The Best Wine

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

John 2.1-11

It was all set for my sermon for today. I love this text from John’s gospel, I’ve used it at weddings, more than once. I was all set this morning to talk about parties, about not being so serious that we miss out on the good wine of joy. It is no mistake that Jesus’ first sign in John’s gospel takes place at a party. Jesus, I believe, wants us to enjoy life, to enjoy it to its fullest. One theologian puts it this way, I was going to preach, “Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be preoccupied with parties and banquets, feasts and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to veritable orgies of joy, because we have been liberated from the fear of life and from the fear of death. We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian.”

That was my sermon until Tuesday. The earthquake in Haiti made that sermon a message for another day. Instead, as we gather here this morning, we have other questions before us. We have a different context for reading and interpreting this text from John’s gospel. The brokenness of creation has intruded. And we can’t be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts and merriment. It is not the time for orgies of joy.

Tens of thousands dead and survivors clinging to life, and all of the other poverty that this tragedy has exposed once more, have reminded us that we are not completely free from the fear of life and the fear of death.

Well, if that is the case, then what does this party in John’s gospel say to us? What does this celebration in a nondescript, ancient village offer us this moment when our life is not like a party?

John tells us that this is the first of Jesus’ signs. If it is a sign, then to what truth, what reality, to what good news does it point? Where is the overflowing grace? Where is the abundant blessing in a world where earthquakes rock and cities fall?

As I watched the news with all of the suffering and hardship, as I am reminded of the poverty long standing there, I wonder where is God in all of this? Some would speak for us. I think of that ridiculous from once-prominent Christian leader Pat Robertson, who said that the earthquake was God’s judgment for a pact made with the devil long ago. Such statements need to be called out. That’s not the God that I know.

When we hear and see all of this, we might be tempted to agree with Richard Dawkins who believes that “God, though not technically disprovable is very, very improbable indeed.” These are the questions that dog us at moments like this.

I think that Jesus, bold as he was when he walked the earth, would not have us run away from such questions. He didn’t run away from such theological struggles, he embraced them. Him himself, the son of God, the beloved with whom I am well pleased, struggled profoundly with God’s absence on the cross. “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani? My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

We cannot run away from such questions of theodicy or the divine goodness in the face of evil, we grow through our wrestling and our struggle. But we confess that it is unlikely that we will ever be able to satisfactorily answer such questions, at least until that time when all questions are answered. And you know what, besides that, my faith tells me that this is not the time for theological wrestling. This is not the moment for theological partisanship or religious judgment. This is a time for action. For response.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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