Monday, February 6, 2017

The Voice of Calling
A Sermon on John 2:1-12
by Griff Martin
For the People of First Austin: a baptist community of faith
On the Fifth Sunday following Epiphany
February 5, 2017
(Off Lectionary)

Incarnate God, we ask that you once again take the Word and transform it into a living and breathing reality we can all together experience. Be present here in this space and in these words God for if you are present here then nothing else will matter, but if you are not present here then nothing else will matter. In the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Comforter. 

In John’s Gospel Mary is never named, she is instead referred to as the Mother of Jesus throughout John’s work. She appears twice in this Gospel which might not seem like much… however it’s more attention than she gets in the first two Gospels and the truth is its more attention than we pay her, in our lectionary she gets 12 mentions but they are almost all around Advent and Christmas, she is a seasonal decoration we take out every December and then we put her up, like the advent wreath… ore we hide her to the side of our Narthex where many walk by and never see here even though she is the best icon in our building… and yet despite our attempts to silence her, Mary is a voice more than worthy of hearing throughout the year.

She is mentioned twice in the Gospel of John, the beginning and the end. She is the bookends to the Incarnation of Christ. She appears here at this wedding at the beginning of Jesus ministry and then she appears at the foot of the cross. She is there for the first sign and she is there for the last sign. She is his steady, Mary is the one in Jesus’ life who has done for Jesus more than anyone else.

During her presentation a few years ago at the Festival of Homiletics, New Testament scholar Karoline Lewis suggested that maybe Mary not only birthed Jesus but Mary also births his ministry. And that adds a whole layer to this reading and calls us to pay even greater attention to the one we call Blessed, the one who Jesus called Mom.

When it comes to Incarnation: God knew that sometimes all we need is a mom. God knew sometimes all we need is that person who loves us more than any other- no matter that if that person is related to us through blood or bond, male or female… we all need that person who loves us more than anyone else.

On the third day of the wedding of Canna, where Jesus and his mom are in attendance… which already tells us something, Mary and Jesus are the type of people you want to have at a party. And this party is going quite well until day three and then a social mishap occurs: there is no more wine.

And this might not mean much to us because three days of partying seems a bit much to us (even ACL ends after three days) and by the third day we would be ready for people to head on home… but this was a different world. Weddings lasted several days and in a culture based on honor and shame, running out of wine is most embarrassing to the family. It’s shameful. It’s a disgrace. It’s a public shaming. This is the type of thing that would be talked about around the village well for weeks, “Did you hear the James family ran out of wine at the wedding? The carpentry work must not pay what it once did.”

And Mary notices because that is the type of person she is, someone who notices what is going on around here and she sees a need and then the dots connect. This is the moment for Jesus. And maybe it’s the moment for her as well, I mean it’s been 30 years since she went through that pregnancy scandal and she is ready for the world to know. But I think even more than that, she is ready for the world to meet Jesus.

This is the great moment. You see for 30 years she has watched her boy, or is it God’s boy, or is it both as children always are… For thirty years she has looked into his eyes and seen his compassion, she knows his strength, she understands how much he cares for those on the margins, she has heard him speak words of wisdom and she has heard him tell the most amazing and imaginative stories that have kept her up at night pondering the world anew.  She has experienced the Incarnation. And she is now ready for the world to experience and know her son, God’s son. It is time.

And Jesus notices the wine runs out as well, it’s one of the things he learned from his mother, to notice. And Jesus is struggling… Jesus knows his calling, but Jesus also knows that the moment his ministry begins, an hourglass in the Kingdom of God is turned over and the sands begin to fall and time begins to run out.

Mary wanders over to her son, “You know they have run out of wine?”

And Jesus responds, in a tone that might be a little more like a teenager than we would like, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?”

And I think we miss a line here, I see Mary as a strong Jewish mother, turning to Jesus and responding with her hands and words: “Everything. This has everything to do with you.”

And I think as she said it she gestured to the entire wedding scene, the crowd of people in need, in need of wine they did not even know they needed. “Everything, this has everything to do with you.”

And then she turns and calls over one of the servants, “Do whatever he says.” And she wanders off.

And Jesus tells the servant, take those stone pitchers and fill them with water. They do so and somewhere along the journey that water becomes wine, and not just any wine- fine wine like a well aged cabernet from the Parsonage Vineyard, simply known as the Tanner… good wine like that. The head waiter is amazed. “No one saves the best wine for last, but you have finally served the good stuff, the best has arrived.” If only he knew how true that line really was.

Jesus has now publicly embraced his calling and Mary has proven more than faithful to her calling. She birthed Jesus and she has now birthed his ministry. You see sometimes all you need is a Mary.

Sometimes all you need is someone to call out your true essence, to remind you exactly who God has created you to be, to call out that which is truer than true inside you. Someone to remind you that the world needs you and the world needs you right now.

When I was young I went back and forth if I wanted to be a preacher or a cardiologist, someone once told me that was sweet that I wanted to be in the fixing heart business. I did not have the heart to tell them it was more about my personal story and that with heart problems and a family three generations deep in church, these were the two professions I knew best. My cardiology dreams ended one day when I shadowed a real life cardiologist and barely made it through one surgery. The blood, the gore… it was all too much. That was enough.

And then one summer I came back from youth camp and I told my mom that I was ready to walk the aisle and surrender my life to full time Christian ministry (it’s a thing we used to do before we realized that there was no one calling more important than any other calling). And she wisely told me that I was going to do no such thing, that I was too young to make that sort of decision and to just wait.

It was wise of her. She however began to stew and worry that maybe she had stopped something that was really supposed to happen.

A few years later I went on a mission trip to Mexico and there it was confirmed for me that I really was called to ministry. There I really received some sort of mystical call that told me I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing this, but I was not so certain that I wanted to make that decision then. All of a sudden it seemed too big.

However when I got off the bus and my mom started asking me all the questions about my trip, she suddenly looked over at me and said, “You are about ready aren’t you? Just make me a promise, will you let me stand beside you as you tell the church what God is doing in your life?”

Sometimes all you need is a Mary.

And I think that is exactly what the church needs this day…

Imagine with me…. Jesus and Mary are sitting and looking out at our world today at this moment and they have read all the headlines from the news this week and even more than that they know us and all that we have experienced this week…. and looking at all of that, the scene might not be that different than our text… a world that needs something but is not exactly sure what, emptiness in need of the abundance…  the need for our Jesus.

I see Mary tapping her hand… “Why aren’t they listening? Who is going to speak? Who is going to remind them who they are? Who is finally going to step up?”

You see it’s still true: sometimes all we need is Mary.

I can hear her in my mind: “When are they going to stop being so grabby and hoarding, so selfish? When are they instead going to learn that it’s about sharing and giving… when are they going to learn that generosity is the only way to live?” (She would give quite a good stewardship sermon I think)

I can hear her in my mind thinking through our refugee crisis and our homeless epidemic, looking over at Jesus: “You know when I was a stranger and Joseph and I were in an unknown land and when we had no place to lay our head, at least they let me in and they give me a safer spot than a lot of the Syrian refugees are getting today or those sleeping outside First Austin. When are they going to learn to stand up for women and men like me? When will they grasp hospitality and shelter for all?

I can see her paying attention to how selfish we are in terms of keeping Christ to ourselves, mainly I hear her muttering about how we need to be more vocal about Christ and the way of Christ and live the Gospel more boldly and with more passion.

I can hear here sighing as she looks down and sees some of the long battles that should have been complete by now, sighing as she reads the signs I can’t believe I am still protesting racism or sexism… she might even be muttering our words, “all people, all people, all people.”

I can see her perplexed look as she watches us trying to control everything and to make it all safe, I see her looking over at her Jesus, her son who she watched as he was crucified and I hear her… “It’s really not about safety and security and control… it’s huge risks and big love, that’s what matters.”

You see all you need is a Mary.

I think if we lean close to this text we can hear the voice of Mary calling to each one of us and I don’t think her words have changed: “Do whatever he tells you.” That is exactly what the world needs, the church, us, doing whatever Jesus tells us.

There is a calling. God used Mary’s voice once before to call forth Jesus’ ministry and God is still using her voice, to call us human beings to do God’s work.

It’s those words of Archbishop Desmund Tutu again “Without us, God won’t. Without God, we can’t.” Because that is how much each of us matters to God, God is relying on us to bring about the Kingdom of God. Which means God is counting on us to listen to the voice of Mary, for each of us to allow Mary to continue to birth the ministry of Jesus Christ in us.

Today may we listen to the voice of our mother: “Do whatever he tells you.” And may we do whatever it is he tells us to do.

Amen and Amen.

*Art: Water Into Wine/The Wedding Feast, by Grace Carol Bomer, 


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