Special thanks to Paul Gustafson for braving the snow and ice to film this morning’s 10:00am liturgy.
Sermon for Sunday, January 20, 2019 (Lectionary 2C)
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester, Massachusetts
Text: John 2:1-11
Watch on Trinity’s Vimeo page (after 4:00pm 1/20/19)
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
With the forecast for a “kitchen sink storm” (snow, and sleet, freezing rain, and rain) many have called the church and have asked:
“What’s the plan?”
Are we having church?
Are we having Adult Forum?
Driving to church this morning, I wondered what the plan would be among parishioners today? Would they drive through the snow and ice to get here this morning?
What’s the plan?
Tonight, the New England Patriots play the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. As the Patriots face the high-powered Kansas City offense led by quarterback phenom Patrick Mahomes, many have asked: “What’s Belichick’s plan?”
What plan will Coach Belichick come up with to stop Patrick Mahomes?
Many have referenced Belichick’s great defensive plans in the past that have shut down high powered offenses. What will be his plan this time?
What’s the plan?
As we read today’s Gospel reading … this familiar and well-known story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, it occurs to me that this story presents a plan for the Christian life.
While this plan would be applicable in any aspect of the Christian life, it is most appropriate when dealing with a specific problem or perhaps faced with a difficult decision.
It’s a simple three-step plan. Not simple in what it asks us to do, but simple in that there are three clear steps.
Step One: acknowledge the problem.
The problem identified in the gospel reading, is that they ran out of wine! Can you imagine the embarrassment and the heart-ache for the bride and groom? It was not only embarrassing, but a shameful lack of hospitality and failure to provide for the guests.
But, the problem was acknowledged!
It occurs to me that many problems in life are caused by failing to acknowledge a problem.
Doctors might say: lose weight, stop smoking, reduce your stress – but we might not acknowledge the problem our doctors foresee. If we don’t see the problem, we might continue to live life as we have and then go charging head long into disease and illness that might have otherwise been prevented.
Family or friends might say: we have problem in a relationship we need to address, that we need to spend more time with our spouse and children, that we need to get our work/life balance in order – but we might not acknowledge the problem. If we don’t see the problem, and don’t make any changes, we might cause untold damage to relationship.
On these and other matters, help might be readily available to us if only we acknowledged the problem and sought help
Acknowledging the problem is the first step.
Step Two: take the problem to the Lord in prayer.
When Mary discovered there was no wine – she took the problem to Jesus.
Now, it should be noted, that in his response, “Woman, what concern is that to me,” we don’t need to imagine Jesus being a jerk to his mother. The same address was used later in John’s gospel when Jesus, from the cross, addressed Mary “Woman, behold your son.”
Mary took the problem to the Lord in prayer.
This Gospel reading is an important reminder to us: to take our problems to the Lord in prayer. When faced with a problem, do we lay it at the Lord’s feet? Do we pray?
Now, it’s important to remember that God’s timeline is not our timeline. One of the problems with the miracles in the Gospel reading, is that they occur instantly. Like a snap of the fingers – Jesus solves the problem.
It’s interesting that in the Gospel, Jesus replied to Mary, “My hour has not yet come.” We might hear this as a reminder that even as we take our concerns to the Lord, the Lord retains authority over the timeline. In our flesh, we seek an immediacy that God does not own. God often operates much more through “slow motion miracles.” Miracles that unfold over time.
We might have to take it the Lord, and take it again, and again, and again. We might need to keep on laying it at the Lord’s feet.
But that is step two: take it to the Lord in prayer.
Step 3: watch for the miracles to unfold in the faithfulness of community.
Did you notice that Jesus didn’t just wave a magic wand and *poof* wine appeared? Rather, the miracles unfolded through a community that was obedient to the teachings and direction of Jesus. Mary, herself, prompted the community to be obedient to Jesus when she said, recorded in verse 5: ‘Do whatever he tells you.”
First, Jesus told the servants to fill up the water jugs. They not only did what they were told, they did a little more than what they were told: they filled them to the brim.
Lots of them – six stone water jars each holding 20 to 30 gallons of wine (that’s 120 to 180 gallons).
Then, they needed to draw some out and take some to the chief steward. And so, they drew some out and took it to the chief steward. And what did the Chief Steward say: “Wow! This is really good! Unlike everyone else who serves the best stuff first, you’ve saved the best for last!”
The miracles unfolded as a community responded to the words of Jesus. They filled the water jugs. They drew some out. They presented it to the chief steward.
First: acknowledge the problem.
Second: take the problem to the Lord in prayer.
Third: watch for the miracle to unfold through the faithfulness of community.
Let me give you an example of how this works in the world.
On this weekend, we observe the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King addressed this country’s original sin: the issue of racism.
First, let’s acknowledge the problem. This country has a problem with race. Look no farther than the video of that white kid with a “Make America Great Again” cap standing in front of the Native American man, and U.S. Veteran, taunting him. This country has a problem with race.
Not everyone, however, acknowledges that problem. That is a problem in and of itself. But, we as America have a problem with race.
Second, let’s take it to the Lord in prayer.
Part of taking it to the Lord, is acknowledging that we need help. As I mentioned in my T&G “Keep the Faith” article this weekend, racism is a deeply seeded problem.
In decision after decision, in the founding of the country, and in the governing of the country at both the local and national levels … in public policy and even in preaching from pulpits across the country in sermon after sermon, racism was instituted and defended over the course of our country’s two hundred year existence.
Dismantling racism, and healing the wounds of racism, will not happen overnight.
Nor will it happen without prayer and divine intervention. We will need to keep praying, and keep laying this problem at the foot of the Lord. We will need to be a community of prayer, praying by singing songs of lament, taking the problem to the Lord again and again. We need the saving and liberating help and power of Christ.
But third, watch for the miracle to unfold in community.
In a community of disciples determined to living the healing, peace, and mercy of Jesus. Disciples committed to obeying the call of Christ to be in conversation, reflection, and accountability on the issue of race. Disciples obeying Christ by forming communities where necessary truths on race, privilege, and racism, regardless of how painful they are, can be both spoken and heard.
Not that all racism will be rooted out and overthrown. But, we can watch for the miracle of God in Christ’s grace, causing cracks and fissures to appear in the structures of racism into which new life will pour. In a community, in peoples, in leaders, committed to inclusive and beloved community – there the miracle of God’s work, in the living grace of Jesus Christ, will establigh beloved communities of justice.
So, what’s the plan?
Acknowledge the problem.
Take it to the Lord.
Watch for the Lord’s miracle in the faithfulness of community.
Thanks be to God.