2nd Sunday after Epiphany—Year C—January 20, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the mediations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, our strength and redeemer. Amen.
I have never been married, or planned a wedding for myself (well at least not since I passed the age of 12) but I have in the last three years watched many of my friends pair off, get engaged, and plan weddings. I have had the privilege of participating in one way or another in four of those weddings. What I learned from watching these weddings being planned out and executed is that you cannot do anything willy-nilly, especially when people tasks and roles. There has to be great intentionality to your choices of who does what…if you want the wedding to go as smooth as humanly possible.
For the first of these weddings, I, along with the two friends that I was travelling with, filled the role of Cake Pick-up Crew. We were empowered to pick up the cake from the bakery, transport it carefully to the reception venue, and set it up without incident. Our responsibility and trustworthiness, along with the fact that we would have a car to use and the fact that we would not need to be at the church early for any other job were taken into consideration by the bride and groom as they entrusted the cake to us.
And so it is with God, as God considers what ministries and roles to entrust to us. God takes into consideration what gifts we already have and provides us with anything else we may need. Like in the case of the wedding cake, the couple prepared us for the task by giving us all the information about the cake, the money to pay the balance, the location of the reception hall, and the time frame when someone would be there to let us in. We were not left to figure it all out on our own; we were equipped and empowered for our vocation as wedding cake delivery team.
The next wedding, which was in fact only about a week later, I was asked by the couple to serve as usher. The ceremony took place at the seminary chapel, so I was already familiar with the space and helping with services there. I had the skills already to hand out bulletins and guide guests to their seats. I even already knew the proper way to ring the chapel bell and the proper times to do it. However, in the midst of the wedding rehearsal, I learned a lot from another friend of the couple who was serving as the assisting minister. Before the rehearsal, he led the whole wedding party in sprucing up the chapel…using a blowtorch to get melted wax off the metal candle stands…the tricks for ironing a really long fair linen and getting in place without re-wrinkling it.
As a self-professed “liturgi-nerd,” I found all of these altar care tricks fascinating to learn, but I did not realize at the time that my learning experience was also preparing me for a future vocation. Very often during my senior year of seminary, when I was the student in charge of chapel, I remembered back to this wedding rehearsal and the skills I had learned and realized that God was using my friend as a teacher to prepare me for a role that I would fill two years later. You never know when God is working through someone around you to equip and empower you for your current or even a future vocation to which you are called.
The next one of my friends who got engaged, asked me to serve as one of her bride’s maids, which I was ecstatic to do. When she asked me, I pictured using my skills as a friend to keep her calm by making her laugh and making her day as special as possible with my awesome dance moves. I had no idea that so many of my seemingly non-related gifts and talents and passions would come in handy. I ended up picking up five of my friends, most of who were also in the wedding party, at three different airports in the days surrounding the wedding. I was the only one who lived nearby and knew the area well, so I served as chauffeur in addition to being a bride’s maid. It also came in handy that I knew how to change a tire, because I ended up getting a flat on the way to the nail salon with my car full of the bride, bride’s maid, and bride’s boy.
And the bride also asked that I help the photographer keep the massive group of family and wedding party in order by serving as picture wrangler. She knew that my organization skills, my loud camp-counselor voice, and my aptitude for ordering people around would be a great combination of gifts to have around to ensure that all the desired pictures got taken as fast as possible. Sometimes God’s work requires us to use our skills and assets, our equipment and empowerment, from one area of our life in a vocation that is totally unrelated.
Most recently, the day before my ordination in fact, I served as bride’s maid for another one of my close friends from seminary. Early on she asked me to help lead the service in addition to the normal duties of a bride’s maid, so I knew I would be wearing multiple hats again at that wedding. But I was reminded about another fact about how we are equipped and empowered for the vocations we will have throughout our lives: we are not all cut out for the same roles, job, or vocations. God equips, empowers, and calls us each uniquely. I was reminded of this when I saw the Maid of Honor float through the wedding weekend. When the Bride started to worry or get frazzled or we got off of schedule, I got stressed and frustrated, but not the Maid of Honor. She kept her cool as she delegated wedding tasks to the rest of the bride’s maids and she focused on taking care of the bride. This is exactly what needed to be done. She had the skills to keep the bride calm and happy, and she knew I had the skills to be more successful at something else. We each fulfilled our separate roles, with our unique gifts, talents, and personalities, and the wedding went off without a hitch.
At all four of these weddings, I was assigned to the roles I was for very specific reasons. Some of them I already had the gifts and talents and passions to complete the task with ease, and others, I had some of the know how, but also the excitement to learn, and so I was right for the job.
It is the same with the church, the body of Christ…
We all have various spiritual gifts, which allow us to fill the various roles that need to be filled if we want to the spreading of the Gospel to go as smooth as humanly possible. God equips and empowers each of us, sometimes in new ways everyday, to go out and do God’s work in the world with our hands. But we cannot be successful alone. It is only when we each use our God given gifts in collaboration that we can show forth God’s power and love for the world as Jesus did when he turned all that water into fine wine. We might not have the power to perform such large-scale signs and miracles, but that does not mean that we are unable to show forth Christ, because you have been equipped and empowered to do just that, to spread God’s love to all the world. Amen.