Encouragement the Jesus Way

2022-01-16 – Year C – Epiphany 2 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

Lord Jesus open our minds and hearts to hear you afresh, show us how you long to manifest your glory in our lives. And help us to allow you to change us. And help us to choose you and your ways of mercy, goodness, and peace. In your name we pray. Amen

We are in the season of Epiphany and because of that we in the church can continue to celebrate the birth of our Lord and what it means to the world and our personal lives. The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek work epiphaneia which means “manifestation” or “revelation” and is derived from the verb “to reveal” or “to make manifest.”You can continue to have your Christmas decorations up and your creches out to help you ponder the mysteries of our Lord coming in flesh to the world. In our family our tree is still decorated and will come down soon, however our creche or nativity set will remain up until Candlemas which is February 2. Candelmas is the celebration of Jesus being presented in the Temple and is a great time to take down the last of your Christmas decorations as it rounds off the celebrations of Jesus’ life as a baby or infant.  

Last week we heard about the Baptism of our Lord and how God was continuing to set aside Jesus for His work in the world. The season of Epiphany is the season in which we remember the manifestations of Jesus in the world. What is the definition of manifestations? An event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea. So Jesus is beginning the work of embodying God enfleshed in the world. Jesus is going to reveal more of God to human beings. Jesus was going to make God more accessible to His people. Instead of being a far off distance God who ruled with laws and condemnation, He would become close, more easily understood and seen in the world. He would be seen in the world amongst His people and showing His glory in everyday moments.  

Today we hear of the wedding of Cana and Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are attending this wedding. We do not know the exact details around the wedding however we can guess or assume the bride and groom were somehow closely related to Jesus and His mother. The reason we can assume this is because Mary and Jesus would not have been privy to the provisions of the wedding. Just like it is today when we have a very large party, someone is overseeing the provisions while the host and hostess are caring for those in attendance. A wedding was a very important community event where two families are connecting themselves together in a very public way. They were expected to have enough food and wine to last the duration of the festivities. To run out of provisions would have been very disgraceful and while it seems a bit ridiculous for the Son of God to care if there was enough wine to go around I believe it speaks to the heart of God. Jesus and God the Father care about our everyday life. They care about our concerns, worries, and practical life. Jesus longs to care for you and I in our everyday needs. I am very grateful that God chose to show Jesus’ glory by an everyday matter such as providing enough drink for a celebration of love and life. I don’t know about you but I often forget to ask Jesus about the everyday things I struggle with, and when I do His solutions are always so much better than what I could come up with myself. 

So what are the temporal matters of our life that God desires to be apart in our lives? Anything we do with our bodies matters to God since it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How you feed yourself matters to God. What you eat and how often and what you put in your body either heals you or makes you sick. God longs for us to care for our bodies in such a way as to glorify him. What we watch, read, or listen to matters to God. He can help us choose healthier ways of living and he can give us better ways of taking care of ourselves. God can inspire us through others in choosing things that are good for us. Every time I come to a place of needing help God seems to provide a teacher for me to learn from and to expand my understanding of how I can do things in my life. 

In the Gospel of John today we hear Jesus’ mother telling him to do something about the lack of wine. His response to Mary is translated as “Woman, What does this have to do with me?” The Gospel of John was originally written in Greek and not English. When we try to translate words from one  language to another we are often limited in our English vocabulary. To our western English ears it appears Jesus is being very disrespectful to his mother and speaking down to her. The words used in Greek are showing a shift between Mary and Jesus. Mary was the one who brought forth Jesus into the world. She raised, protected,guided, and loved Jesus. I am not sure if you have ever pushed a baby out into the world or watched someone push a baby out, but it is profoundly difficult. Mary through sacrifice, pain, and the grace of God initiates Jesus being in the world. Mary is now initiating the beginning of Jesus’ public displays of God’s power. Jesus speaks to Mary as if speaking to a disciple. He is not calling her Mama but rather distinguishing her as one who serves alongside him. Jesus and Mary are entering a new phase of their relationship in which Jesus is grown up and Mary is saying it is time to do God’s work in the world. Mary then turns to the servants and tells them to do as He says. 

If we are Christians we are all called to be as Mary to the people in our lives. Mary believed in Jesus perhaps before He even believed in himself. Mary sees the potential in Jesus and empowers Him to do the work that He is called into doing. We as Christians are to look for ways in which we can encourage others to do the work God is calling them to do. We are to try and see the potential in others and to encourage them. In the church you need to be looking for someone younger than yourself to encourage and see the potential in. Do you serve on vestry, food giveaway, altar guild, or the serving schedule? If you are in your 60’s or 70’s look for people in their 40’s and 50’s to encourage in the ways of the Lord. If you are in your 40’s look for people in their twenties and early teens. Ask God for eyes to see who you can encourage or who you should reach out to and get to know. I had the blessing of growing up in a small rural parish that my great-grandparents helped start and therefore had lots of opportunity for serving and getting to know people of a wide age range. When I was 16, 17, and 18 years old I served on my vestry in my church. It gave me a chance to serve my church and to pray more regularly for our people. It also allowed me to have relationships with other adults in my church who encouraged me along the way of growing up.  

Our families are the natural place in which we are to encourage and lift each other up. Our families were designed by God to be places in which we live closely with others and work on refining our sinful hearts, minds, and actions. The family was intended by God to be the place where we are supported, loved, accepted, and challenged to live holy lives. Christian families are to grow closer to God together and bump up against each other in such a way as to become more loving, patient, kind, thoughtful, and caring. If you are in the midst of raising a family I implore you to envision what you want your family to look like in 20 years. Try to envision what it will look like when you get together. How will you speak to each other? Will there be gentle words and inquiring of each other?  What kind of relationship will your kids have with each other? How will you be encouraging each other in the ways of the Lord? My vision is a big long table bustling with adults and children and having conversations about God and loving Jesus. Conversations filled with prayer requests, book recommendations, and swapping of stories and ideas. Sharing and breaking bread together and loving one another. 

In this broken world many of us do not have families where we were supported, loved and cared for. Maybe you never had this kind of support and then you raised your children in brokenness, passing along generational curses. Maybe you have no idea how to live as a Chritian marriage, or Christian parent, or Christian grandparent. It is never too late to change and it is never too late to ask Jesus for help in being a holy Christian person in your actual real life.I have countless times seen people go through terrifying health scares only to come out a more loving, kind husband, Father, mother, or wife. I have countless times seen Christian men become thoughtful, apologetic for their behavior in their youth, and more in control of their anger. I have seen women become soft towards their husbands and gentle with their children. When we seek out Christ and His ways we will become more loving, kind, gentle, and understanding of others. 

Mary and Jesus today give us a beautiful glimpse into a Christian way of being. Mary was strong and yet not demanding, not controlling, but rather calm and confident in her encouragement of Jesus’ time and ability to help the situation. Mary truly reverses the curse from the fall when Eve was told that her desire shall be for her husband and he shall lord it over her. While Mary is not married to Jesus they do represent a male/female relationship of mother and son. Mary does not control Jesus or cling after him but rather she stands beside him in life. We too can choose not to control others around us but rather to encourage them to look to Christ as the author and perfecter of life.We can encourage those around us in ways that point out the good that we see in them and to entrust them to Jesus. Mary believed in Jesus even if He was not believing in Himself at the moment. 

Jesus the one who was at the creation of the world, Jesus who communed regularly with God His Father received the promoting and encouragement from a mere human woman and stepped out. Jesus received Mary’s encouragement and acted on that which He was prompted to do. Jesus showed with his actions and words love and respect for Mary. Jesus showed self-control, thoughtfulness, and action towards that which He could do something about. Jesus began giving simple instructions to the servants. There were six large jars used for purification rights meaning they were made of stone and not earthenware. This would have made them less likely to be contaminated and safer for storage. Each stone jar would have held between 16-27 gallons of water. Jesus instructed them to fill the jars to the brim with water and take it to the master of the banquet. The servants or stewards of the wine would have been the ones to behold the miracle of the water turned to wine. Jesus’ miracle at this wedding was the beginning of calling His disciples to Himself. This was the initiation of His public ministry and the beginning of His traveling, teaching, and making Himself known to the world. His time had come and He stepped into the place that God had foretold for Him. Jesus trusted God the Father and His earthly mother in her prompting of allowing people to see what He could do. 

How does God want to change your life? How does He want to grow in you the character qualities that reflect Him into the world? Who should you love better, be kinder too, gentler with, and extend mercy? How might God want to prompt you this morning towards His kingdom work? Is there a person in your life that God might want to reach with encouragement? I guarantee you that if you are listening to this sermon you are called to love someone better. You are called to make a difference in someone else’s life for the good. If you do not know what it looks like to love, read your Bible. Read the letters of Paul to the churches in the New Testament. You will hear how God longs for us to treat each other.  

Just like Mary prompted Jesus to begin showing his glory to the world, is He calling you out to try something new in the church? So often we do not do things because we are convinced that we can not fail to make it worth our time. We worry about what others will say about us and how they might perceive us. We are afraid to try something and have it not work out, so instead we pull back, criticize those who do, or hide from any opportunities. God does not want us to think this way or to live this way. Failure is not a christian concept but rather a worldly concept. In all that we do for the kingdom there is not failure but rather God showing himself in the process. If you try something and it does not grow, get bigger, or expand is it a failure? NO!! Not everything is supposed to happen the way we think it should. Sometimes things naturally come to an end. Sometimes organizations need to die in order to bring about life in another area. Think about a seed. How does it bring forth life? You have to bury it in the ground, cover it with dirt, and wait for the seed to die as it was and come alive as a plant. Sometimes ministries change or morph into another ministry to meet the real needs of people. Sometimes God changes one leader to the next to bring about health, change, or to bring about better balance. If an organization is healthy enough it should be able to withstand the changing of a leader, it should continue on changing and flexing as people come and go from it. 

 I sometimes wonder if Jesus pauses a bit in the passage today because He didn’t feel ready or was worried about what would come when He began to show His glory. I find solace in His humanity and I find encouragement when I waver and fear about what will happen when I step out. In a church we are supposed to be a group of people who encourage each other to try new things. We are to encourage each other when things do not seem to be working out. We need to be a group of people where it is totally 100% acceptable to try something and back away when needed. And if someone has tried something and they perceive it as a failure, go after them and love them and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work and willingness to try. I think we all need to remember that each and every one of us needs far more encouragement in our lives. Each and every one of us needs to hear what we mean to each other. It deeply grieves me that we wait to do eulogies for people after they die because most people have no idea what they mean to the people in their lives. Since pastoring for at least a decade and half I am convinced that we as humans need encouragers or Marys in our lives to spur us on and we need to be Mary to the people we come in contact with. 

So how can we do this? Write good old fashioned letters as the Lord leads you. Reach out to people by email, texting, calling, or using social media. Make it a goal to try and talk to someone new at church. As all of you know I have a ton of responsibility with my family on Sunday morning and I often leave church feeling a failure at not reaching out to as many people as I feel I should. The Lord has been gently speaking to me about how I could reach out more and remembering that seasons of limitations are not forever but rather an opportunity to experience His grace and often require a bit of creativity. If we are willing to grow with Jesus and to step out into the things of Him then He will provide people for you to love and encourage. Pouring into others is one of the most important things you can do with your life. Your job or career will eventually end, your housework will always need redoing, but loving on human hearts will last forever. The soul of human beings is the only thing eternal. Give your time, energy, and attention to loving others, encouraging them to step out, and welcoming them back no matter the outcome. 

As you go into this week it is my prayer that you would be moved to reach out to at least one person in our church and one person in your family. That you would allow God to fill you with love for another person and to encourage them on the way. May the Lord provide a Mary in your life to encourage you to step out and let others see God’s glory in your life. And may you become Mary for another person. May you look for ways to encourage people when they step out and serve and to love them well despite the outcome. May you be filled up with the glory of Jesus’ manifestation and may you like the disciples follow Him with all of your heart. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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