“Called. Gathered. Sent.”
John 2:1-11, I Corinthians 12:1-11
January 17, 2010
First Christian Church
I’ve come to realize that as you reach a certain age, you start to look back at an earlier point in your life more and more. A friend of mine who turned 40 last year commented that he has basically stopped watching what is on television currently and with the wonders of Hulu.com, he has taken to watching television shows of the 70s and 80s. For my friend, he loves watching these shows because it is a wonderful memory of an earlier time.
I can understand what my friend is talking about. I love watching the old commercials of my childhood at YouTube. Marketers have noticed that people are interested in nostalgia and have come up with special editions of products that are packaged like they were in the 1960s or 70s. A few weeks ago, I was shopping at Target and happened to notice that Pepsi was packaging its usual pop in the look and logo of the early 1970s. For me, I was immediately catapulted to that time when I was a little kid and was at a picnic where everyone was gathered and drinking Pepsi in the this same style.
I’ve seen other products do this like cereals and other soft drinks. Of course, it’s a way to get people to buy the product, but they also know that it hits on our desire to want things like they used to be.
Nostalgia is an interesting thing. It’s not a necessarily bad, but it is incredibly powerful. We love to do look back at the past with a sense of wonder. It gives us comfort for a time when things seemed less complicated.
Churches tend to deal with nostalgia as well. We love to look back at the time when the sanctuaries were full and the Sunday School program was the greatest in all the world. Among mainline churches, we love to look back at the past because we want to go back to that time, when things seemed a whole lot easier.
Our text in John is always and interesting one because it’s the first indication of Jesus doing a miracle in the Fourth Gospel…and it takes place at a party…and he makes wine. This really isn’t the place you expect Jesus to perform a miracle. I mean, what would it look like for Jesus, the Son of God, to be at a wedding party and be making wine? I think even Jesus was a bit surprised when his mother tells him that there is no more wine at the party. He came to earth to save creation, not to run a liquor store.
But Christ’s work at the wedding party in Cana has important lessons for the church today. The story makes us wonder where God is in the world. In the story, Jesus takes six stone jar filled with water that were to be used for ritual purification ceremonies…and he made them into wine. Now that doesn’t make sense, does it? To use water that was used to make people clean to come before God for wine? And yet this is what Jesus did. This is where God was found…at a wedding party.
So, today I have a question for you all…what does it mean to be church? What does it mean to be First Christian Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota? Because that is what God is saying in the passage and the passage in Corinthians. Are we looking for where God is in the world and getting involved, or are we looking for God in the past?
As I like to say, being that I was trained to be a pastor at a Lutheran seminary, their ways tend to rub off on you. I am reminded of the mission statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which states, “Marked with the cross of Christ forever, we are claimed, gathered, and sent for the sake of the world.”
Claimed or called. Gathered. Sent. First Christian was not started nearly 133 years ago just because. It was called by God, gathered by God and sent by God to bring the Good News of Jesus to the world in word and deed. This congregation doesn’t exist for itself, but for the sake of others, for the sake of the world.
Since I need to give props to my own tradition, here is the Identity Statement for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): “We are Disciples of Christ,a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”
Again, there is a calling from God, to bring healing in a broken world and to welcome all to the Lord’s table. Again, the church exists not for itself but for others.
In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he is saying that all that makes up the body of Christ tend to have different gifts sent by the Spirit. How we are using the gifts that God has given us? How we building up the body of Christ and healing creation?
As we discern what is the future of First Christian Church, there is a temptation to want to find that magic thing that will make things like they were. But while nostalgia is a nice thing, we can only go forward in time. The good old days of First Christian are a thing of the past. We are never going be the church, the community we were in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. We probably won’t be a big as we once were.
But God is not just found in the past, but is also a God of the present and the future. Because we are called, gathered and sent by God, because we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world, we are powered by God to be in mission in the world, using the gifts we have to bring hope and healing.
We are sent to help the refugees who come Minnesota from places where there has been strife. We are sent to feed the hungry here in the Twin Cities and around the world. We are sent to welcome people to the Lord’s Table regardless of the race or ethinicity or sexual orientation. We are called to pray for each other and the world. We are sent to listen to a friend over coffee as they share a personal tragedy. We are sent to where God is, where God is trying to make water in wine, to bring hope where there was no hope.
Being that this is Martin Luther King Weekend, I wanted to end with a story of racial reconcilation. About 15 years ago, I was stringer for Baptist News Service. I covered a story of several Southern Baptist congregations in the Washington, DC area that voted to become open to African Americans. I remember interviewing a pastor who was white and the pastor of what was now a primiarily African American congregation. It wasn’t that way back in the 1960s when it discerned to open itself up to everyone regardless of race. I remember the pastor saying that there were churches that continued to bar people because of their race. He noted that these churches are now remembered only in the history books. The churches that realized that they were called gathered and sent by God were willing to take a risk and still existed 30 years later. However, those that forgot whose they were, weren’t able to deal wit the changes and ended up closing.
First Christian, remember that you are called, gathered and sent by God. We have a mission to get on with. It doesn’t matter if we are 10 years old or 90 years old, we have a job to do: to feed the hungry, free the oppressed and give hope to the hopeless.
Looking back at the past can be a comforting thing. I wish at times to be six years old again, watching Saturday morning cartoons. But God calls us to move forward, to find out what God is doing in the world and join in. Thanks be to God. Amen.