“It’s Time” – Sermon on Jan 20, 2013

January 20, 2013

Scripture: John 2: 1-11


On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Sermon: It’s Time

by Rev. Doreen Oughton
My nephew Joe is a very bright young man. He finished college in just three years, pushing himself through high school and college to take extra credits, extra courses. He worked very hard and did very well. That was just last May. Since then, he’s been a bit adrift. He found an opportunity selling vitamins and supplements on-line, so he moved back to his parents home, reconnected with some old friends, came and went as he pleased. While my sisters was in someways happy to see him, things got stressful as he failed to communicate in just basic thoughtful ways about his comings and goings. And she worried about how much down time he had – no real structure, no clear goals. She knows he is capable of, likely destined for, some really great things. Should she push him? If so, when? It’s time, she told him. Time to at least move out of the house.
I wonder if Mary struggled with questions like this. She was told even before his conception that her son was special, o so very special. She’s seen the signs of it all along – the star that followed them, the singing of the angels at his birth, the rush of shepherds to see him, that strange visit by the foreigners bearing gifts. She’s seen the way others react to him, even when he was just a child. He always had such an effect on people. Squabbling would stop, smiles would break out, sudden healings, a sense of wonder and peace where and when he played, when he did his chores, when he was at school, when he was with Joseph dealing with customers. Her son so enjoyed being with Joseph, helping him in the wood shop. And he had learned well. He was quite the skilled carpenter in his own right. But that wasn’t what the angels sang about. She was sure his ability to make a beautiful chair was not what that huge, terrifying angel Gabriel meant when he said her son would be great. Jesus was to have the throne of David, not build the throne! But boy, he just has been hanging around the house and wood shop for an awfully long time. Sure he takes his trips out to the desert, heads off to the Jordan to see cousin John. Coming and going as he wills. But its so unfocused. When she hints that maybe there is something else he should be doing, he gets a little testy.
Perhaps it is with this sense of impatience that Mary attends the wedding in Cana. She knows her son is going, and now he’s bringing his followers. For goodness sake he has followers now! Shouldn’t he really be leading them into something that matters? But he seems so uncertain, so tentative. But she knows – it’s time. It’s time to push. “They have no wine,” she tells him. She doesn’t say it aloud, but can he see it in her eyes? She’s thinking “They have been thirsting for you. They have been thirsting since Adam.” She says no more to him, hears but disregards his question, his statement that his hour has not yet come. She turns instead to the servants, having seen his face, his eyes move from unfocused, to fearful, to accepting. “Do whatever he tells you.” And then she watches, the knot of worry beginning to loosen, replaced by a shimmer of excitement, of joy, as her son steps into himself, and into his call.
How do we know when the hour has come? How do we know when it is time to DO something, to encourage someone else to DO something? Such a list of things that can and will hold us back. I harbored a secret thought of being called to ordained ministry for two years before I even spoke it aloud. Am I kidding myself I wondered? Do these thoughts even mean anything? I’d have to go to school and I’m still paying off old school loans. I have young children, would anyone ever want ME as a pastor. I’m new to faith, to church, who do I think I am to think I could be a pastor. Self doubt, fear of the cost to myself and others, not wanting to come across as arrogant, comparing myself to others. There were so many handy excuses to avoid making a decision or commitment. Someday, I told myself. Someday maybe I’ll dip my toe in, take a class or something. And then my Mary came. It’s time, she said. Apply to school, just fill out the application you don’t have to go. Just apply. It’s time.
I wonder about the voice that came to Rosa Parks as she sat on that bus, instructed to move to the back. Was it Mary letting her know – it’s time. It is time to take a stand by claiming your seat, THIS seat. It is time to say, “No more, no more.” And what voice or voices came to the new minister in town, the new pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Reverend Martin Luther King to let him know, It’s time. Of course he wanted to be active in the community, joining the Montgomery Improvement Association. But now these people were calling on him to take this arrest of Rosa Parks and turn that water into wine. Was it time now, really? There had been other arrests, other people who had refused to move. Did Dr. King wrestle with self-doubt, with fear, with humility, with the cost to his family? He hadn’t set out to lead a movement. He was called to be pastor and teacher, wasn’t he? What was it like for him to hear his parishioner Jo Ann Robinson of the Women’s Political Coucil to suggest that he be the spokesperson for the boycott? Was he listening, as the wedding servants were, ready to do what Jesus told him to do? How did he experience the transformation within himself? Was it as sudden and surprising of putting the dipper into water and drawing up wine? Or was it a process of encountering Mary, encountering Jesus, over and over again, stepping up to serve, ready to fill each jug that came before him.
What about you? As you were reminded last week, you are God’s own child, called into this world to spread God’s love. In what way are YOU being asked to fill a jug? In what way are you invited to keep the celebration going, to bring abundant blessings? It’s not the same way that anyone else is being called, you know. Maybe you have lots of reasons to question whether it is time for you, whether the hour has come to step up with your cup of water and present it to Christ. Maybe it feels like it isn’t enough for Jesus to work with. Maybe it seems like you have to take care of something else first – the job, the kids, the bank account, your health. But maybe, just maybe, it is time. You won’t be alone in it. YOU are not expected to turn the water into wine. Just be there, ready to fill the jug, or the cup or whatever vessel you have, with water and trust Jesus to do the rest.
So it is twelve years now since I let that secret knowledge of a call to ministry be brought to the surface, 12 years since I listened to my Mary voices saying “It’s time.” I went to school, I became a pastor. But that’s old news by now. Now I have to let other knowledge arise. I have to bring my vessel again, filled with water, awaiting Jesus’ touch. It is time, it is time for me to put more energy into fighting racism, it is time for me to be more of a presence in the Leicester community. It is time for me to step up as a leader. It is time for me to be that encouraging voice telling YOU that it is time.
As for your individual calls, I only raise the question – is it time, could it be time. But for you all as the body of First Congregational Church, I tell you – It is time. It is time for you to listen and prepare as Jesus calls us forward. You’ve had some struggles, lots of unsettled times, many losses and changes. You needed to let the ground steady beneath you. But it is time. You might be saying to yourself that our hour has not yet come. You might want to wait until there are more members, until there is more money; wait until the Sunday school is bigger, or until we are certain that the cell phone company contracts will last. You might be afraid of what the cost will be if we really do what Jesus tells us to do. But I tell you, it is time. It is time to better reveal God’s glory in a way that only we can do. It is time to figure out why committees don’t meet, don’t set goals, don’t move forward. If the committee structure doesn’t work, then it is time to do something different. If they can work, then it is time to work them. It is time to inspire greater participation, both in and beyond worship – more ways to bring healing and hope to the world, to grow in our relationships with Christ and each other. This is an amazing and wonderful place. I love you and God loves you just the way you are. But too much to let you stay that way. You are called to be more. God’s grace compels us to be more. It is time, it is time. Let’s talk about that. Come to the Council meeting today or next month. Speak to me, speak to any of our Council members (please stand). It is time, and we need you.
In closing I share the words of Marianne Williamson: Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” May it be so.