Rev. George Miller
Jan 17, 2016
Wednesday I went to Publix to do my weekly grocery shopping. I’m a faithful fan of the South location who is adjusting to having to shop in the North location.
Right away, I noticed that the parking lot was virtually full. “How cool,” I thought- it’s like the entire community is here together, united as one.
The difficulty of having just one Publix became readily apparent when there was a traffic jam in the potato chip aisle.
I breathed a sigh of relief when entering the coffee aisle and was the only customer there.
Didn’t even bother with the seafood counter.
Began to lose my sense of “How cool-ness” when I saw how long the check-out line was; but impressed with how quickly they called more cashiers forward to open.
Having adjusted to the benefits of small-town living, the congested Publix was a reminder of what life is like in a bigger city.
Thankful to be done with my weekly shopping, I walked out to my car and had an epiphany-
What I had just experienced is what milennials have humbly termed “white people problems.”
I realize that term could possibly offend some, so I’ll rephrase it this way: my shopping experience in which the worst thing I had to endure was traffic in the snack aisle and a ten minute wait to be rung up amounted to “1st World Problems.”
For $5.40 I bought chicken tenderloins. I didn’t have to raise, feed, kill, pluck, or quarter the chicken.
Nor did I have to grow, fertilize, pick, or squeeze the oranges that made up my Tropicana Juice, which was $2.99 with coupon.
It was all done for me, and I didn’t have to see the work, the sweat, the back-break that went into the production of any of my food selections.
See- when things are done right, you don’t realize the work that has been done.
When all you encounter is the finished product, there is no way of knowing the many people, the many hours, something can take.
Case in point- Friday’s Spaghetti Supper.
We had a great time. We served hundreds of people. We ate delicious spaghetti sauce and pies to our stomachs’ content.
But not many people realize the months of preparation that went into it. The original planning that our organizers put in. The list making, budgeting, buying, stocking, worrying, and dreaming.
Tables and chairs did not emerge overnight. People came in Wednesday and spent hours carrying, lifting, opening, unfolding.
Sauces stirred, seasoned, simmered. Pies constructed, baked, cooled, sliced.
Tickets sold by passionate individuals who hustled to get the word out to the community that our annual event was here and there was no better place to be that Friday night.
If all one did was come to Emmanuel UCC on Friday, they would’ve seen a smooth moving operation that appeared effortless.
That’s because all those who made the Spaghetti Supper possible believed in what they were doing, they were working together, folk of the community gathered, and best of all: Christ was present.
Can we get an “Amen”? Amen, indeed.
When people believe in what they are doing, when they work together, when the community gathers, and Christ is there, miraculous, majestic, wonderful things can and do happen.
Think about tomorrow’s national holiday to acknowledge the life, ministry and dreams of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Here was a man who did not have the luxury of white-people problems.
He could not play football with his friends because he was black. He could not go to certain parks, pools, hotels, and schools where he lived.
When things became too much too bear, he used his pastoral role to speak up and to say “There comes a time when people get tired of being kicked about.”
Tomorrow we acknowledge Rev. King’s birthday, but in many ways we are also acknowledging the Civil Rights Movement, an experience in which people from all backgrounds, economics, skin color, and denominations did the work that makes today’s world possible.
Without giving a long drawn-out history lesson, Rev. King, through his faith rooted in Jesus Christ and the stories of liberation found in the Bible, inspired folk to march, speak up, boycott, pray, and peacefully act.
People were also arrested, threatened, bombed, and killed.
Why? Why would do they do that?
So one day our children could go to the same school together. So our children could play on the same playground together and drink from the same water fountain.
Why would they do all that work; all the behind the scenes blood-sweat-and-tears?
So folk could marry who they love regardless of their skin. So we can worship together.
Be born in the same hospital; die in the same hospital.
So we can do something so simple as share a spaghetti supper in which no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome.
No matter if you identify as black, Latina, Asian, mixed, Scandinavian, republican, democrat, gay, straight, buckeye, Yankee, gator, or Viking.
…So that one day an openly gay pastor from the north can move to small southern town and safely do the Wine Walk with friends named Tonya, Travis, Dominic, Tony and Monica, and not worry about being arrested, condemned, or lynched...
See- that is the reality of the work and ministry Dr. King and all the others did which makes what we do possible.
And it may look easy, it may seem effortless, but it’s not.
I wonder if we here at Emmanuel UCC have forgotten to remember that what we are doing here in Highlands County is amazing.
What we are able to do, and are doing is wonderful, that what we are doing is miraculous, because no one else is able to do what we do the way we do it.
And thanks to all of you, our leaders, our volunteers, our members and regular visitors- ya’ll make it seem so effortless.
That’s what we see in today’s reading. How the work to make the Kingdom of God known is actually the work of many, and most of it is not seen.
At first sight, today’s story seems so simple. Jesus is at a wedding, the wine runs out, water is turned into wine, and viola!- the party continues.
What we fail to notice is the work of the many it took to make it possible.
Because it’s just not the work of one man.
First there is the mother of Jesus who states that there is a need, and directs the staff to do what is instructed.
Then there is the simply stated direction from Jesus to fill the six stone jars with water.
But what it entails is a bunch of people working behind the scenes.
Since they are not living in an age of indoor plumbing, running water, or prepackaged bottles of Evian, the servants must go to a well.
They must patiently let down and pull up bucket after bucket after bucket of water until they have about 160 gallons worth.
Then they must pour bucket after bucket after bucket into each stone jar until it is filled, not half way, not almost all the way, but to the brim.
Then it requires the majestic, miraculous, wonderful miracle to take place.
Then for the new wine to be ladled out, brought to the steward to be taste-tested and proclaimed worthy for consumption.
And, if you pay attention to the telling of the story, there is never, ever, any indication that anyone at the wedding saw what was being done.
There is no indication that the attendees were even aware that the wine had run out or that there was an issue.
There is no indication that the bride or her family or friends or wedding guests were aware that it took the work of Jesus, his mother, the workers or the steward to do what needed to be done to ensure that all could have a good time and bask in the benefits of Heaven breaking in.
Think of all the work that was done behind the scenes of this story so that everyone could enjoy the sweet, sweet fruits of the Spirit, in which Jesus was present, work was being done in tandem so the community could continue celebrating.
Men, women, old, young, members, visitors, and friends of Emmanuel UCC, know this- we are not living in a vacuum.
We are not worshipping in a vacuum.
We are not church in a vacuum.
But together, we are united, working, striving, believing, sweating, dreaming, fellowshipping, enjoying, and unleashing cats from the chancel together.
Like those at the wedding party, we are a community gathered, and best of all, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is present.
And whenever that happens, something new, something grand, something miraculous, wonderful and majestic can and does happen.
Therefore, let us continue to do what we do, and let us continue to not live in worry about running out.
Let us embrace the promise and possibility of abundance that takes place when Jesus is welcome and in our midst.
It may have taken one man to point us to the gifts of God’s kingdom, but it takes all of us to make those gifts known to everyone we encounter.
For that, let us say “Amen!” and “amen.”