Our first scripture reading this morning, which Sue read so beautifully for us, is Paul's letter to the Corinthians. Paul wrote these letters from behind prison walls. Paul was imprisoned by the powers that be of his day. They were trying to silence hi, because he was leading a very popular movement of change and social justice. And so in the letter from behind prison walls, Paul is writing to the early Christians, trying to encourage them. He's saying to them, Look, I may be in prison, but you still all have power, power to effect change.
And he tells them in that letter, as we just heard this morning, some of you have been given gifts by the Spirit to teach, and others of you have been given the gift to heal. Others of you have been given the gift of wisdom, and still others the gift of public speaking. And then he says to them, and there are those of you who have been given the gift to work miracles.
Now, I know there are some Christians today who think that Jesus was the only person ever in history to work miracles. But if you actually read the Bible, it tells us that many of the early Christians worked miracles. Then, of course, in today's Gospel reading, which I just read for you, we hear about Jesus's very first miracle, which he performed at the age of 30, at the wedding feast at Cana.
And of course, tomorrow, we are celebrating the birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, who also wrote a famous letter from his jail cell. King was in many ways, a 20th century miracle worker.
So today, we're going to put our focus on miracles, what they are, and how we can make them happen. Now, many of you know that the word miracle has the root word, mira. Those of you who speak Spanish know mira means “to look.” Miracle workers, people like Jesus and Martin Luther King, were able to look at the world in a different way from most people.
Most people see the impossible. miracle workers see the possible. We know that both Jesus and Martin Luther King had mountaintop experiences. The day before he was assassinated, Dr. King gave a sermon. And in that sermon, he said, “I have been to the mountaintop, I have looked over and and I've seen the promised land.” That promised land was the same vision that Jesus had on the mountaintop. If you remember, Jesus saw the kingdom of heaven, here on Earth. From that higher perspective, both of those miracle workers were able to see a world of peace and love and justice and equality. And it wasn't just some utopian pipe dream. They actually believed it was possible.
Of Jesus, Dr. King said, “Jesus was not some impractical idealist.” He said, “Jesus was a practical realist.” The Promised Land, the kingdom of heaven here on Earth, is a real possibility. But it is going to take a group of miracle workers to make that happen.
Now, I know I share this quote of Jesus's a lot, maybe I share it too much. But I believe it's the key teaching of Jesus. He said, “All of the things that I've done, you can do.” And then he added this, “These things, and greater.” Now I know a lot of Christians today think it's heretical to think that we could do what Jesus did. But you see, I think it's heretical to not believe it. Because if you don't believe it, then you're calling Jesus a liar. Because he said everything he did, you can do, which means we have the power to work miracles. But most of us don't believe that.
You see, even in Jesus's first miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, even he was reluctant. Now Jesus was 30 years old, which was middle aged, for Jesus's time. In Jesus's day, most people were lucky if they lived until the age of 60. The average life expectancy was around 55. So Jesus at the age of 30, is kind of old for starting his ministry. Again, it is a sign for us that it is never too late for us to begin a new ministry, or to work miracles, as we heard there at the wedding.
And Jesus's mother says they ran out of wine. And Jesus says to his mother, what concern is this of us? I can almost hear Jesus thinking to himself, “Really? My very first miracle is going to be turning water into wine at somebody's wedding? Couldn't be something more grand, like healing the world of disease or bringing about world peace?
But Jesus’s first miracle is a very symbolic one. If you were with us last Sunday, we talked about baptism. We were talking about what the water symbolizes, the human in the divine life flow. I explained how the human body is mostly water, how the planet is mostly water, and how water is necessary for life. So water represents the human, the physical. Jesus takes that water, and he transforms it into wine.
Now, if you come to Douglas UCC, every Sunday, you know at that communion table every week, I explain what the wine is. Jesus took wine at the Last Supper, and he told the disciples that it was his blood, meaning it was the life that circulates through his being. It's the life of the Christ, the flow of the Divine.
So Jesus takes water at his very first miracle, and transforms it into wine, symbolizing the human and the divine becoming one. That's why it takes place at a wedding. It's symbolic, because it symbolizes the human union, the wedding of the human and the divine, Jesus was able to wed those two things within himself. That's why he said, “I and the Father are one.” And what he's letting us know is that the same is true for us. That we also can wed the human and the divine together. And when we do, we have the power to work miracles.
Now, if you look up the word miracle in the dictionary, it says “an extraordinary event in which the divine manifests itself in human affairs.” Again, it's that merging of the Divine with the human. And it also says in the dictionary, that the word miracle is derived from the Latin mirari, which means to look at with awe and wonder.
That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein. He said, “There are only two ways of looking at the world. You can look at the world as if nothing is a miracle. Or you can look at the world as if everything is a miracle.”
So that's my question for you this morning, which is the way you look at the world? Do you look at the world as if nothing is a miracle? If you do, you probably look at the world through the eyes of lack and limitation and fear. You know, if you look at all of Jesus's miracles, people always came to him with lack and limitation and fear. They said things like “We don't have enough. We don't have enough wine. We don't have enough fish and bread to feed all these people. Our boat is sinking, help!” Jesus was able to work miracles because you see, Jesus didn't see lack and limitation and fear. He didn't just see with human eyes. He also saw through the eyes of the Divine. So he saw abundance and prosperity and trust.
Again, where most people saw the impossible. He saw the possible, as did Dr. King. You know, I've shared this with you before but it is really the truth. In our lifetimes alone, we have seen so many miracles, we've been witnesses to them in our lifetime. If you think about the history of the human race, in just our short period of life, we have seen incredible miracles. There are people alive today who were alive when women in this country couldn't vote. That just happened in 1920. There are people in this room today who were alive when black people in America had to drink from separate water fountains and had to sit at the back of the bus. And how many of us, when marriage equality became the law of the land, how many of us said, I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime?
Those miracles happened, because people like us saw the possible where most people saw the impossible. And so my friends, that's what I want to encourage you to do this week. I want to encourage you to find alone-time each day to just be with God, to center and still yourself, to get quiet so that you can begin to see things the way God sees them, to see situations in your life, circumstances in the world, people in your life, not just through human eyes, but through God's eyes, to see people and situations the way God sees them. And also, to see yourself the way God sees you.
God loves you so much. So all things are possible in your life. You have been given gifts, gifts to work miracles. In our friendship Hall, there's a plaque up on the wall. And the plaque is in memory of Joe Pearson, the late husband of our church member, Pam Pearson, who helped pay for the renovations to the Friendship Hall several years ago. And on that plaque is a quote that Joe would say to people when he was saying goodbye to them, Joe would say, “Now go and make that miracle happen.” And so I hope that on this beginning of the year 2020 during this time of Epiphany, during this holy day weekend of Dr. King, that we will take Joe's words to heart. Let us go and make that miracle happen. Let us bring about that Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. For all things are possible when we believe.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
by Rev. Vicki Kemper, pastor of First Congregational UCC of Amherst, Massachusetts
The year was 1961, and the Civil Rights movement had reached a crossroads. Boycotts, sit-ins, and arrests had generated some support for desegregation and equal voting rights, but the time had come to take the struggle beyond the South, to build alliances and raise money. And so it was that the movement's 32-year-old leader attended a simple church supper in a small New England college town. That's right: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in my church's basement! What's almost as amazing is that the occasion was nearly lost to our congregation's history. Some church members recalled that Dr. King had come, but no one could remember exactly when, or what he said, or how he was received. Finally one member consulted the decades' worth of datebooks stored in her garage, and there it was: “Monday, April 17, 1961, MLK, First Church dining room.” Now we have a plaque to mark the spot and help us remember the moment. We want everyone who passes through that workaday space—especially the folks who come for a soup-kitchen meal three times a week and the college students who sleep there a few nights each August—to know they are on holy ground and that they, too, can go forth to change the world. Sometimes, when the injustices of the world are weighing heavy, I sneak downstairs and imagine him there. I wonder what he would think of us now, all these years later, as we struggle still—or don't—to eradicate racism from our laws, our institutions, and our hearts. This weekend, we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday. He would have been 92 years old. Take some time to honor the man who brought hope, justice, and freedom to so many, a prophet who challenges us still. Listen to one of his speeches. Stream the movie "Selma." Give thanks, and then get to work.
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