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When The Wine Runs Out

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For January 16, 2021:

Chris KeatingWhen The Wine Runs Out
by Chris Keating
John 2:1-11

Jessie was not the mother of Jesus, but she was venerated by many as if she were. She carried herself with elegantly cloaked authority, and few questioned her instructions. As wedding coordinator at the church, she was an institution who executed countless ceremonies with drive and organization. She was a commander in heels, but behind a gruff exterior was a heart filled deep faith and a spirit of generosity and laughter.

Weddings were run per her rules, which included a strict prohibition against the wedding party drinking before the ceremony. Hardly a teetotaler, Jessie was nonetheless gravely serious about decorum. Any lapse in protocol resulted in her ire.

Shortly before the organist began playing the bridal march at one wedding, Jessie pulled me aside. She opened her purse and pulled out a large bottle of expensive Scotch. “Where did you get that?” I asked. “Out of the groom’s dressing room. I’m going to the bride’s dressing room to see if I find anymore.” I laughed and then noticed a rather sheepish-looking groom.

A couple of days later, I saw Jessie and asked what she had done with the liquor. “Well, I did the only thing one could do under the circumstances,” she said. “I took it home and poured myself a drink!”

Jesus did not have to contend with a wedding coordinator at Cana, but he did feel pressure from his mother. Mary intervened to make sure Jesus understands just what it means when the wine is about to run out.

Running out of a wine was more than a social faux pas. It was as unthinkable as sneaking a bottle of whiskey into a Sunday school room. Keeping guests satisfied was an inviolable promise. So when it looked like the celebration was running dry, Mary took action.

While Jesus’ hour had not yet come, it was time for him to begin fulfilling promises. It’s a theme worth considering this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. As we mark Dr. King’s 93rd birthday, we are faced with the shame of promises broken and delayed, and injustices perpetuated. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the wine is running out for millions of Black persons and persons of color in America. The stalemate over passing voting rights laws such as the John Lewis Voting Advancement Act is a reminder that Dr. King’s dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

King’s family has called for “no celebration” this year unless the Senate passes voting rights legislation. Members of the King family are putting pressure on President Joe Biden and Congress to act quickly. "President Biden and Congress used their political muscle to deliver a vital infrastructure deal, and now we are calling on them to do the same to restore the very voting rights protections my father and countless other civil rights leaders bled to secure," Martin Luther King III said.

Before the wine runs out, we might listen carefully once more to Mary’s words, “Do whatever he tells you.”

In the News
Getting voting rights legislation through Congress has never been an easy task. But now it seems as though passing federal voting reform might be harder than wringing a drop of wine from a dry vat. Despite promises and pushes from President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, two major bills — The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act — are both stalled in the Senate.

Schumer is pushing for a vote on the bills next week, even if that means jettisoning the filibuster rule. The President is planning a major speech in Georgia this week aimed at approving the bills before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, including a visit to Dr. King’s grave and the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Sen. Raphael Warnock is pastor. Biden is predicted to advocate changing the Senate’s rules in order to lower the threshold of votes required for passing the bills. But even that proposal fails to get the support of all Democrats in the Senate.

Dr. King’s family and a coalition of more than 75 groups are lobbying Congress to pass the stalled bills before the anniversary of his birthday on January 17. “No celebration without legislation,” decried Martin Luther King III, adding that he was calling upon Congress to use the “same effort, the same focus” it had in passing infrastructure bills last year.

Protecting voter rights has emerged as a critical concern following the Supreme Court’s action in 2013 to remove protections guaranteed by the Voter Rights Act of 1965, and hundreds of bills passed by state legislatures in 2021 that have made voting harder. Both Bills include comprehensive reforms, though the Freedom to Vote act represents a slimmer version of the failed For the People Act.

In the eyes of Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, the issue goes beyond tinkering with the Senate’s hallowed traditions or scoring partisan policy victories. Hasen urges that the Senate take urgent action in order to “shore up our fragile election ecosystem.”

The problem, Hasen suggests, is that while state legislators who believe former President Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud will work hard to sabotage elections, the federal government has done little to increase the odds of free and fair elections for the upcoming midterms. Not only have many Republicans taken a blind eye toward Trump’s authoritarianism, they have also refused to substantively condemn the January 6, 2021 Capitol Riots. It’s a bipartisan failure to uphold the promise of democracy, says Hasen.

More surprisingly, Democratic House and Senate leaders have not acted as if the very survival of American democracy is at issue, even though leading global experts on democratic backsliding and transitions into authoritarianism have been sounding the alarm.

Hasen suggests that all sectors of American society must mobilize to uphold the promise of voting rights. Laws alone won’t save the democracy, he argues, adding that “It’s all of civil society: business groups, civic and professional organizations, labor unions and religious organizations all can help protect fair elections and the rule of law.”

The urgency, it seems, goes beyond the symbolic connection of passing legislation that Dr. King would have championed. There is also a deeper urgency about fulfilling the promise of protecting democracy, of insuring basic civil rights to all Americans, just as there was an urgency about making sure wedding guests had plenty to drink.

In the Scriptures
John’s gospel speaks of the signs Jesus performed rather than miracles, a hint that Jesus is revealing something about himself that he will later explain (see Karoline Lewis’ commentary on John in the Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentary series). Signs and dialogue work together in order to make sure the observers catch what is happening. But, as Lewis observes, “the meaning of the sign is incomplete, even misunderstood, without Jesus’ elucidation.” (Lewis)

The sign occurs against the backdrop of a wedding, a perpetually rich source of stories and images. Weddings are celebrations of joyful abundance, new life and grace, all of which become building blocks for John in telling the gospel story. As the wedding celebrates the promises of family life and marital fidelity, it also reveals the promised provision of God’s abundance of which Jesus will announce at 10:10.

The story centers around Jesus’ dialogue with his mother. Alarmed that the host is about to run out of wine — a significant faux pas — prompts Mary to approach Jesus. She seems to be coaxing Jesus into action, pleading with him to get involved. There’s an indifference to his response that defies easy explanation. What’s it to him? Why should Jesus be bothered with this detail, because, after all, his “hour had not yet come.”

Such temporal references will be made again in John. Here, however, it stands as an image of epiphany, an awakening to the glory and abundance of God. His mother embodies the believer who will abide with Jesus throughout his life. She is a believer. Despite his seeming indifference, she tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” It’s a fair bet that Mary’s eyes reflect what everyone knows as “the look.” She conveys a signal that not only reflects deep trust in her son, but also her belief and expectation that he will do what needs to be done.

Within this story, abundance is joined to expectancy and the fulfillment of promises. The wine steward is surprised and delighted as he tastes the newly discovered wine. How astonishing that the host has saved the best for last! The new wine bursts with flavor, far surpassing the other stuff. Who knew that the groom would serve Two Buck Chuck before bringing out vintage Chateau Lafite Rothschild? Holding it under his nose, the steward is entranced by the wine’s appearance. It has all the notes of God’s mercy, and the bouquet of love, full of grace and truth.

In the Sermon
Almost half a century has passed since Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” on the steps of the Lincoln Monument. Standing before the crowd, King reminded them that they come to hold the nation accountable to the promissory notes of democracy. King’s words remain sadly contemporary:

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. 

Fifty years later, the promissory notes of free and fair elections hang in the balance, and old divisions between white and Black America seem to have hardened. The check, as King said in 1963, is still stamped, “Insufficient Funds.”

On this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, the church is invited to consider how it will encourage justice to flow like streams of running water. Is there a way to raise our awareness of how the promises of our society have failed to be realized for all persons?

Yet God remains faithful, and continues to act through disciples like Mary. John offers few details about Mary, but does remind us of her presence with Jesus at both the beginning and the ending of his life. She is, as Karoline Lewis notes, the model of one who abides in relationship with Jesus. And she abides out of her deep trust of God’s ability to provide abundant life.

Some are doubting that abundance today. Pandemic-induced shortages, climate change, income inequality and so much more remind us that at times resources seem to be dwindling. The wine we have tasted and enjoyed seems to be in short supply. In any case, it’s our wine and we will do what we can to keep others from finding what little remains.

Others, intoxicated by the cheap stuff of easy answers and self-satisfying indulgence, seem not to care. A sermon could offer the suggestion that the church may find itself in one of many roles: are we the steward, surprised by God’s abundance, are we the tipsy guests, unaware that the wine has run out, or are we Mary? It seems that she is acutely aware of the reality and also the promise, as well the one who will provide.


Chris KeatingSECOND THOUGHTS
Do Not Be Silent
by Quantisha Mason-Doll
Isaiah 62:1-5, John 2:1-11

There was an older lady in my seminary cohort who once told me after a particularly rough critique that I did not, in the slightest, handle well. “You make the Lord happy. Even now you make the Lord happy.” At the time I felt as if she was just saying something nice to try and get me out of my dark mood. I realize now those were not just kind words but a motto to live by. As we move into 2022 we have all prepped for the worse. There have been countless posts and news articles that suggest, as a nation, we have limped into the new year. As of late, it seems as if all we could focus on are the negative aspects of the last three years. While it is important to acknowledge our current reality and be present with suffering when it happens, yet we can take a note from Isaiah and rejoice in the good that comes from tragedy.

As many know, the Virginia/DC area was hit with a severe winter storm last week that, more or less, shut down Interstate 95. For some people, the storm kicked off a more than twenty-hour ordeal leaving many stranded and unprepared for roughing it until help arrived. A shining jewel in the crown of heaven are people like DaVante Williams. He was an Uber driver who went out of his way to ensure his teenage passenger had a warm, safe place to stay after being trapped on the snow-covered I-95 for five hours. In October, a medical student in Seattle spoke up when she spotted a questionable mole on a man’s neck while attending a hockey game. Because of the med student seeing this, the man was able to see a doctor who identified it as cancerous.

It brought me great joy to read about these moments when someone decided to speak out to ensure the well-being of another. I would not call them selfless, yet their actions parallel Isaiah’s claim that God has placed “watchmen” to ensure the well-being of God’s beloved.

On the other hand, we have Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana. I don’t think I would be radicalizing anyone if I make the argument that Jesus was strong-armed into performing this miracle. Jesus kind of rebukes his mother when he calls her a “woman.” Despite this Mary moves forward with her plan to provide for those in need. Granted, wine is not on the top of our current must-have lists but we are discussing a culture and time period where wine was often safer than water. In this case, Mary knew the full power of the living Lord and she took it upon herself to demand a miracle for those in need. She, being the mother of God, was not going to let the living Lord pass over people in need. Conversely, we have the servants who are witnesses to the first miracle yet we do not get to know how they responded to the magic and majesty of the Lord. We can never be sure how they were changed by this reluctant miracle because they had no voice. I can’t help but think of the words of Zora Neale Hurston, American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker, who once said “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”



ILLUSTRATIONS

Mary AustinFrom team member Mary Austin:

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Using Your Gifts

Paul notes the variety of gifts within the Christian community, each given to build up the whole body. We also use different gifts in different chapters of our lives, as we discern different needs. Wayne Muller tells the story of Roger Montoya, who left a successful career as a professional dancer in New York City. At the age of twenty-nine, after studying, performing and touring with celebrated dance companies like Alvin Ailey, Roger felt led to return to home in Velarde, New Mexico.

“Why leave such an enviable position, at the pinnacle of such a career? Roger had other dreams. He was keenly aware of the children in Velarde and other rural villages, children denied opportunities he had — unless someone gifted, talented, and experienced would arrive to offer what he, as a young boy, had once been offered. Roger left New York to come home — to pay forward those gifts given to him.” He secured a grant for mats at a donated gym space, and then offered gymnastics and dance lessons for free, for any child who wanted to come. “Roger taught children from 3 to 18 years of age how to move. How to tumble, and fall, and spin, and dance. How to move inside their body. How to fly through the air.”

Muller adds that the gifts we have are “less important than how it moves from one person to another, helping build and maintain relationships, sustaining the health of the community. As gifts move through the circle, they increase in value. The blessings of each gift multiply, again and again.” Echoing Paul, he says, “One essential quality of the gift is this: It cannot be allowed to stagnate.”

* * *

John 2:1-11
Starting the Party Up Again

When Jesus renews the supply of wine, he restores the wedding celebration, and allows it to flourish. In a similar way, determined farmers in West Virginia are bringing small agriculture back to a state we associate with coal mining. As coal mining wanes, many lower income people are being displaced economically, and small farming has the potential for renewal.

“Jason Tartt, a farmer in West Virginia, says the Mountain State is fertile territory for honey production and maple and fruit orchards in the flood plains. Tartt, who is Black, sees his role as both developing economic opportunity through farming and supporting other Black farmers in West Virginia…As a farmer, Tartt’s goals are twofold: build a viable agricultural economy in the county and state, and attract other Black people to see West Virginia, and particularly McDowell County, as a viable place to build a life.” A military veteran, Tartt is now “using his new role to help educate the local residents about what bounty lies in the flood plains and mountainous terrain. Tartt has piloted growing fruit orchards and making honey on hillsides and has plans to expand.” The West Virginia State University Extension Service is also helping farmers utilize small spaces that have not been traditionally thought of as or intended to be agricultural land. Small pieces of land, left empty by closed mining operations, are suitable for growing trees or keeping bees.

* * *

John 2:1-11
Bringing Your True Self to Work

Jesus and his mother are arguing not so much about what he should do, but about who he is. They both know he can show God’s abundance by turning the water into wine, and het he feels he’s not ready for this, and Mary knows that he is. Writer and practical theologian Parker Palmer says we all face this challenge. Palmer says, “Every line of work is deepened by bringing all of our human capacities to bear on whatever we are doing, and that includes our inner sensibilities as well as our externally oriented knowledge and skill.” He challenges us to a deeper awareness of who we are in a way that adds to our external work, and allows inner flourishing.

Palmer argues that we need to build this into the world of education, with Reflection as the fourth R. “We need such an inquiry in education because sometimes the answer people come up with in response to their spiritual yearning is the Third Reich, Aryan supremacy, or some other form of racism, sexism, or homophobia. We have all kinds of ways of saying, “My group is superior to your group,” and that’s the pathological way we get connected to something larger than our own egos. So putting these questions on the table educationally is not only acceptable, it’s critical. When we leave them unexamined, we get a lot of darkness in the world as people fail to examine their underlying spiritual dynamics in relation to their work and other responsibilities.”

He adds, “When we bring our inner lives into our work, whatever we’re working with ceases to be an object to be manipulated and becomes instead a partner to co-create with. That’s what good teachers do with students, good doctors do with patients, good writers do with words, good potters do with clay.”

Mary does this with Jesus, and Jesus does it with the wine.

* * *

John 2:1-11
Do What Mom Says

Jesus’ mother sets the miracle into motion when she nudges Jesus into action. Both Jesus and the servants listen to her counsel, and take action. Her words to Jesus, I imagine, were not the first time she urged him to do something. The familiar words of mothers everywhere have, no doubt, moved us all to do something over the years. The internet has sorted mom-isms into categories so you know what kind of mother you have — or what kind of mother you are. For example, the mom who says “Who do you think you are? Who do you think you're talking to? Do you think I'm made of money? Who said life was going to be easy? Am I talking to a brick wall?” is the Confused Mom.

The Predictable Mom says, “Eat your vegetables, they're good for you. If God had wanted you to have holes in your ears (… tongue, eyebrows...) he would have put them there! If you could stay out last night, you can get up this morning. If you're too full to finish your dinner, you're too full for dessert.”

The Lazy (or exhausted) Mom will say, “Ask your Father. Don't make me come in there! Don't make me get up! How many times do I have to tell you? I don't care what all the other kids get to do. I don't have to explain myself. I said no.”

Or, there’s the Exaggerator Mom. “How can you have nothing to wear? Your closet is FULL of clothes! If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times. Look at this room! It looks like a pigsty! This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”

Jesus’ mom falls into a long line of concerned moms, hoping for better from their kids.


* * * * * *

Tom WilladsenFrom team member Tom Willadsen:

Isaiah 62:1-5
Echoes of Hosea

Today’s reading from Isaiah has the Lord, through the prophet, giving Israel new names; from Forsaken and Desolate to My Delight is in Her and Married.

The Lord does something similar in the life of (and book of) Hosea. The Lord commands Hosea to “take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom,” thus embodying Israel’s having forsaken the Lord. Hosea marries Gomer and fathers three children with her, Jezreel, Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi. These are hardly happy, providential names; they express the gravity of Israel’s national sin. Jezreel is the valley where the Lord promises to break the bow of Israel. Lo-ruhamah means “not pitied” and Lo-ammi means “not my people.”

In the end, of course, the Lord is merciful and by the end of chapter 2 the cursed names are undone.

* * *

Psalm 36:5-10
Mighty Clouds of Joy

B.J. Thomas had a Top 40 hit in 1971 with a song that could have been inspired by this morning’s psalm reading. “Mighty Clouds of Joy” hit number 31. Bobbie Buie and Robert Nix wrote the song. Part of the lyrics go

Hallelujah!
Happiness begins,
When the mighty clouds of joy
Come rolling in.


Playing this song in worship would totally raise the mid-winter malaise people are feeling.

There is also an influential gospel group, winner of numerous Grammies named Mighty Clouds of Joy.

* * *

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Spiritual gifts

These words are so familiar it’s easy to overlook some of their subtlety. Presbyterians recite much of this reading every time we ordain and install deacons, elders, and pastors.

In verse 6 the NRSV has a neat connection between the varieties of activities and God who activates all of them in everyone.

In verse 8 Paul distinguishes between the utterance of wisdom and the utterance of knowledge. As Miles Kington said, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in the fruit salad.”

Paul makes it very clear that the allocation of gifts of the spirit is determined by God. Also, do not overlook that all gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good, a concept that could use some reinforcement in the 21st-century America.

* * *

John 2:1-11
Jesus’ first miracle

Yes, this was Jesus’ first miracle and the host got props because the wine Jesus produced was really good. Jesus was not against having a good time. His mother may have been a little pushy and he may appear sassy — all these points have been made, have fun with them. Here’s a question the text doesn’t address: Where did the people wash their hands? Did they use the good wine? Did someone have to run to the well as soon as one of the vessels was empty for water? What would have happened if Jesus turned that water into wine?

Sometimes it can be a little disruptive to have the Messiah show up at your party.


* * * * * *

Katy StentaFrom team member Katy Stenta:

Psalm 62:1-5
Hanging on By a Thread
God is my rock and my salvation, by God alone I am saved, — but I will tell you what, in the midst of pandemic times, I am definitely shaken. I hope the threads are like fishing wire, thin but strong. We surely feel assailed, attacked by a battering ram. Tottering after we have pivoted, pivoted, pivoted, going around in circles until we are dizzy and ready to fall over. Surrounded by falsehoods of “quick cures” and easy answers of just... just vaccinate, just mask, just unvaccinated are in danger, just the immunocompromised are in danger, just the old, just the young, when the reality is that there is not “just” in God’s kingdom. We are strongest when we stand together, protecting one another, standing strong in God’s steadfast love that stands forever. We know the truth, God’s love for us is never shaken or minimized. If our policies and responsibilities can only bear up to that faith system.

* * *

Psalm 36:5-10
When we hear that the deer have Covid, Lord, I am reminded that you save humans and animals alike. It turns out those of us who have suffered through more colds, are more likely to defeat Covid or never catch it to begin with. God continues to help us to learn how to defeat this virus as we try to design new ways to create more effective vaccines. Thanks be to God.

* * *

John 2:1-11
My favorite part of John 2:1-11 is the nonverbal exchange between Jesus and Mary. Clearly something changes between Mary calling his mother “Woman” and Mary saying to the servants, “Do as he says.” My theory is that Mary gives Jesus a “mom look.” A do-what-you-are-supposed-to-I-know-you-can look. These looks are unique between parents and children because they are both affirming and a little bit scary at the same time. It makes one wonder if Jesus needed a bit of a push — if he had some worries. He was fully human after all. Was Jesus feeling some imposter syndrome? Was he having some doubts about whether he was ready, if he was worried about putting his family in danger in the midst of this religious revolution? In any case, this push from Mary can definitely be seen as a kind of affirmation and blessing. “Do what he says” Mary affirms, handing the reins of the wine, the hospitality, the miracle and the ministry all to Jesus. And thus it begins.


* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship
One: Your steadfast love, O God, extends to the heavens.
All: Your faithfulness extends up to the clouds.
One: Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains.
All: You save humans and animals alike, O God.
One: For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
All: Continue your steadfast love and salvation to the upright of heart!

OR

One: God calls us together to celebrate the Holy Presence.
All: In joy we gather to worship and praise our God.
One: God comes among us to strengthen us and give us gifts.
All: We open our hearts to all the God desires to give us.
One: God’s gifts are for us but also for us to pass on to others.
All: We will be faithful stewards so that all share in God’s gifts.

Hymns and Songs
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
UMH: 154/155
H82: 450/451
PH: 142/143
AAHH: 292/293/294
NNBH: 3/5
NCH: 304
CH: 91/92
LBW: 328/329
ELW: 634
W&P: 100/106
AMEC: 4/5/6
Renew: 45

Jesus Shall Reign
UMH: 157
H82: 544
PH: 423 
NNBH: 10
NCH: 300
CH: 95
LBW: 53
ELW: 434
W&P: 341
AMEC: 96
Renew: 296

Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
UMH: 173
H82: 6/7
PH: 462/463
LBW: 265
ELW: 553
W&P: 91

Ye Servants of God
UMH: 181
H82: 535
PH: 477
NCH: 305
CH: 110
LBW: 252          
W&P: 112

O Jesus, I Have Promised
UMH: 396
H82: 655
PH: 388/389
NCH: 493
CH: 612
LBW: 503
ELW: 810
W&P: 458
AMEC: 280 

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
UMH: 427
H82: 609
PH: 408
NCH: 543
CH: 665
LBW: 429
ELW: 719
W&P: 591
AMEC: 561 

O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee
UMH: 430
H82: 659/660
PH: 357 
NNBH: 445
NCH: 503
CH: 602
LBW: 492
ELW: 818
W&P: 589
AMEC: 299 

Be Thou My Vision
UMH: 451
H82: 488
PH: 339
NCH: 451
CH: 595          
ELW: 793
W&P: 502
AMEC: 281
STLT: 20

My Faith Looks Up to Thee
UMH: 452
H82: 691
PH: 383
AAHH: 456
NNBH: 273          
CH: 576
LBW: 479
ELW: 759
W&P: 419
AMEC: 415 

Trust and Obey
UMH: 467
AAHH: 380
NNBH: 322          
CH: 556
W&P: 443
AMEC: 377 

Shine, Jesus, Shine
CCB: 81
Renew: 247

Great Is the Lord
CCB: 65
Renew: 22

Music Resources Key
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who is the source of abundant life:
Grant us the courage to do what you call us to do
so that we may share your life with others;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

OR

We praise you, O God, because you are the source of all life which you desire to share with all creation. You call us to join you in sharing that life with others. Help us to be faithful followers and Jesus as we do you will. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
One: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our disobedience to you.  

All: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have called us and instructed us in what we need to do as your children and yet we are disobedient. Sometimes it is because we just are not listening. Other times we have heard what you have told us to do and we choose to not obey. All too often we are so focused on our own wants that we forget the needs of others. Forgive us and renew us so that we might truly be disciples of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen. 

One: God seeks to share life with all creation. Even when we are disobedience God is faithful and offers us grace. Receive that grace and share it with others so that they may know the love of God in their lives.

Prayers of the People
Praise and glory to you, O God, the giver of life and every good gift. You offer your love and your very self to us. We are in awe of your holy presence.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have called us and instructed us in what we need to do as your children and yet we are disobedient. Sometimes it is because we just are not listening. Other times we have heard what you have told us to do and we choose to not obey. All too often we are so focused on our own wants that we forget the needs of others. Forgive us and renew us so that we might truly be disciples of your Son, Jesus the Christ.

We give you thanks for the many ways in which you manifest your love among us. We find you in the midst of creation with all its beauty and wonder. We find you in the quiet times and in the midst of turmoil. You make yourself known in every facet of our lives. You give us one another so that we might care for and strengthen each other. As you live in the community of the Trinity you offer us community, as well.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for one another in our needs. We pray for our family and friends; we pray for the stranger; we pray for our enemies. We pray that we might remember we are all in this together and we are all your children. 

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service.)

All this we ask in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.



* * * * * *

Dean FeldmeyerCHILDREN'S SERMON
The Nature Of Gifts
by Dean Feldmeyer
1 Corinthians 12:1-11

You will need:
For small groups of children: Some small, gift-wrapped boxes with a small toy or coin in each one, enough for each child in the group.
For larger groups of children: One gift-wrapped box, large enough for all to see, filled with small toys or candy.

Say…

Good morning! (Hold the gift(s) where everyone can see it.)

How many of you received a gift for Christmas? How many of you gave someone a gift? Well, this morning, we’re going to talk for a few moments about gifts — what they are and what they’re for.

This morning, one of our Bible readings is taken from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth.

Corinth was a big city and had a large and diverse Christian community. It was made up of people from all over the world at that time. There were lots of people with different skin colors, accents, backgrounds, and different abilities. Some were speakers, some were singers, some were teachers, some were organizers, and some were people who were good at taking care of other people. And it seems that they got into an argument about which of those abilities was the most important.

Paul called those abilities “gifts.”

He said that God gives gifts to people but not all gifts are the same. Some people get one kind of gift and some people get other kinds of gifts.

Was that true at your house at Christmas. Did everyone get the same gift or did everyone get different gifts? Well, Paul says that, in the church, everyone gets different gifts.

What else do we know about gifts?

Do you have to pay for a gift? Nope. It’s free, isn’t it? You don’t have to pay for it.

Do you have to beg for a gift? Nope. It’s given to you because someone loves you, right?

That, Paul says, is the way it is with the gifts that God gives us. They are free. We don’t have to pay for them. And we don’t have to beg for them. God just hands them out to us.

But, Paul says there’s one thing that makes the gifts that God gives us different from other kinds of gifts. The gifts that God gives us aren’t just for us. They’re meant for us to share them with others.

God’s gifts, he says, are for our good, yes, but they are also good for the whole community of Christians. If God gives you the gift of a good singing voice God expects you to sing in church. If God gives you the gift of the ability to teach, God expects you to teach in church. If God gives you the gift of mowing grass, God expects you to help mow the grass at the church, or maybe for someone who can’t mow their own grass.

God’s gifts are meant to be shared. (Hand out small gifts or open the large gift and distribute the contents to the group.)

That’s a good thing to remember when we discovered that God has given us a gifts, isn’t it? (And it’s also a good thing to remember about the gifts we received at Christmas.)

(End with a prayer thanking God for the gifts that have been given to us and promising to share those gifts with all of God’s people.)


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Immediate Word, January 16, 2022 issue.

Copyright 2022 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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Jesus grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him. As we grow, let us too become strong, with the favour of God upon us.

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"Whine And Cheese" by C. David McKirachan
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