Claiming a purpose

John 2:1-11

One of my favorite parts of my position as your Pastor is to connect

the spiritual gifts found among people in our congregation with volunteer

ministry opportunities that serve our church, community and world. It is

remarkable to me. It seem whenever we have a transition in volunteer

leadership, whether on the Board or the partner church committee or

Staff Relations or operating the powerpoint during worship or any other

opportunity to serve, we can celebrate both the person who faithfully

serve in that role, as well as the person stepping in to serve anew.

It is humbling and inspiring to marvel at the ample skills, passions,

and abilities that each of you bring to this community of faith, and then

to discern with many of you the ways in which you feel called to serve. I

am constantly amazed at the open spirit with which those conversations

happen. Sometimes, you say ‘no’ when asked. Often, you say ‘yes.’

Almost always, those requests to serve are taken seriously, which is

something I deeply appreciate. It helps me to believe, no matter your

answer to the request to serve, that you have spent time thinking and

discerning whether you are able to serve, as well as whether you have

the gifts to serve in the role being asked. These conversations become a

partnership, one built on trust, grace, and call.

In using that last word, ‘call,’ I recognize that’s a biblical term that

we use in the church, but with a meaning that may not translate well to

our modern age. Part of that is due to the fact that calling stories from

the Bible often involve the voice of God or the invitation of Jesus. I am

neither one, nor is anyone else in the church. I think that’s part of the

reason why church and society has moved to other words to replace call,

but carry nearly the same meaning. Words such as mission or passion or

purpose. There was a book about 20 years ago written by Rick Warren

called ‘The Purpose Driven Life,’ that focused on finding and distilling the

key areas of purpose and passion in one’s life and pursuing them.

The book raises questions that Jesus encountered in his life. How do

we recognize a call, a purpose, a mission or passion within our lives? How

do we know what is a call and what is a fleeting interest? How do know

when is the right time to pursue our calling? And perhaps most

frightening? What do we do when we fail or when our calling changes?

Those are the hardest questions we face in claiming a purpose in our

lives, because all of those questions are based upon a lot of trust and a

good bit of faith.

In our Gospel text for today, we find the story of Jesus, his mother

and his friends attending an unforgettable wedding in Cana. Often, this

story of Jesus turning water into wine focuses solely on the miracle. It is

a pretty great miracle. Yet it’s important to note that coming into the

story, Jesus is perfectly content to stay in the background. He had called

many of his disciples to join him in ministry, but felt his ministry would

truly begin at the time of his choosing.

That would make sense for why he didn’t want to act. Perhaps he

wanted a launch party or a specific showing in the local synagogue to

announce his arrival on the religious scene. Perhaps he didn’t want to

upstage the wedding party. After all, a first century Jewish wedding party

was a big deal. It lasted for nearly a week. If Jesus performed a miracle

there, then what would people remember – the wedding or the miracle?

It’s also possible that the human side of Jesus had not yet determined

what he wanted his ministry to look like. Perhaps it would be a teaching

ministry alone or one focused on healings and miracles or some other

focus entirely. It is implied in Jesus’ words to his mother that he was not

yet ready to embrace his calling, to claim the purpose for his ministry

call.

His mother has other ideas. It may not have started that way. It

likely began as your typical, traditional wedding celebration with an

average and pleasant reception — until the wine gave out. Customarily

the better wine was served first at Galilean wedding receptions. This

makes sense, when you think about it. You serve the good wine first,

when the palate is fresh and expectant, and all of the guests are present

and honored. After a few days, when fewer remained, the lesser wine

could be served.

But to run out of wine before late in the celebration — that was an

unforgettable hospitality indiscretion that would have caused minor

humiliation for the host if the problem was not hastily fixed. In short — it

could have been a social disaster. Picture a stressed-out host trying to

find more wine while quietly badgering his servants. Picture the servants’

fear.

For whatever reason, Mary, Jesus’ mother, got involved in the wine

problem. We don’t know why. Maybe it was the wedding of a relative.

Maybe Mary thought that marriages were worth celebrating. We can

almost hear Mary saying, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll talk to my son — he

can fix anything.” We have here an ancient version of the Kent family of

Smallville who have a teenage super-Clark around to help with the heavy

lifting.

So Mary tells Jesus, “They’re out of wine.” And Jesus faced a

choice. Would he respond to the need before him, even though it was not

a time of his choosing? Or would he wait? Like many of our parents or

elder figures, Mary plays the perfect role. She does not tell Jesus to save

the day. She does not guilt him into action. She merely names the need,

steps back, and has faith that he will make the best choice.

In a way, even though it was Jesus who performed this first public

miracle, it was Mary who saved that wedding day. She led Jesus to it. His

miracle was simple. Fill six large ceramic jars with water. Dip a cup. Take

the cup to the wedding coordinator. Let him taste. Suddenly there were

120 to 180 gallons of excellent wine. That was no doubt enough wine for

the rest of the reception. Jesus performed the miracle. His ministry

calling was launched.

Perhaps Jesus could have used Dan Cumberland’s thoughts when it

comes to calling – He identifies three myths to avoid when trying to

discern God's call: Myth 1: Your calling is a job -- "It's much, much bigger

than a job. Your calling is a direction and an impact. It is about using your

agency to bring about a specific and meaningful kind of goodness in the

world and in the lives of others. ... Your calling can be expressed in

countless ways: In your job and outside of your job, but it is not the job

itself."

Myth 2: Your calling is somewhere out there, you just have to find

it -- "Calling ... [is] not somewhere out there. It's much more the

opposite. It's close to home. It's dangerously close to our hearts and what

makes us who we are. It's not in the wind, the fire or the earthquake. It's

in a still small and familiar voice. It's in who you already are and who you

are becoming. The real work is not in searching it out, but in learning to

be your true self, which is why there isn't a quick easy answer. It's a

process of growth."

Myth 3: Your calling is a place of obligation -- "Your calling and life's

work are places of freedom. If it's not freeing, then it's not yours. So

often the very word 'calling' is associated with feelings of obligation, guilt

and shame. ... If it's in line with who you are, and who you are made to

be, it will be always be life-giving. ... You pour yourself into it, and it fills

you back up."

You pour yourself into it, and it fills you back up. Or as the late Mr.

Rogers once said, "I'm not a character on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

What I do in the studio is part of my real life, and the person on camera

is the real me."I have been blessed, so deeply blessed," he went on, "to

be able to give one honest human being to kids. I felt that was my

calling."

That was his calling. What is yours? Amen.