Text: John 2: 1-11
Preaching Theme: Signs of God’s abundance come in the midst of everyday life and settings.
Interpretation and Informing Stories:
The world’s context of disruption can be overwhelming – more refugees from political violence now than at any time since World War II and even more internally displaced people and asylum seekers; natural disasters becoming more intense and influenced by climate change produce more widespread destruction; sustainable development for strong communities seeming to be a cycle constantly disrupted by drought, disease and inability to access resources. It may seem difficult to know how to encourage people to be engaged in positive ways. First, an awareness of these world realities comes from and leads to prayer. Every big humanitarian issue is the personal plight of everyday people whose lives have been disrupted by natural, political or social forces. And positive impacts mean that people like you and I, but in different circumstances, encounter God’s abundance personally.
I believe that Jesus must have been in such a context during the wedding at Cana. Perhaps the gospel writer who made this story public was just an everyday person too. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is stepping into the big issues of his world. What is the purpose of his ministry? How does he know what to do or where to go? Jesus uses the setting of a common event of his community’s culture – a wedding celebration – to create a sign of his purpose – abundance for all. The people attending the wedding celebration had no idea why the wine tasted so good or kept flowing. They only knew the result that the esteem of that family grew and the community bonded in celebration together. Jesus’ sign of changing water into wine is a sign of God’s intended abundance for all. It is a sign of new things in the midst of everyday people.
Extraordinary and unexpected abundance in the midst of ordinary also happens through UCC Disaster Ministries (One Great Hour of Sharing). Following Hurricane Harvey that caused widespread destruction in Houston and surrounding areas of Texas in 2017, UCC Disaster Ministries has been connecting with people left out of the spotlight of that recovery. In Jefferson County, the communities of Beaumont and Port Arthur near the coast received widespread destruction but very little attention. Local leaders of the Southeast Texas Community Development Corporation (SETCDC) have been active in the area for many years providing affordable housing for renters. Many of those units of SETCDC were damaged in the storm. Other homes in the area rented by people with lower incomes also were damaged and the people had no place to go. Normally, voluntary organizations, including churches, in long-term disaster recovery, work only on owner-occupied homes. This is done through a lens of justice. Stories abound of landlords raising the rent after the house is renovated and forcing the original renters out of their home once again. SETCDC, as a community development corporation, operates differently. With this partnership in Jefferson County, Texas, UCC Disaster Ministries and SETCDC leadership are learning together to best help lower-income renters get back into their homes; or for people priced out of other houses to find an affordable home to rent. These learnings and models are shared with other churches and voluntary organizations nationally so soon there may be more possibilities for the equitable disaster recovery for people with the least accesses to resources. The signs of God’s abundance – the water turned into wine – can come to us at the most unexpected or everyday places – a wedding feast or disaster recovery.
*This Texas disaster recovery location will be one of the local programs of the Summer Communities of Service in 2019 so young adults from all over the country can learn skills and get inspired for justice faith-based disaster recovery. Encourage young adults in your life (19 + years) to apply for the Summer Communities of Service. http://www.ucc.org/volunteer_scos
** Week-long groups are also needed throughout the year (ages 16 +) to assist with this housing recovery. Register here http://www.ucc.org/disaster_disaster-volunteers
Hymn: Be Thou My Vision