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
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’
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
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
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
That was his calling. What is yours? Amen.