Second Sunday after Epiphany; Human Relations Sunday
Preacher: Rev. Dr. Kristin Stoneking
Scripture: John 2:1-11
Message: From Moment to Movement
I’m grateful to be back among you, even if I am here alone in the sanctuary and with you via our online worship for the time being. Time spent in restoration and reflection, especially as a new year opens is always welcome. I want to thank my colleagues Rev. Dr. Dale Weatherspoon at Easter Hill where Epworth worshipped virtually on January 2 and Rev. Dr. Jan Everhart, who preached from Epworth’s virtual pulpit last week for offering messages in my absence. Thanks to both of these pastors for their wisdom and care and good words as we enter yet another time of connecting and worshipping as a full and broadly dispersed congregation via the internet.
Last week’s sermon from Dr. Everhart was on the baptism of Jesus, the second feast of what is known as the Three Feasts of Light. The first feast of light is Epiphany, in which the sages of the East acknowledge the remarkable nature of this newborn baby who was the incarnate God; then comes the baptism of Jesus as we hear God say to Jesus and to all of us, this is my beloved with whom I am well pleased, and the third feast of light is the wedding at Cana of Galilee which is our scripture for today, at which Jesus performs his first miracle, turning water into wine. These feasts were celebrated by the early church as a tridiuum, three holy days, and they illuminate who God is—both fully human and fully divine, who God loves--everyone, and what God hopes.
It is this third feast, which offers to us a vision of what God hopes that we encounter in our scripture today. What does God hope? Have you been thinking about that lately? As we begin a fresh new year, what is God’s will for us? We are coming to the precipice of a third year of this pandemic and as we become more aware of the mental and physical toll of this scourge, we have to keep asking what our God--who even in the face of tragedy and loss can bring about good—what do you hope God, and how can we be part of that?
As the scripture opens, we find Jesus’s mother, as well as Jesus and his disciples, at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. And a tragedy has happened. The hosts have run out of wine! So, Jesus’ mother, who interestingly is not referred to as Mary here, let’s Jesus know the wine has run out. At that moment, Jesus responds in a way that seems somewhat flippant, saying, “Woman, what is that to me? My hour has not yet come.” From Jesus’ words, we get the impression that he’s not taking on this particular issue. He’s there as a guest, and wine or no wine, he’s going to continue enjoying himself.
But then he asks the servers to fill six stone water jars to the brim, which is done. Then he asks the chief steward to draw some out. And it’s not water, but wine. And delicious wine at that. The wedding is saved!
Turning water into wine is considered the first of Jesus’ miracles. And not just because Jesus provides the wedding party with really good wine. In this moment we see Jesus expand from an individual with a small group of followers to a divine presence with a communal mission. You see, this good wine is not just an example of Jesus’ good taste and generosity or even his power to bring about miraculous events. The wine is a symbol of Jesus’ blood, and in this miracle we are introduced to the life-giving gift he has for all people. The nature of his mission is confirmed as being more than individual, but also communal. In this act, we see that it is not just the wedding that is saved, but all of us.
I wonder what his very new disciples thought at that point. They had consented to follow him, they had a sense that something important, something liberative, was happening around him. But I doubt they understood the transformative nature of his invitation.
In 2015 I was in St. Louis at the first conference of the Truth Telling Project. We were gathered in the multipurpose room of Cardinal Ritter High School. The conference was organized by an alum of Cardinal Ritter, which itself is an extraordinary school—founded in 1979 by the archdiocese of St. Louis to be a college preparatory school for students who, in the words of Nina Simone, were “Young, gifted and Black.”
Just seven months before, 18 year old Michael Brown had been killed by police officer, another tragedy of an unarmed Black person dying at the hands of police. The sustained protest response in Ferguson, Missouri was giving people hope that this might be a moment for some real change. Persons who had not been particularly politically active before began to organize, and such was the case for the founder of the Truth Telling Project and organizer of the conference. He brought people together from across the country by creating a series of panels and talks—I think most of the couple of hundred people there were given some kind of role.
One of the keynote speakers was Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette. Lafayette, who was 75 at that time was an early civil rights activist-- a member of the Nashville Student Movement who along with John Lewis and Diane Nash led sit-ins and assisted in the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also known as SNCC. When the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Congress of Racial Equality along with SNCC organized the Freedom Rides in which mixed racial groups rode interstate buses to test the Supreme Court ruling that prohibited segregation on buses that crossed state lines and challenge local Jim Crow Laws, Lafayette and others took over the organization and the riding when earlier groups were arrested and violently attacked.
When Lafayette took the stage, there was a palpable energy, a moment perhaps not unlike the moment when Jesus stood in the River Jordan with John. We needed to hear what this man who had been a disciple of Martin Luther King and a close comrade of John Lewis had to say. Many were saying that the nascent Black Lives Matter movement wouldn’t last. People would lose interest and energy. Structural change was too hard to achieve because it requires sustained commitment, organizing and the willingness not to just change institutions, but to change one’s self. Then Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette spoke and said, “This isn’t just a moment. This is a movement.”
In the seven years since that day, his words have been borne out. The Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow, and to convert individuals and communities to a new way of understanding and a new commitment for racial justice and equality. The mission of the movement is both individual and communal in nature, just like the mission of Jesus Christ.
Today is Human Relations Sunday. It’s the Sunday in the United Methodist Church, celebrated each year during Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, that we lift up the missional nature of the church to be a force for transformation and healing in the world, particularly in the face of racial injustice. We take a special offering to help bridge the gap between where we are as a community, with our challenges in poverty, the need for racial justice, and disparities in health care--between those things and what God hopes.
Jesus asks us to go beyond this moment, what is in the news today, what is convenient or not too taxing to take on, and invites us into a movement. It’s significant that his first miracle was at a wedding. Now it’s true that wedding imagery is used throughout the Christian scriptures to symbolize the covenant between Christ and us, God and us. But if you’ve ever been a part of putting on a wedding, you know that weddings don’t just happen. They take organization. They take hours of planning, preparation, some false starts, and some breakthroughs. They take invitations, generosity. They take the willingness of individuals to be vulnerable with each other, and to make vows based on faith and love and hope. And weddings create a new community.
And we now as the body of Christ on earth are invited into a movement where we continue to do that kind of sustained organizing. I believe that God has been calling Epworth to keep growing in our understanding and actions, our demonstrating and our demanding, our willingness to accept that our mission, and the church’s mission, like Jesus’ mission, is both individual and communal. What that means is that we have to continue to do our own work, to examine the ways in which we stand in the way of beloved community. And it means we need to keep organizing. Even if we don’t know who will come, where it will lead, even if it is just a sustained group of three, this is what creates movements and movements lead to miracles. Amen.
Order of Worship
The Community Gathers...
Prelude - Rev. Jerry Asheim Welcome - Rev. Kristin Stoneking
Opening Hymn: "All Creatures of Our God and King" UM Hymnal #62 - Margot Hanson
Opening Prayer - Akesa Fakava To Hear the Word...
Scripture Reading: John 2:1-11 - La Merle Milsom Children's Message - Susan Jardin Anthem: "My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord" arr. Florence Price - Charles Lynch Message: "From Moment to Movement" - Rev. Dr. Kristin Stoneking To Respond and Renew Commitment... *Musical Mediation: "My Lord What a Morning" - UM Hymnal #719 - Albert Sammons, Jr. Prayers of the People - Anjuli Arreola-Burl The Prayer Jesus Taught (The Lord's Prayer) - Mary Norwood Our Creator (Father/Mother), who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom (kin-dom) come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom (kin-dom), and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. Offering Our Resources and our Energy Give online at www.epworthberkeley.org/donate or, send a text message with the dollar amount you wish to give to +1-833-276-7680. Offertory: "Resignation (Song of America)" by Florence Price - Rev. Jerry Asheim, Albert Sammons, Jr., Cathryn Bruno
Prayer of Dedication - Akesa Fakava To Go Forth with Love and Compassion *Closing Hymn: “Lift Every Voice and Sing” UM Hymnal #519 - Chris Poston Sending Forth - Rev. Dr. Kristin Stoneking Postlude: "We Shall Overcome" - Rev. Jerry Asheim ***Special Thanks To: Preacher: Rev. Kristin Stoneking
Worship Leaders: Rev. Jerry Asheim, Anjuli Arreola-Burl, Cathryn Bruno, Akesa Fakava, Margot Hanson, Susan Jardin, Judy Kriege, LeMerle Milsom, Mary Norwood, Chris Poston, Albert Sammons Jr.
Video producer: Tai Jokela Podcast producer: Ethan Toven-Lindsey
Director of Communiations: Merrie Bunt Credits: Liturgy by enfleshed. Hymns reprinted/streamed with permission under ONE LICENSE # A-733809, CCLI Copyright license # 20022935, & CCLI Streaming license # 20476749. All rights reserved.