brothers and sisters, gifts of prayer and hospitality, of miracles and wisdom. And these gifts cause me to hope, to believe.
The hour has come
For us to share the Good News, that there is hope for the future of the world, for Wilmette, for one another. Our gifts are for the common good. They reveal Gods love for us all. They bring about belief and hope
And hope begets hope.
The hour has come.