January 16, 2022 – Sara Bates

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+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In John’s gospel, the mother of Jesus is hardly mentioned, just twice in fact and never by her name.  The first time is today’s gospel, the wedding at Cana, his first public sign that he is the Son of God.  The next time she is mentioned, the mother of Jesus is sitting at the foot of the cross as he dies.  Her presence in this gospel is the beginning of his ministry on Earth and the end. It’s almost as if by keeping her nameless, John is revealing the fact that she was simply a mother.  A mother, like any other, knows her child intimately, knows what they are capable of, pushes them to go out into the world, to do those things they are called to do.  A mother that pushes despite the time and place not always being ideal. 

Could anyone else feel the eye roll of Jesus in today’s gospel as we heard him saying “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” How many times have moms heard, “not now Mom!”  Willa my own daughter doesn’t talk yet, and still I have heard her say this with her squeaks and screams, and have seen her say this with her body language.  I hear her saying “Yes, I can walk, but I don’t want to show the doctor, your friend, or do it for the camera right now.”  But I have the camera ready none the less because, I know, I have witnessed her walk and want to share with others how she grows. The mother of Jesus pushes him to begin his ministry on Earth.  To not worry about if the time, location or audience is right.  But to be his full self, fully human and fully divine, and show the world what he is capable of doing.  She will be there to witness, support and comfort from the background, unnamed.

Today’s gospel also highlights others who are usually hidden, working behind the scenes, and are left unnamed.  These are the servants who filled the six stone jars full of water.  The only first-hand witnesses to the miracle.  Only they saw the 120-180 gallons of water filling the jars, and then as they drew a taste for the chief steward it becoming the finest of wines.  I’m sure the word spread of this miracle fast and wide, but only those lowest of servants, likely exhausted from their work actually observed it.  Not even the Chief Steward was aware of where the wine came from, believing it had been provided by the bridegroom’

s family or friends.  There was no big stage, announcement or attention drawn to what Jesus and these servants did.  Yet their actions had great effect on ALL present.

For it would have been obvious to everyone that the family and community either lacked or withheld the resources necessary to traditionally celebrate the union if the wine had run out. A celebration traditionally lasting almost a week, would have been cut short, leading to shame for many gathered.  Instead there was an abundance of the finest wine, enough for everyone to have their fill and likely even for the servants to partake.  This first sign of Jesus, was not just for the benefit of the Bride and Bridegroom, but for ALL present.  ALL were offered more than their share of the abundance.  And this is why John our gospel writer says that Jesus performed a sign, and not a miracle, because it points to something greater than the act itself, something that lies ahead.  The changing of the ordinary into the extraordinary, scarcity into abundance all points to the overflowing supply of life, love and joy the kin-dom of God will bring not just for some but for ALL. 

If you would like just a taste of this sign of life, love and joy, I invite you to come near the end of Edible Hope’s breakfast on Thursday mornings, when Sally Barrios and Darrell Kirk pull up to the curb to unload the weekly delivery of donations from Ballard Market grocery store.  Volunteers and staff, tired from cooking, serving and cleaning up the meal for the day, gather the strength to haul box after box of donations from the cars down the stairs into the dining area.  We then go to work sorting the multitude of items.  What we can and will need to use quickly, what we can freeze or store for future meals, and items that we have no use for and will donate to the Ballard Food Bank, hoping they can offer it to someone else in need.  This delivery is always abundant.  The donated items worth far exceeds our weekly budget and what we could offer on our own.  In fact, we often suffer sticker shock at what comes through our door.  The quality of food we receive is top notch.  It’s not what you would expect to see as being the “leftovers.” That which isn’t already extraordinary, will get there through the hard work of our volunteers.  Taking a little bit of this, and a lot of that to create dishes ready to feed anyone in need of a hot nutritious meal.  But the meals created aren’t just food for the hungry, they are a sign of God’s abundant supply of life, love, and joy for all.  As Darrell Kirk says “You only need to volunteer at Edible Hope for an hour to see how special the program is, not just for guests, but for our whole community.”  We are able to take the “waste” generated by our society and create beautiful meals, form beloved community amongst volunteers, guests, service providers, and neighbors and bring hope in times of despair.  All who enter the doors of Edible Hope are welcomed into God’s abundant love and grace. 

But just like the servants who participated in Jesus’ first sign, sometimes we still get tired.  In what has already felt like a very long winter, and we have many weeks left to go, I am reminded of words from Martin Luther King Jr., from a time in his life when he was tired.  It was the end of January 1956 and King was deep in his work with the Montgomery Improvement Association and the campaign to bring attention to racial segregation in the South.  He had a very strenuous day, had laid down to sleep when the phone rang and an angry voice threatened him.  He couldn’t go back to sleep. King recalled that

        “Finally I went to the kitchen and heated a pot of coffee.  I was ready to give up…

        I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud. ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do                      what’s right. I think I’m right. I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But                         Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now, I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage. Now, I am                   afraid. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and                          losing my courage, they will begin to get weak. The people are looking to me for                             leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I       am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t                        face it alone.’

        It seemed as tough I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: ‘Martin                       Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will                     be with you. Even until the end of the world.’

        I tell you I’ve seen the lightning flash. I’ve heard the thunder roar. I’ve felt sin breakers                        dashing trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on.    He promised never to leave me alone. At that moment I experienced the presence of                         the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. Almost at once my fears began to                       go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”

Part of this quote was on a mug, Canon Britt gifted me from her travels during her sabbatical.  I received it when I too was quite tired.  When I needed a reminder that God is with me.  God is with us all, even when we don’t think it’s possible to keep going.  When you are a nurse in the COVID ward, when you are a waiter at a busy restaurant, when you are an outreach worker with an overloaded caseload and no shelter, supplies or assistance to offer, when you are a person of color just trying to make it in a society that won’t loosen it’s grip on white supremacy.     Perhaps it is time to put on the pot of coffee and pray to Jesus, for the strength to keep going.  For even Jesus did not do his first sign alone, but with the participation of others.

Today Jesus has asked for water to be gathered in abundance and for each of us to be offered a taste of the wine from the stone jars, here at this table.  He is offering us a taste of God’s abundant supply of Life, Love and Joy, a taste of heaven and the feast that is to come.

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