1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Dear King of Kings, I am overwhelmed by your love. I have spent 1/3 of my life ministering with you. It is time for me to go. I have so many feelings about that. I feel sad. I feel grouchy. And I feel grateful, joyful, hopeful, and even happy. I have to go. It is time.
You ready for some good news?
You are full of gifts! It wasn’t just the church in Corinth that had gifts. This is a beautiful, healthy, congregation. Through all its turbulent history, you have worked through the trials, set limits about what you’d put up with, held each other close, laughed, cried, and prayed, prayed, prayed. And you worked hard! Together! No one can take your history away from you, what’s made you who you are as a congregation. What a gift that history has been and now this ministry becomes part of that history. Some of it has been great. Some of it has been painful. Some of it has been messy. You’ve tried to learn everything you could, so that you didn’t repeat our mistakes too many times, but there’s plenty of grace to go around. That’s another gift, grace. You’ve got God’s grace, forgiving, loving, freeing. You’ve got grace for each other, to call each other on what needs to be said, but to remember we’re all human and fallible, so let’s try again.
Not only does the congregation have gifts, but all you individuals have gifts. You have gifts of teaching, of truth-telling, of time, of listening, of quiet support, of prayer, of openness. I’ve seen you use them hundreds of thousands of times. Let your gifts bring you together and compliment one another. Keep on sharing those gifts with the body of Christ, the larger community, and everywhere.
Keep those gifts flowing. Keep your financial gifts flowing. They don’t belong to you, anyway. They are God’s. Don’t withhold your giving out of protest of something that’s not going your way. Keep on volunteering and showing up and praying. Keep sharing your gifts, because that’s what God gave them to you for. They are for times of discomfort and uncertainty at least as much as for times of joy and ease.
Put aside your humility for a second and listen. It isn’t just my skewed view of things. You are beautiful. You are beloved. You have a lot to offer another pastor and visitors and this neighborhood. Stand up tall. I have been saying to everyone else, but maybe I haven’t said to you until now, how spoiled I’ve been to be here because of God’s gifts and blessings through you. I’m not saying it has been a total walk in the park, but where it matters, you show up, you face your challenges with courage, and you have everything you need, with God’s help, to go where God is leading you.
Which brings me to the next gift. God is with you. My favorite psalm is 139. “If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast.” There is nowhere we can go that God isn’t with us. God’s been the faithful one, yes working through me, working through you, but it is God who is ultimate good and never abandons us. That’s not going to change. God is with you and will continue to be. God is with me and will continue to be. God’s work continues in a different way.
How can I thank God enough for all God’s gifts to me through you? You were there for me when my child was born and walked with me through 7 years of motherhood. You had faith enough to send me on a sabbatical. You honored my days off. You poured yourself into the ministry here. You took leaps of faith. You visited each other. You offered me so much forgiveness. You stuck it out. Keep up the good work! I will watch you from afar and pray for you and cheer you on.
So here we are at the wedding at Cana. Jesus’ first miracle. He doesn’t heal anyone. He doesn’t even provide something necessary for life. He keeps the party going. This time is difficult for me, for us. But Jesus saves the best wine for when there is only water left. We’ve had lots of wine together, over the years. Now it feels a little more like water, like the chaos, like a death or many little deaths. But Jesus is here. And Jesus is turning our water into wine. This worship is a party, a celebration of all that God has been doing. We sing a little, we eat a little, we communicate, we smile, we are gathered with our host Jesus. And I hope you’ll stay for the after party in a little while and celebrate, because we are resurrection people. We can go through the tough stuff, knowing that we’re not alone, that the community gathered is the body of Christ risen for the world, that there will be celebrations and Jesus never misses a party. It’s a mixed feeling when he turns the water into wine. Not that many people witness it. Probably most of the people who drank it, didn’t even know it was miracle wine. But then to think of Jesus at the last supper and in communion offering wine as his blood poured out for us. All the emotions are mixed up together, kind of like they are today. Gratefulness, sadness, grief, fear, hope, joy, love. Jesus’ first miracle shows us what kind of a Savior he’s going to be. He’s going to give his life that we might have life, and not so we can stay in sadness or fear or guilt forever, but so that we might have joy and celebration and hope.
Someone told me last week, “Sorry to tell you this, but we had a really great meeting without you.” I was not sorry and you shouldn’t be either. This is the work we’ve been doing together. You are equipped. If you’re not, you have what you need to get equipped. You’re going to be fine. Don’t think I need you to fail so that I know I am important. When you soar, I soar. When you have a great meeting or learn something new or connect with someone, that is the building up of the body of Christ. God has done a good work in you. I got to come over here and play for a while. I brought everything I had and what I didn’t have you helped me bumble through. But God did this, not me. I accept your love and your thanks and I offer it right back to you, but don’t try to give me the credit. We danced together with God as our leader and you will dance and drink wine again and so will I, maybe even soon.
I thank all of you and I thank God for giving you to me for a little while to teach me how to be a pastor.