Monday, January 21, 2013

Ordinary to Extraordinary

John 2: 1-11

Michael was a somewhat ordinary child. Born in 1929, middle child, smart and intuitive.  The decks were stacked against Michael and his family.  Living in the segregated south there was very little opportunity and hope for a young black man.  He was taught by society that he was worthless, dirty, ignorant, unworthy to even shop in the same stores or use the same entrances as his white peers.  By southern society’s standards he should have never been anything but ordinary.  His parents saw something special in him though.  His mother taught him to play the piano and read.  His father and grandfather stressed the importance of a strong faith in Jesus Christ.  They ensured he had the chance to become something greater than his circumstances.
Our scripture lesson today seems on the surface to be a rather trivial event.  Why would Jesus use such an ordinary event to be his first example of the many miracles to come?  Water into wine- really?  It honestly seems a little silly to me. 
Sure, it would have been a small crisis to the wedding couple and their family.  It would have stopped the event in its tracks.  But, it is not the end of the world.  It is not a life or death situation.  What is a little embarrassment and discomfort when Jesus came to save the world!
This scripture is very telling though in a lot of ways.  It tells us that Christ can use even the most ordinary thing like water and make it extraordinary.  It doesn’t have to be a life changing, earth shattering, or special crisis for God to get involved.  Christ is there- in all things.  Yes, he will do plenty of healing the sick, raising the dead and feeding thousands but life doesn’t have to be somber and serious all the time.  Jesus wants our lives to be filled with joy and we are reassured here that we can find that Joy in Christ- not just in the big things in life but in the small.
Sometimes it is hard to see God at work in this world.  We don’t even realize when miracles are being done in our own lives.  This scripture tells us that the “important people” at the wedding never knew what Jesus had done- only the servants and the disciples.  Sometimes we don’t even realize it until years later how much Jesus was there.
We have each faced crisis in our lives to some degree or another- maybe it was something trivial like locking your keys in your car and being late for an important meeting. Or, maybe it was something more life changing like losing a loved one or fighting a battle with cancer or standing up for what is right- even when you know it is not popular.  Know, in each of these times of Crisis- Christ is there.  It may not seem obvious when you are in the midst of fear and uncertainty but he is there.  God can turn your tragedy into a triumph if we will simply let him and have faith that you are part of the miracle. 
God had a plan for Michael, one he realized at a young age.  By 18 he realized he was called to do something special.  He was smart, his parents made sure he was well educated; he had a passion for equality and a love for Christ.  He went to college, studied theology, read the Bible, learned from Mahatma Gandhi, even got his doctorate, and by 25 was leading the first of many bus boycotts in Alabama.  His future of standing up for what was important and his drive for equality for all people was shaped by his strong faith in a God that was accessible to all people – black and white, rich and poor…  so much so that at age 5 he and his father both changed their names to Martin Luther; after the great protestant leader who also, desired a God that was accessible to all people. 
Martin Luther King Jr. never saw his 40th birthday.   But God took this ordinary child and made him into something extraordinary.  I am sure there were times in his life when he did not feel that Christ was with him, when he felt alone in a crisis.  Times when he faced so much hate and resistance that it seemed God had turned his back on him. But he was confident in the love of Christ- found joy in that relationship and knew always that even though he was not a perfect man, he was a Christian- saved by grace.
Nearly 50 years after his death, it is easier to see the hand of God in the life of Martin Luther King Jr.  Hind sight is always 20/20 right.  Even in the darkest days of segregation, we can see the miracles taking shape, the lives changed for the better, a nation changed for the better.  We haven’t yet succeeded in reaching the lofty vision of true equality in this country but we are getting closer.  White standards are still the norm.  Poverty is still overwhelmingly a minority issue. Unemployment rates are almost double that for African Americans as they are for whites- it is getting better though.  There is joy in the miracles that have already taken place and anticipation of a better life to come for all people.
In a couple of weeks we will also commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation- one of the first steps of many which lead to the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. and to the world we live in today. 
After watching the movie Lincoln last week, I was reminded how ugly but vitally important that time in our history was.  Over 600,000 people died in the Civil War and as dark of a time as it was- Christ was there; working his miracles in a nation so very divided and in the hearts of people- giving them the courage to stand up for what was important. 
Yes, hind sight is 20/20 and only time will tell of the miracles being made in our time.  We have tragedy and crisis all around- Sandy Hook, Afghanistan, Columbine, hunger, cancer, AIDS, immigration, obesity- the list could go on and on.
Maybe you have experienced tragedy in your life. Maybe you survived an abusive relationship, maybe you are battling illness or won your fight with cancer, maybe you’re the product of divorce- whatever the tragedy is in your life or the inequalities and oppression you see around you- don’t let it fall on deaf ears.  Let God use you to bring passion and awareness to a cause that is worth fight for.  Give it to God and let God transform it into a triumph.
The battle between good and evil, freedom and oppression, rich and poor, right and wrong will go on until the end of time, when Jesus comes again.  But we as Christians realize that our life has already been paid for- The example of Christ’s life, death and resurrection gives us the freedom and courage to stand up for what is right in this world. We are able to find joy in knowing that even a hard life, lived for Christ is worth the fear, heartbreak and sadness in this world when we know we are doing God’s work.
Few people are called to be martyred like President Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. And it doesn’t have to be a big political issue for Christ to show up.  Like the wedding story, it can be “everyday” miracles- the joy brought to a life saved by the mosquito net our youth purchased during VBS, he joy of a family fed by the donation of items to the food bank, the joy of a heart touched by a sincere word of kindness spoken to a stranger or an embrace of unconditional love given to a child. 
God uses us, plain, ordinary, people, transforms us through baptism with ordinary water into the sweetest most extraordinary wine.  As a member of the family of Christ, we are called to be courageous.  We are given a sense of right and wrong, a loving heart, and compassion for others and through us Christ makes miracles happen. 
We may not be able to see God’s plan.  We may not be able to understand why bad things happen. We may not be able to truly know what role God wants us to play in this life but we do know the love of Christ.  We do know we can trust God in all things- large and small to work together for those who love him.  We have confidence in our own salvation and in a life with Christ so wonderful that we can make it through even the darkest days. 
Each week we come into this place of worship to celebrate the tragedy and triumph of the death and resurrection of Christ.  This miracle is relived every moment of every day as we acknowledge the sacrifice Christ made for us- what seemed at the time to be an ordinary man doing extraordinary things has shown us through his death and resurrection that we, ordinary people are worth dying for.  This worship time does not have to be solemn or sad or even serious for that matter it is truly one of celebration- we find comfort, happiness, love and joy- even laughter as we give thanks for the love of Christ in our lives.