It's Not My Job

John 2:1-11

There was nothing quite like a good feast to get a celebration off to a great start. Food has always had a way of giving meaning to life! The festivities at this wedding at Cana were typical of those enjoyed by villagers who were thankful for a respite from their daily hard labors of scratching out an existence.

It was an old rabbinic saying that where there was no wine, there was no joy. To cut a long story short, this party ran out of joy! The laughter and gossip of the guests who still had something in their cups, conveniently drowned the anxious whispers and controlled panic that was taking place backstage. In a culture that esteemed generous hospitality, it would have been a shameful humiliation for the hosts to run out of anything, but especially liquid refreshment.

And then Mary made a beeline for Jesus and whispered, “They have no wine!”

If there was one thing that was utterly irresistible to Jesus it was faith. The nature of the mother-son relationship had to be in a new context—there was something more than maternal meddling going on. Jesus responds to Mary’s faith, with all its possible vagueness and whimsy. She models two basic responses that should not only be present at every wedding, but foundational to every relationship and every life:

  • She turned to Jesus.

  • She trusted Jesus.

This is the beginning of a Community of Love.

The Beloved Community: Born of Water and Spirit

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Today in our worship we celebrate “The Baptism of Our Lord,” remembering the time when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan. People of faith have participated in cleansing rituals for thousands of years as a symbol of washing away sin and restoring a right relationship to God. Many people had come to John in the wilderness for just such a cleansing—a baptism in water for the forgiveness of sins. But Jesus, Luke tells us, offers a different baptism…a purification of the soul with “holy wind and fire.”

Sometimes baptism is viewed as a culminating rite after a diligent time of searching after God. For Christians, however, baptism means much more than atonement for iniquities. Baptism is an act of initiation...a symbol of new birth and a sharing in Christ’s community of love. We become part of Christ’s body, the church, we receive his Spirit, and we are made to be his disciples.  It will take each one of us a lifetime to live out the full meaning of our baptism, but because we are made part of Christ’s body we have one another to help keep us in the way while we we grow in faith.

The Beloved Community: Meant for All

Ephesians 3:1-12

The computing power in an average teenager’s cell phone is a million times more powerful than the computer used to land a person on the moon in 1969. Log on to the World Wide Web and that same phone can retrieve nearly all of the music, art, literature, scientific discovery, and philosophy ever produced, in a matter of seconds. Yet with all this information and data available, the one word that best defines our relationship to God and our universe is “mystery.” There is so much more that we don’t know than what is known...and even the “known” is sometimes barely more than a theorist’s best guess.

So the context of our most faithful desire to know and serve God is mystery. Religious people forget this at times; there is a seductiveness in the familiar comfort of rites, rituals, superstitions, songs, creeds and doctrines. Taking pride in faithful adherence to religion can instill a feeling that we’ve somehow “tamed the mysterious,” and have all the right answers.

But those who humbly follow Christ Jesus as Lord know otherwise. Being a disciple has far less to do with possessing answers, and far more to do with encountering the mystery of God every day. This is sometimes done through worship, as was the case with the wise travelers who worshipped the child Jesus, and sometimes through experiencing the grace that God shows to those “outside our faith,” as Paul did with the gentile believers in Ephesus.

“There are more things in heaven and earth,” said Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Horatio, “Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Understanding the vastness of the unknown mystery makes the mystery revealed in Jesus all the more precious.

Subjects of the King

Mark 12:28-34

From time to time we meet people with little or no wealth who are accomplishing incredible, transformational work for Jesus? Fueled by their love for God, moved by compassion for their neighbors, and led by the Holy Spirit, they simply pick up and do whatever their capacity and resources will allow.  They never complain or apologize for they don’t have, choosing instead to do what they can with what they have.

From time to time we also meet people who take the name of Jesus in order to comfort themselves and advance their own interests.  Their sanctuaries are never quite big enough, their clothes often need updating, and their wealth is always needed for one more project around their own house. They believe in their own righteousness, and look to God to reward them.

One day when Jesus was in the temple, he called the disciples to his side. We warned them to beware of those making an outward show of religion while selfishly serving their own interests.  After that, Jesus praised the simple faith of a poor widow, one who long ago learned the secret of holding the world’s wealth lightly in order to tightly embrace God with her whole self. She is a subject of the king who gave himself for his kingdom…as are all who follow in her way.

Not Far

Mark 12:28-34

Today is All Saints Sunday—a day of remembrance for Christian people of every time and place. We celebrate the great communion of saints as we remember the dead, some known generally as members of the vast Church universal, and others whose names and cherished memories are treasured in the intimacy of our own hearts. Especially in our close memories, having joined the saints in eternity during 2017-2018, are:

Vicki Blakeslee
Vernon Clover
Lindy Langdon Cook
Gary Lee Dougherty
Matthew Fawver
Ramona Yvonne Kemp Blair
Rick Longyear
William Bradford Lott
Esther “Patty” Marquart
Robert H. Meyer
Lois Morgosh
Carol Nameth
Carol Yvonne Rathbun
Betty Jane Tanner
Alice Wallace

These saints are absent from the body of Christ on earth and present with the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

Mark 10:46-52

The subject of the day, as far as Mark’s gospel is concerned, is spiritual blindness. The healing of “Blind” Bartimaeus—an outcast beggar left at the side of the road—provides Mark’s commentary on the spiritual blindness of so many others. Religious authorities, insiders, and even the disciples were having trouble seeing and understanding Jesus, in essence blind to the nature of his mission.  Bartimaeus is crying out for help. The religious authorities have labeled him “sinner.” The disciples want him silenced. But Jesus summons him and asks him the question, “what do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus speaks for the de-churched and the spiritually disenchanted everywhere when he answers “I want to see again.” For there are many in our world whose zeal for the Lord grows cold, whose warm memories of commitments made at youth camps fade, for whom the troubles of the world disenchant and struggles with sin storm their faith-citadels.  Whether slowly or suddenly, the spiritual sight that pointed them to faith disappears, and they are left in a spiritual darkness, devoid of God.

Into such darks comes Jesus. Jesus calls. Jesus asks. Jesus asks, “what do you want me to do for you?” Will the spiritually blind be ready with an answer?

The Nearer Your Destination...

Mark 10:35-45

Jesus had a sacred mission to complete.  It was a God-given mission; it was the purpose for which he was born and his destiny. It pressed in upon him, occupying his thoughts, dictating his actions, flooding his soul. He would fulfill the expectations of the prophets. He would give his life in humble obedience. He would usher in the promised Kingdom of God. The hour of his mission’s fulfillment was ever so close, as Jesus and his disciples made their way to Jerusalem.

With the holy mountain and its gleaming temple looming large, Jesus sought yet again to prepare his disciples for what was to come. He spoke of the true nature of God’s Beloved Son. He spoke of his own suffering, of redemption paid for in sacrifice, and of a kingdom where selfless love prevailed. But the disciples could not hear him. They had pictured a savior in their minds who give them whatever they wanted, and as Jesus spoke they simply indulged their personal daydreams of glory.

It all must have seemed to Jesus like the words from a much more recent songwriter: “…the nearer your destination the more you’re slip-sliding away.”

Blessed to do the Hard Things

Mark 10:17-31

The pages of history are filled with stories of the indomitable spirit of humans. There are explorers who who fearlessly set off into the unknown in order to discover new lands, chart new courses of travel, even walk on distant bodies in space. There are people who, through hard work, discipline, and determination, overcame extraordinary physical challenges and claimed lives of victory. There are people who searched tirelessly through the mysteries of the universe, banging on the doors of science and technology until these mysteries yielded and brought forth the breakthrough discoveries that have changed our world forever.  

Yes, our histories are filled with heroic figures who refused to surrender in the face of trials and difficulties. And yet, there remains for every human being one particular challenge that will always stand beyond our grasp: we cannot save ourselves.  Salvation belongs to the Lord...and when we first see what living a life of faith really demands of us, we are tempted to cry out with Peter “Lord, who can be saved?!”  Jesus’ answer to us is that no one can save him or herself. But there is grace, and by that grace, “what is impossible for humans is possible for God.” We are blessed to do the hard things.