Has your hour come?

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Today’s readings:
Psalms 119:73-80; 145, Deuteronomy 8:1-20, Hebrews 2:11-18, John 2:1-12


In the lyrics to “Beautiful Boy” John Lennon famously wrote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (though he borrowed it from comic strip author Allen Saunders). It seems this may have been true even for Jesus.

The first miracle in John’s gospel is the transformation of water into wine at a wedding in Cana which Jesus attended with his mother. When Mary told him that the wine had run out, Jesus brushed her off: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” Undeterred, Mary instructed the waiters to do whatever Jesus told them. In short order, they had about 150 gallons of high-quality wine.

This is kind of an odd miracle for a public debut. It was at a relatively private affair with only a few witnesses. It doesn’t have the same life-changing impact as a healing, or the grandeur of feeding multitudes with a few leftovers. It doesn’t seem to have an agreed-upon theological interpretation. Given Mary’s expectations, it likely wasn’t even his first one.

Here’s what we do know: there was a need in front of him, and he met it. If we are to follow in his footsteps, maybe we don’t need to know much more. Many of us have plans and goals, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if while we’re waiting for our hour to come we are so narrowly focused that we ignore the needs in front of us, whom exactly are we serving?

While we plan, let’s stay aware of the possibilities for service that at first blush may not seem to be of concern to us. Yes we all have demands on our time, but at the end of the day what will make that time matter? The lawn we need to mow won’t grow any taller during the five minutes it takes to check in with the ailing neighbor looking out her window. Our gesture does not need to be grand, nor our influence broad, to matter. Maybe we can’t all turn water into wine, but every one of us can turn time into love.

Comfort: Your small gifts can be enormous when given to someone else.

Challenge: Take regular pauses during your day to reflect on how you might serve someone in material or spiritual need.

Prayer: God of love, give me a servant’s heart. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever let your determination to reach a goal crowd out important things in your life?

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Stop! Collaborate and Listen.

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab / window):
Psalms 43; 149, Exodus 10:21-11:8, 2 Corinthians 4:13-18, Mark 10:46-52


Mark tells the story of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who was sitting by the roadside when Jesus passed by on his way out of Jericho. When he realized it was Jesus, he began to cry out to him, but many people tried to silence him. Mark doesn’t identify these people who “sternly ordered him to be quiet,” but the implication is they were following Christ. The blind man’s persistence paid off when Jesus stopped to wait for him, then healed him saying: “Go; your faith has made you well.”

Have we ever been one of the silencers?

During Sunday worship as we follow Jesus down the road from the first hymn to the eventual benediction and dismissal, we aren’t generally fond of interruptions. How would we react to a blind beggar shouting out in faith in the middle of that Sunday journey? To a crying baby and exhausted mother? To a grieving widower who sobs when the joyful song we sing reminds him of the wife he just lost? Annoyed or uncomfortable, we may say something directly or simply rely on the pressure of the group to impose silence on their obvious need. Either way, the message is clear: don’t interrupt.

Perhaps we justify our reacting by telling ourselves they should wait for a more appropriate moment to express their pain. Yet what moment could be more appropriate than a gathering of the followers of Jesus? In worship or in everyday life, following Jesus means stopping where he would stop. If we won’t respond to need and pain until a convenient break in the scheduled activities … we’ve marched Jesus right out of town.

We can’t run down every single side street searching for blind beggars, but we must be careful not to ignore or silence the needy along our path because we insist on maintaining an inflexible agenda. They are not in the way; they are the way. Worship is more than prayer and praise; it is any expression of love and gratitude for God and his creation. Sometimes an interruption is an opportunity to do our most meaningful worship.

Comfort: Jesus hears your cries, even when others seem to ignore or silence you.

Challenge: God’s plans aren’t always going to be your plans.

Prayers: God of Mercy, teach me to be merciful to those in need. Help me hear their cries as I trust you to hear my own. Let me respond with loving words and deeds. Amen.

Discussion:  Who do you think you have silenced, accidentally or intentionally?

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The Joy of the Unexpected

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Readings: Psalms 18:1-20; 147:12-20, Isaiah 60:1-6, Galatians 3:23-4:7, Matthew 1:18-25

Every year at Christmas time we revisit the Nativity story in scripture readings and carols. The words and melodies bring us comfort and joy in part because they are so familiar and meet our expectations. This comfort in the familiar is kind of ironic considering the Nativity story itself is one of upended expectations and surprises.

First we have Mary, the mother of Jesus. Of everyone in the story, she has the most to be surprised about. No one expects a visit from an angel who announces God will create a child in your virgin womb. Then there’s Joseph, Mary’s betrothed. He doesn’t expect Mary to become pregnant, and he doesn’t expect divine intervention in the form of a dream telling him to stay with her. In an important subplot, we have Mary’s relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah. These two are both surprised by Elizabeth’s late-in-life pregnancy. All of these people have a trait in common (though Zechariah took a little while to come around): they all adapt to the unexpected. Every one of them had reasons to be doubtful, frightened, or resentful. Instead they chose to alter their plans to reflect their new circumstances, and thus ushered into life John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ.

The message of the Nativity is this: God enters the world in unexpected ways. If we insist on our own plans rather than God’s, we may never notice opportunities to share in the greater plan unfolding across history.

The unexpected can be frightening, but it is both inevitable and constant. When confronted with the choice to resist or embrace the unexpected, the former limits us, and the latter unlocks our potential. The quick decision to befriend a stranger we might have avoided may be where we both see Christ in action. An invitation to lead or serve in unfamiliar ways may reinvigorate a flagging ministry. An unplanned job termination may result in a meaningful vocation we never considered. It seems God rarely calls the prepared, but prepares the called. Let us joyfully meet Christ where he shows up, instead of missing him because we insist on looking only where planned for him to be.

Comfort: The unexpected is often a blessing waiting to be claimed.

Challenge: Ask yourself which of your plans are in conflict with God’s plans for you.

Prayer: God of mystery and grace, I will seek you wherever you lead. Amen.

Discussion: What unexpected event or encounter has influenced your life?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!