Sermon: Miracles Take Work

Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar on January 27, 2019

Photo from CARES mentoring program

In 2006, Hurrican Katrina hit the southeastern part of the United States. 

Some of you went on service trips to help rebuild homes.  

Many of you know of the homes destroyed and inequality revealed. 

A miracle was needed.  

Not just for new homes, but for lasting guidance and support. 

Susan Taylor witnessed the needs of young people of color in vulnerable neighborhoods: 

Children wrestling not only with the aftermath of the hurricane,  

but also with the trauma of poverty and the legacy of racism.  

“The traumatic stress children in poverty live with fuels mental illness and physical disease, including anxiety, depression, hypertension, substance abuse, obesity, and violence.” 

She also knew what countless scholars have discovered: 

Direct mentorship from relatable and responsible adults can propel a young person out of poverty by inspiring hope and building resiliency.

Susan sought mentors to support these young people. 

Black women and men cared deeply but lacked the structure to bring them into the mentoring work.  

So Susan Taylor spoke around the nation and wrote reports for Essence magazine. 

Community leaders and clergy responded, first in Atlanta and now in over 50 cities across the nation. 

A structure to recruit, train, and deploy committed Black adults to mentor local children was born. 

CARES has garnered national attention from President Obama, Rev. Barber, and countless others. 

Today CARES is building a group-mentoring program for use in under-resourced schools in high-need communities.  

A miracle was needed, and through hard work CARES has provided 140,000 mentors to over 200,00 children in 58 cities.  

The holy worked a miracle with the hard work of Susan and mentors across the nation.  

To learn more about CARES, visit their website: CARES

In our scripture this morning we hear of a miracle that took some hard work. 

Scripture: John 2:1-11 

I often focus on Jesus or Mary in this scripture, but Rev. Joanna Harader in the Christian Century magazine, drew my attention to the servants who fulfill Jesus’s call to “fill 6 stone jars.”  (Read it here)

At 20-30 gallons a piece, that was A LOT of water.  This was in a time without faucets or hoses, so to fill all 6 jars to the brim was no easy task.  It would have been enough water to purify 200,000 thousand people at the temple.  Now, I’ve heard of big weddings, but 200,000 is extreme. (The Knot reports 20,000 being the largest wedding guest list). 

In any case, this simple and sweet miracle to save the hosts from the shame of running out of drinks at a wedding, took quite a bit of work from the servants filling those jars.  Maybe they thought it was ridiculous or did so begrudgingly.  Or maybe they did so with great hope that the party would continue on in celebration and honor of the family.  In any case, with their hard work, Jesus worked a miracle.  

Miracles take hard work, even miracles conducted by God.  

The miracle of healing happens with the hard work of doing the PT exercises and taking the medicine.  

The miracle of maintaining a healthy body weight happens with the hard work of eating well and exercising. 

The miracle of nourishing and supportive relationships happens with the hard work of consistently reaching out and showing up.  

While there is no guarantee that doing the hard work will bring a miracle, we know that without the hard work, the miracle probably won’t happen.  

Miracles so often take hard work done in faith.  

The miracle of the Red Sea parting took the hard work of Moses holding his staff up (Exodus 14) 

The miracle of the crippled man healed took the hard work of his buddies lowering him down through the roof to meet Jesus (Luke 5) 

The miracle of the resurrection took the hard work of surrendering on the cross and resting in the tomb. 

Miracles take hard work done in faith.  

What drives us to do the hard work? 

I think the servants in our scripture today did the hard work of filling the jars with water in hopeful faith. 

After all, it was not their boss who commanded the filling – their boss, the steward, thought the wine came from the bridegroom.  The servants filled the jars, not in response to their boss, but in response to the call of Jesus.  Perhaps it was something in his very presence.  Maybe it was Mary’s confidence in her son’s power.  Maybe the servants simply wanted to see what was possible.  Maybe they would receive punishment if the wine was indeed out – perhaps the owner of the house would come back to blame the servants for serving the wine too quickly.  In which case, the miracle of turning water to wine, not only saved the reputation of the bridegroom, it also saved the servants from the reprimands of their boss.   Jesus has a way of working miracles for poor and wealthy at the same time.   

Whatever motivated the servants, they believed enough to carry out the hard work of filling the jars and Jesus worked a miracle for everyone involved.  

We do the hard work in faith that God is indeed weaving a miracle.  

Our world needs many miracles still today.  

We often pray for miracles, but 

Prayers are but empty words if we neglect to invest our bodies.  

Miracles take some heavy lifting.  

Miracles take the hard work of researching and learning about an issue. 

Miracles take the hard work of showing up. 

Miracles take the hard work of budgeting and planning our finances. 

Miracles take the hard work of hands sorting food or setting up chairs or typing letters. 

Miracles take hard work done in faith that God is weaving a miracle.  

May we have enough faith to do the hard work Jesus calls us to. Amen.