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. 

Embodied Faith: Power Poses

This embodied faith practice was originally shared as a Children’s Sermon on January 13, 2019 by Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar

Is power good or bad?  

It depends. 

Let’s look at water.  Water is a powerful force of nature.  Water is also associated with the Holy Spirit.  (probably because when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan the Holy Spirit descended upon him.) 

Water is powerful. 

What is this a picture of?

Image result for flooding house

When water is powerful in floods and hurricanes, what does it do? 

[destroys, harms] 

Water can be powerful in another way.  

Image result for animals drinking from river

When water is powerful in these pictures, what does it do? 

[provides nourishment, growth, life] 

Water can be powerful in a good way or in a bad way. 

Power can be used for good or for harm.  

In our scripture this morning we hear about two people trying to use power in very different ways. 

Simon wants power to do magic tricks and manipulate people.  

Peter uses power to draw people to God and community.  

Let us listen. 

Scripture: Acts 8:14-24 

Peter had the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Simon wanted to pay money for it, but Peter says “nope! You can’t buy the Holy Spirit’s power!” 

You see, Simon wanted power for himself.  

[stand in power pose, fists up]

He wanted power over people.  

Earlier in the Bible (Acts 8:9-14), we learn that Simon was a trickster,  

a magician who used power to gather a following. 

When Peter comes with the Holy Spirit,  

all the people stopped following Simon and started following Peter. 

When Simon seeks to pay for the Holy Spirit power, 

Simon wants the power so he can control the people again. 

Simon wants the power for his own personal gain, 

So he will be popular and in control.  

Simon wants power over. 

Power over is not very strong though. 

  • We get tired easily in this pose 
  • Easy to push over, because it’s just me by myself. [push an adult over] 

The apostle Peter has Holy Spirit power – power with. 

Peter lays hands on and blesses people with the Holy Spirit Power. 

[power pose of arms blessing, outstretched] 

Peter does not hoard this power, instead he shares it with others who are open to it. 

HS is power with, a power that connects. 

So we can stretch out our arms and connect with others.  

[wrap arms around each other] 

Peter used the Holy Spirit power to connect people to one another and to God. 

Instead of using power for himself, he used power to help the common good. 

Like when water is powerful in a good way, Holy Spirit power nurtures growth and new life. 

Holy Spirit Power is a power with that is very strong. 

[kids try to push adults linked together over] 

Power can be good or bad, depending on how we use it. 

If we use power over others, we will ultimately fall. 

If we use power with others, we will grow strong together.  

We all have power.   

Sometimes we may not feel like we have power:  

we are not the boss, not the president, not the parent. 

Yet the earliest disciples of Jesus were not in charge,  

they were not Roman emperors, 

but they wielded power in such a way as to rock the world. 

We all have power. 

We each choose how to use that power. 

We can attempt to dictate and control, power over. [pose] 

However, money or muscle or status will likely defeat us. 

We can use power with to connect  

and grow a strong community. [power pose] 

Even though we know the strength of power with,  

Fear that we won’t be enough reverts us to power over. [pose] 

Like Simon, feeling unworthy or less than  

can incite attempts to grasp control over others.  

Let us reflect on how we use the power granted us. 

For when we can see the misuse of power,  

we can begin to correct.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, send your power on us, that we might grow strong together. Amen.  

“Anxious to Talk About It” Book Group

Read and discuss the #1 Bestselling book published by Chalice Press in 2018: “Anxious to Talk about it: Helping White Christians talk faithfully about racism”. This group will meet weekly through Sunday, February 17th.

This book study will feature interactive sessions designed to deepen our understanding of racial identity development (for white people and people of color) and build concrete skills to talk wisely and well about racism in our world today.

No need to read the book in advance, the Book Group will read a few chapters at a time to facilitate discussion. You can order your book on Amazon (see link below), if you need help securing a book please let us know.

Purchase Book

To sign up please visit this link on Facebook:

Through MeetUp:

“Anxious to Talk About it” Book Group

Sunday, Jan 20, 2019, 12:00 PM

First Congregational Church of East Hartford
837 Main St East Hartford, CT

1 Members Attending

Read and discuss the #1 Bestselling book published by Chalice Press in 2018: “Anxious to Talk about it: Helping White Christians talk faithfully about racism”. This group will meet weekly through Sunday February 17th. This book study will feature interactive sessions designed to deepen our understanding of racial identity development (for white pe…

Check out this Meetup →

Spiritual Goals Workshop

Thursday, January 17th 6:30pm

• How do you want to spiritually grow this year?
• Are you new to the spiritual life and searching for a connections to something greater?
• Have you tried every spiritual practice out there and want something more?
• Do you start your goals but never quite finish?
• Where does your spiritual support come from?
• Are you ready for a deeper relationship with the Divine?

This interactive and personal workshop will lead you through a spiritual discernment experience to uncover your spiritual goals for 2019 and identify the support and steps to pursue your goals. No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome. Workshop is accessible for people of many faiths and questioning faith.

To sign up please click the link below: