Today’s Gospel lesson is one many of us have read and heard many times. The story tells us of one of Jesus’ most under rated miracles, turning water into wine. In ancient Israel, newlywed couples didn’t go on honeymoons, but instead held wedding feasts at the home of the groom that lasted seven days. It was up to the groom’s family to provide the hospitality. Running out of wine before the party ended would be a huge embarrassment to the groom and his family.
But, I don’t think this story is really about a wedding, not primarily anyway. I think the wedding is just the setting for what God is doing. I also don’t think this story is primarily about Jesus turning water into wine. The miracle is just the tool God is using. I believe the real story here is God revealing Jesus as the Divine, as God’s son, and what better way to do so than through a miracle.
When the steward tasted the water turned to wine, he did not know where it had come from, although the servants who saw what Jesus had done knew. This was Jesus’ first miracle in his ministry and his disciples witnessed it, and believed in him. Jesus travelled with his disciples continuing his ministry for three years and performed many more miracles. He restored sight to blind people, he healed the sick and even raised Lazarus from the dead. His disciples witnessed these
We don’t get to be with Jesus physically the way the disciples were. We don’t get to travel with him and listen to his teachings and witness the miracles he performs. We don’t get to see Jesus heal the sick and lame or restore ones vision. But we are with Jesus spiritually, and while we cannot witness Jesus performing miracles first hand, we can witness them through Scripture. It is through Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit that Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God is revealed to us.
And God still performs miracles. A news story from July of last year helps illustrate this.
California is in the fourth year of a drought, one of the longest dry spells in the past century, and wildfires are common, especially in the summer when rainfall is rare even in non-drought years. So when a large wildfire sprung up in the Cajon Pass on July 17 and eventually covered 8.5 square miles, it was bad news, but not really a surprise.
What was a surprise, however, was the summer rainstorm that arose and enabled firefighters to contain the blaze.
The fire, driven by 40-mile-per-hour winds, started below the elevated lanes of Interstate 15, the main artery between Southern California and Las Vegas, but quickly jumped onto the freeway, which was clogged with traffic, and sent hundreds of drivers and passengers fleeing on foot.
The flames torched 18 cars and two big rigs on the Interstate, and then headed into the nearby community of Baldy Mesa, where it destroyed seven homes and 44 more vehicles. Only two injuries were reported and both were minor.
Thanks to the unexpected thunderstorm on Saturday, the big movement of the fire was stopped in its tracks and reduced to a size firefighters could manage.
According to the National Weather Service, the unusual summer storm poured a quarter inch of rain on downtown Los Angeles, setting a new daily and monthly record. The old record of 0.24 inches was set in 1886.
Commenting on the news, The Wired Word team member Mary Sells said that because the rain came in the midst of an enduring drought and at a time of year when precipitation is uncommon, it can be considered a "Godsend."
"Sometimes God gives us what we need in ways that defy our understanding of what we think is possible," Sells said.
(From The Wired Word for the week of July 26, 2015)
An unexpected rain storm may not be considered a miracle, but when it comes at just the right time and helps avoid what could be a disaster, we can certainly attribute it to God’s love for human beings. We see God’s love for us in other places as well. We see God working through people when they help others. We see God working through doctors when they bring healing to our loved ones. We see God working through people who run organizations such as Deep Roots as they minister to the homeless and we see God working through the people who volunteer to help at those organizations and who donate to them. We see God working through people who volunteer at the Elkton Soup Kitchen as they prepare and serve lunches to those who do not have enough to eat.
But how often do we see Jesus in the faces of the children and families these organizations serve? How often do we look for Jesus in them? How often do we look for Jesus in the person standing on a street corner holding a sign asking for money because they are homeless? How often do we look for Jesus in the faces of the thousands of Syrian refugees we see on television? Our world is filled with people who are in need and also with people who are willing and capable of helping them.
I have heard several people say the poor people are holding America back, that they are the cause of some of our problems because they don’t work and give to society, but only take from society. I don’t think the poor, the homeless, and the hungry are the cause of our problems, I believe they are the symptoms of our problems. Our problems are much deeper than a person standing on a corner holding a cardboard sign asking for help. And while we are called to help those individuals, we are also called to work towards mending our deeper problems that cause people to be in that situation.
Our reading from First Corinthians is also a well-known passage, one that most of us are familiar with. In this letter Paul is addressing the Church at Corinth about spiritual gifts. The reason this letter was written is most likely to promote unity within the Church community. Some folks had special gifts, most likely talking in Tongues. They felt having this particular gift elevated them to a status higher than those without that gift. Paul told the Church that there are a variety of gifts, but they all serve the same Lord and all come from the same Spirit. The variety of gifts is not hierarchical in importance, but the gifts are to complement each other. All are necessary and all are equally important.
And just as each person in the Church at Corinth was given spiritual gifts, so are each of us. And just as each person’s gift was equally as important and necessary in Corinth, they are here in Fair Hill as well. Spiritual gifts are not given for our own enjoyment but are given to be shared in order to keep the community functioning as it should.
This applies to any community. When I worked at the hospital I noticed how much respect the doctor’s received from everyone. It was like they were placed on a pedestal for others to admire. They worked hard and were dedicated and deserved respect. But I also noticed the nurses received a little less respect. The techs and unit clerks a little less still. And it seems the people who moved patients from area to area, the people who kept the hospital clean, and the people who prepared and served food to all the patients and staff were all but taken for granted. The hospital couldn’t function without the contribution of all of those people and they all are equally important and necessary. They all use their gifts to help people heal.
The same is true of this congregation. All of us have spiritual gifts that we share with each other and with the community. Each one of our gifts is important and complements the other gifts, each one is a part of the whole, and each one is necessary.
It is true that we cannot be with Jesus physically like the first Disciples, at least not yet. It is true that we cannot have conversations with Jesus like we do with each other, although we can converse with Jesus through prayer and silence to listen. It is true we cannot witness Jesus performing miracles like turning water into wine, but we can witness the miraculous work Jesus does through people every day. It is also true that Jesus is with us through the Holy Spirit each and every day of our lives. When we confess that Jesus is Lord, it is the Holy Spirit working within us that reveals to us that Jesus is in fact our Lord, our Savior and the Son of God.
I encourage us to continue to share the spiritual gifts we have been given, not just with this congregation, but also with the community in which we live. I encourage us to look for Jesus in other people, not only in those who are helping others, but also in those who need help. And I encourage us to let people see the light of Jesus shine through us, in all we do and say.
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