When Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana, he signaled that his ministry was about transformation, so we’ve been looking at what transformation and spiritual growth look like in the pages of the Bible. We know it takes time, just like it takes time for a mustard seed to grow into its full potential; and we know that sometimes it takes being knocked to the ground to understand that we aren’t the spiritual giants we might think we are, as Paul found out on the road to Damascus.
In the courage of Ananias, we saw that a sign of spiritual maturity is the ability to love our enemies, but the one thing we haven’t really looked at is what is needed both externally and internally to kick off the actual transformation process. That’s coming up on Sunday—join us!
This Sunday is Laity Sunday, an annual worship service led by people in the congregation. It is an acknowledgement that we are all ministers, all invited to be part of God’s work here on earth. The theme for this year is presence: God’s abiding and constant presence, an intimate presence, a personal presence, a presence that knows your name. These ideas are embodied in the Exodus 33:12-23 scripture, which is part of the lectionary for Sunday. In that story, Moses is asking God to show him what to do, show him all of God’s glory so that Moses can gain strength for the task ahead. And how does God respond? How will God equip Moses for the job? God says, “I will make my goodness pass right in front of you.”
God’s presence, that is what we seek. To know and be known can get us through a lot, through the difficult days ahead, through our questions and fears and uncertainty about the future. To walk in the confidence that we are known by God, that God walks with us as we go, is a reassuring first step. On Sunday, we will be blessed to have Sue DiMarzo give a message based on these ideas in the scripture readings.
I pray that you understand that God knows each of us by name, and in God’s sight we have found favor. Our minds cannot comprehend the vision of God’s glory or the vastness of God’s love, but filled with God’s goodness, we will be equipped for the job ahead. Filled with God’s goodness, the impossible becomes possible. Amen.
Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus is depicted in art and referenced in our culture in many ways. Apart from Jesus, perhaps only Abraham rivals the name recognition of Paul (Saul’s Greek name) when people think of the Bible. And yet to move Paul from his cruel rampage of persecution to the saint who established the church across Asia Minor, Paul had to be knocked to the ground and blinded for three days before he could even recognize that he was in the wrong.
There is another man in this story—a humble follower of Jesus and one of the people Paul was headed to Damascus to arrest. His name was Ananias. It would take Paul over twenty more years to reach the spiritual maturity that Ananias had the day God told him to go find the man who had come to arrest him. Learn about Ananias and what he has to teach us in Sunday’s sermon.
The sanctuary is still covered in butterflies.
For some that’s a sign of an Easter that never was; gathering dust just like our spiritual lives as we claw through these difficult times.
But I see them as the promise of an Easter yet to come; a transformation that’s happening within us now, even though the isolation of our cocoon makes it hard to see.
This next month we’ll focus on that cocooning time of transformation—the struggles, the letting go, and the basics of spiritual growth. The high point will be at our outdoor service on November 1st—the Blessing of the Saints.
At that service we’ll remember the saints of our own lives—the ones who’ve shown us the way to faith, the beautiful butterflies who pushed their way through life’s hardships to model spiritual maturity, compassion, and grace.
That Sunday will also be the culmination of our annual pledge campaign. You’ll get a letter and pledge card in the mail soon and we’ll ask you to send or bring it back on November 1st.
But this year we’re adding a twist.
As we remember the saints on November 1st, we’ll invite you to present your financial pledge to Crawford in honor or memory of someone whose life showed you the fullness of faith. We’ll print your dedications in the Messenger and on the website.
Just as each of us has been transformed by God through the saints in our own lives, so God will transform Crawford through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service.
Here in our cocoon, the wings we never knew we had are taking shape. Soon we will fly. The butterflies in the sanctuary are keeping watch over sacred space until we join them.
Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee is Jesus’ first miracle. He only does it because his mother pushes him, and John’s Gospel is the only place that tells about it. Since some traditions (with biblical support) believe John’s mother was Mary’s sister, it could be that extended family were at the wedding, giving John a unique memory from before he was formally called to be a disciple. But I do wonder what Jesus’ may have done growing up that made Mary so sure he could solve the bridal couple’s wine problem.
But all those questions and more, including the question of whether the account as the Bible tells it is factually true, are beside the point if we want to get to the core truth that the story is trying to tell us. For that, we need to pay attention to the fact that John doesn’t call this a “miracle.” John calls it a “sign.” What did the act of turning water into wine signify? What is John trying to tell us about the purpose of Jesus’ ministry? That’s what we’ll be looking at in Sunday’s sermon. Hope to see you there!
Lots of things in the Bible are confusing or open to many interpretations. But one thing that is crystal clear is the thing that should be crystal clear: What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus himself is asked that question and his answer is simple: Love. Love God and your neighbor as yourself. The man asking tries to make it more complicated: “But who is my neighbor?” Jesus is having none of it and tells an uncomfortable parable about a Samaritan to drive the point home.
Paul also makes us uncomfortable if we can read 1 Corinthians 13 without thinking of weddings or funerals. Paul begins that chapter by telling us if we don’t love, all our religious language and grand sacrifices are like a noisy gong. And then he ends with the surprising statement that when comparing the value of faith, hope, and love that the greatest of the three is love.
According to Paul, love is greater than faith. Let that sink in. It’s another way of saying what Jesus said when answering the question of how to inherit eternal life. The answer wasn’t to profess faith but to practice love. We’ll be looking at both those passages on Sunday: 1 Corinthians 13 and Luke 10: 25-37. Join us live on Zoom or catch up later on YouTube.