January 16, 2022
Isaiah 62:1-5 Psalm 36:5-10 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 John 2:1-11
You’ve heard it said, “Behind every successful man is a good woman.” The saying is a bit outdated – because it is too limited. A more accurate statement might be, “behind every successful person is the love of another.” Good relationships – relationships built on love, are a key to helping us succeed. This is not to say that if we love someone enough, that person will be successful – or healed, for that matter. It is simply to say that the love and support of others helps bring out the best in us.
In today’s gospel, it is Mary who brings out the best in Jesus. In Friday’s devotion from Forward Day by Day, the author says of Mary, “She believed in him, believed he could help meet a need. . . . We all have someone who believes in us so much that we are moved to please them or show them how incredible we are.” I would like to say this is always true, but I’m afraid it is not true for everyone. In order for this to be true for us, we must accept the love of others.
God knows what we are capable of and believes in us. Yet for some of us, our experiences in life have hardened our hearts – as it sometimes says in the scriptures, and we do not accept God’s love even though it is freely offered.
Unfortunately, I believe the church is often at fault for people rejecting God’s love. I dare say you are here because you have a felt God’s grace and you find the theology this church teaches to be comforting. There are many churches; however, that teach God is jealous and vengeful. God is to be feared, and if we do not accept and worship Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will spend eternity in hell.
Episcopalians, as a whole, tend to view evangelism to be the example we set for others. The word evangelism brings to our minds TV Evangelists who spout fire and brimstone theology or preach the prosperity gospel. And like evangelism, the word testimony may bring to mind people who are trying to save our souls. They tell us when they accepted Jesus and were saved, and that we, too, must accept Jesus in order to be saved.
Evangelism, like people’s understanding of Christianity, has been tarnished by such depictions of our faith. It is driving many away from the church. Now, more than ever, I believe people need to hear our testimonies of faith – testimonies not of being saved, but of finding a new way of life. The word evangelism means to share the good news – and people need to know that they are loved and accepted by God. They need to know that Jesus teaches us to live and love and support one another – notto judge others.
In our Education for Ministry Group we just completed reading the book titled, The Dream of God by Verna J. Dozier. Simply stated, God’s Dream for humanity is for us to live in a friendly world. How the author leads us to understand God’s dream is well worth the read for everyone. It challenges churches to be more focused on its mission – on living the way of Jesus. Dozier, now deceased, was a leading African American female lay theologian who in addition to writing several books and leading retreats, was an adjunct professor at Virginia Theological Seminary, an Episcopal Seminary.
Her vision of God’s Dream reminds me of Martin Luther King, Junior’s vision. King’s vision spoke to being judged by our character and not by the color of our skin. Dozier’s vision speaks of a world in which we seek to serve one another, to love one another as Christ loves us. Such love needs to be shared – and it needs to be spoken.
Mary encourages Jesus to help others, and I have no doubt in my mind that she thanked Jesus for helping the newly married couple avoid the shame and embarrassment of running out of wine on such a significant occasion. Our words are important and silence can be damning. I learned many years ago that if I sit silent when someone tells me what they believe, they assume I agree. Sometimes people say things to bait us into entering into an argument – but often it is to have their thoughts and beliefs affirmed. Telling them that we believe in a God of love and acceptance rather than judgment and condemnation is a message that needs to be heard. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Just as King challenged the status quo of racism, we need to challenge the status quo of a Christianity that promotes judgment and self-righteousness. The way of Christ is the way of love which fights injustice with love. As King said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
God’s dream for us is to work together and be friends. This is the message that we need to share! It is not enough to simply be friendly; people long to hear they are loved – by us and by God. The church will be successful when people hear this message from us. It is up to us to reach out to those who are lonely, to those who feel rejected, and to help them hear and accept the love of God.
Let us pray.
Loving God, we give thanks for teaching us through your Son, that the way of love is the way of life. Help us, we pray, as our nation is divided to remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let your light of love shine through us that others might be drawn to you and help fulfill your dream of a friendly world. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.