St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Epiphany II 2016 Sermon
Corby Varness

A young Nun was out visiting parishioners when she ran out of gas … Luckily, there was a gas station just one block away. She walked to the station to borrow a gas can with just enough gas to start the car and drive to the station for a fill up.  The attendant told her that the only gas can he owned had just been loaned out. Since the nun was on her way to see a patient she decided not to wait and walked back to her car.
After looking through her car for something to carry to the station to fill with gas, she spotted a bedpan she was taking to the patient.  Always resourceful, she carried it to the station, filled it with gasoline, and carefully carried it back to her car. As she was pouring the gas into the tank of her car, two men watched her from across the street.
One of them turned to the other and said: "I know that it is said that Jesus turned water into wine, but if that car starts, I'll become a Catholic for the rest of my life!"
The wedding has been going on for days and when the hosts run out of wine, Mary walks across the room to where Jesus is partying with his new disciples.  “Son, they have run out of wine.”  Now, Jesus is in his late twenties and doesn’t like having Mom embarrassing him in front of his friends.  He sounds a bit sassy when he answers, “Woman, why do we care about that?”  But he backs down a bit when he whispers in her ear, “My hour has not yet come.”
Here’s my favorite part of the story: Mary doesn’t seem too pleased that her son isn’t doing her bidding.  I can SO relate to this moment, having had to recently remind my nineteen year old son that he still has do whatever Mama tells him.
Mary doesn’t argue with her son.  She ignores him.  She turns to the servants and commands, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Then I’m pretty sure she turns back to her son and gives him that universal mom look … which says quite eloquently, “You do what I tell you and you do it NOW”.  Well, I’ll be darned.   With no further argument, Jesus orders the servants to fill a bunch of big jars with water.  The servants do his bidding, filling them up to the brim.  Jesus works the miracle of turning a whole lot of water into a whole lot of wine, very fine wine.
This story is about the first miracle Jesus performs in his ministry.  Let’s give him a break; I think his hesitance to help is partly because he doesn’t want people to think that he is some kind of common magician doing a party trick.  The wine steward is impressed with the quality of the wine and doesn’t know where it came from.  It’s worth noting that the only people who really know what’s going on are Jesus, Mary, the disciples and the lowly servants.   Jesus as God works his miracle through the actions of the servants.
Look at what happens in this story.  Mary sees a need.  Mary discerns this ability, this gift in her son.  Mary pushes him into action.  Jesus doesn’t act on his extraordinary gift without the prompting of his mom.
I don’t think that any of us has the talent to make wine out of water… and if you do, please let me know.  Our talents and our abilities are truly gifts from God.  Sometimes we need others to help us discern our gifts.  But we also need to call forth the gifts of others as Mary did in today’s gospel.  Gordon Cosby writes: “The primary task and primary mission of the Christian is to call forth the gifts of others.”
In our second reading, Paul writes to the deeply divisive church in Corinth about spiritual gifts because some people are lording it over others, thinking they have the more important gift.  From the Living Bible we read Paul’s words:
“And now, brothers, I want to write about the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives to each of you, for I don’t want any misunderstanding about them.
Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all.  The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.
(Paul goes on to explain some of the gifts the Spirit gives):
To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. He gives special faith to another, and to someone else the power to heal the sick.  He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God’s messages—or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying.”
This scripture is very important in churches like ours.  We believe that we have all the gifts we need to ‘do’ church.  We’ve done a lot of work as a Total Common Ministry church discerning our gifts.  By the way, our way of doing church is also known as mutual ministry, baptismal ministry or local shared ministry.  But acknowledging and using our various gifts is what makes our church special. 
I like the idea that the Holy Spirit activates our gifts when we are inspired to use them for the common good.   If you’re wondering about your own gifts, just think about this quote by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  I’m happy to preach, happy to work on our hymns, happy to use my gifts in our church. 
Mary appreciated her son’s talents and called him to use those talents.  My favorite theologian, Mr. Rogers said: “I believe that appreciation is a holy thing… that when we look for what’s best in a person, we’re doing what God does all the time.  So in loving and appreciating our neighbor we’re participating in something special.”
We can all do this work of helping others discern their gifts through our appreciation of them.  I love this, this idea that we can help others find their gifts. 
God works miracles through the actions of his servants.  Let us be his servants, stepping out of the church, using our gifts to meet the hunger of the world.