SERMON 1/20/19 Epiphany 2C St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, Naples, FL
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
My hour has not come
We often hear this story of Jesus’ miraculous act at a wedding (when he turned water to wine) and we remember it as a nice little story from Sunday school days. We might even skim over it, as if it were a child’s fairytale. I saw a meme on Facebook several months ago about the “wine conversion miracle” and I have to admit, it made me chuckle. It was a picture of a Publix display rack, and above the top shelf where you would normally see a “Wine” sign that described the contents of the display, filled with “Yellow Tail Chardonnay” and “Barefoot Merlot,” the sign actually said, “Water.” The caption for the picture was this, “Well, it looks like Jesus took another stroll through Publix again today.” Yes, it was quite funny, and it reminds us how we hear about Jesus’ miracles and either think, “that was nice of him,” or dismiss them outright without knowing the depth of what was actually happening. I want to share with you some tidbits about this true to life occurrence involving Our Lord, because there is so much more to this story of the Wedding at Cana, than merely a “water and wine” grocery aisle pun.
We hear in John’s gospel today, that Jesus was at a wedding in Cana of Galilee with his disciples and his mother and after the ceremony, there was a great feast going on. Suddenly, the host ran out of wine, and the party was most likely going to come to an abrupt and premature end. Of course, there was no local Publix where the steward could go and buy a few cases of Cabernet. Then suddenly, Mary, Jesus’ mother, took an opportunity for Jesus to do more than just solve a beverage issue. Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine.”
Have you ever considered whether Mary merely let her son know, “Jesus, they have no wine,” or rather, did she give him a gentle motherly coaxing (like all of us have had)? Did she really mean, “Jesus, they have no wine, this is your chance, fix it.” Regardless whether Mary was just stating a fact about the wedding circumstances, or if she was intentionally coaxing her son to reveal himself in a potential miracle situation, Jesus understood what his mother was alluding to at that point. Jesus’ response to his Mother was, “My hour has not yet come.” In other words, “this is not the right time, Mom.”
Ministry Time: Chronos vs. Kairos
“This phrase suggests (maybe) that Jesus had hoped for a more carefully chosen setting for his first presentation of himself.” (1) Like many of us, when the call to respond to the movement of the Spirit that coaxes us to respond to our ministry call, Jesus was secretly thinking, “this is not what I had carefully planned and scheduled, nor how I wanted to control how this thing was going to happen.” Mary’s motherly prodding of Jesus to act was not the moment he had carefully put in his ICalendar, Microsoft Outlook, or Day Planner in order to control and plan his life. That is normally the way we plot and plan our lives today. Mary’s prodding of Jesus to act was what is known as a kairosmoment, an event when “certain unexpected circumstances push us to divert, to take a different choice, and to use those opportune moments to understand our true calling.”
In a Christian Centuryarticle written by Jack Good, he comments, “Kairos time … represents discontinuity, when an unexpected barrier forces one to move off a planned course and adjust to new realities.” (1) What Jesus had planned for his ministry, in a single moment became an event that he had not expected. Jesus’ to do list was trashed in a single moment, and everything changed, and his path was diverted, and his purpose and mission was coming to reality right then and there.
Like Jesus, throughout our journeys of faith, we have to understand that we have been given specific gifts from God for ministry, and there will never be a perfect or maybe even an opportune time, for which to use those gifts for God’s kingdom. In his letter to the Church in Corinth, The Apostle Paul points out, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” In other words, God is the one who gives us the gifts for ministry, such as: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, and discernment. Paul reminds us too. that God is the one, who gives us the ministry in which, we might use those gifts. Finally Paul tells us that it is God, who creates the kairosmoments, in which we might respond to the call to serve. The key here is that we have a choice to respond, and we can do so with faith, knowing we can only serve “With God’s help.”
God calls us to serve
Throughout my ministry as a priest, both in diocesan and parish work, I have asked people to discern and pray about a ministry, for which I believed they had the gifts. I have mentored lay people who initially were led to “on the edge/out of the box ministry,” but after months of coaching, they suddenly felt a nudge to answer the call to discern traditional ordained ministry. I have served as Nominating Committee Chair for the diocese and over the years, I invited priests, deacons, and lay people to consider serving in leadership positions and on committees and other groups. In the USAF Auxiliary, I have asked young chaplains to consider taking on positions of leadership to oversee, manage, and train other new, younger chaplains.
Sometimes when I asked people to pray about responding to God’s call for lay or ordained ministry, they often had reasons to say no. Sometimes fear of change, or the fear of failure resulted in excuses like, “I am too busy,” or “I am not really good at that,” or I just don’t have time.” My own call to ordained ministry was such a kairosmoment. Nearly 14 years ago someone saw gifts in me that I could not see in myself. My priest asked me, “have you ever felt called to ordained ministry?” My response was a lot like Jesus’ answer when his mother wanted him to act. I said, “You’re kidding right, it’s not the right time for us to go away to seminary for three years, quit my job, live on one income, leave our home, and leave all our friends.” I made excuses, and tried to get out of it, and I hoped for the perfect time. I tried to control when I wanted to do ministry, but God would have none of it. He knew that it was the right time for my family to set out on that new journey. Throughout my time of discerning my own ministry call, there were many kairosmoments that made it clear to me, that I needed to be obedient to God. God opened every door, and made it possible for us to serve, even when my agenda, my calendar, and my excuses would have kept me from responding to God’s call.
Answering the Call
How about you? Maybe God has been nudging you to begin serving in a new ministry here at St. Monica’s. Maybe people have told you that you have the gifts for some special kind of service in the church. Maybe you said, “I have so much on my plate,” or maybe like Jesus in an unexpected moment, when the need was presented for you to serve, you said, “it’s just not the right time.”
The One who created all we perceive, the One who miraculously changed water into wine is the same One who gives us the gifts for mission, the passion to serve, and the work to do. From our human perspective, there are no perfect times or circumstances to do ministry, but for the One who made us so perfectly, makes possible “certain unexpected circumstances to push us to divert, to take a different choice, and to use those opportune moments to understand our true calling.”
Later in his ministry, Jesus had many kairosmoments, in addition to the one heard in the gospel today. One time Jesus was teaching the crowds, and then he had a moment when something happened unexpectedly. He stopped, saw all his people living daily in poverty, sickness and in need, and with great compassion he said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matt 9:37b-38)
Some things have never changed, even in the church of the 21stcentury, and still today, the work of ministry is beyond the scope of what any one of us alone can do. Yet, the Master coaxes us to ask God to send some help. As we move forward together on this journey of parish mission and ministry, please remember that each one of us is the help that God is sending to us. Remember, you are not being asked to change “water into wine,” but merely to use the gifts you have been given for service in God’s Kingdom. Your ministry call will come soon, if not already. When it does come, please be open to that kairosmoment and with confidence in Our Lord Jesus to walk the journey alongside you, respond with, “I will with God’s help.”
(1) Good, Jack. “Defining Moment.” The Christian Century, vol. 121, no. 1, Jan. 2004, p. 16.