Sentness – Submerged Ministry
There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
On the third day, when the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him,"They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "[Mother], what concern is that to you and to me? My time has not yet come." But she went ahead anyway, telling the servants,"Do whatever he tells you."
Now standing there were six stone water containers for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it.
When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from(though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him,"Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."
This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Last week Pastor Mark kicked off our 6-week engagement with the concepts found in the book titled Sentness. We explored our identity as “Sent People” and were charged with Jesus’ command to “go.”
So how many of you went (or “go-ed,” as my boys would say)?
Where did you go?
Consciously or inadvertently, you went exactly where you were supposed to go. You went home, you went to work, you went to school, you went out to eat, you took a trip, you went to visit someone in the hospital, and you randomly or purposely encountered someone who needed something.
God’s “Sent People” are sent into the everyday ordinariness of life.
God’s “Sent People” are sent into the everyday ordinariness of life because that is where we get to know the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our neighbors.
God’s “Sent People” are sent into the everyday ordinariness of life because that’s where we find the people who need to hear a word of peace, comfort, and hope.
God’s “Sent People” are sent into the everyday ordinariness of life because it is our calling to practice “Submerged Ministry” – offering words and deeds of peace in the presence of and on behalf of the unique world in which we are immersed.
Your first reaction to the word “ministry” might be that it refers to something that happens confined within the walls of the church. That would be true for a “Come and See” church; however, we choose to be a “Go and Be” church.
Submerged ministry means getting to know the hopes, fears, joys, and struggles of the people that you come in contact with every day.
If we hope to bear good news to anyone or any situation, we must first understand the terroir of our individual contexts.
The french phrase terroir is used to describe the effect of particular factors such as soil, water, temperature, elevation, nearby vegetation, and cultivation techniques combining to influence the precise taste of a wine. The same grapes grown in the Burgundy region of France will taste different than those grown in Northern California; just as the same grapes from the same vines will taste different from year to year based on a number its terroir.
There’s no one-size-fits all model for bringing peace to a hurting person or community. There’s no secret formula for ensuring that your church is making a difference in the world. Christian mission is not about selling a mass-produced product.
Instead, the task is to really pay attention to the people, places, and institutions that infuse your life. Take this as an invitation to have more personal and powerful conversations with your friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers. Notice the consequences of your actions in our community. Take even more time out of your already-busy days in order to be truly present for someone else.
A gospel story that illustrates the idea of submerged ministry comes from the second chapter of John; and it too has to do with wine. Jesus and his mother are at a wedding festival in Cana.
On the third day of the wedding festivities, Mary notices that the wine barrels are empty. In this time and place running out of wine too early isn’t simply embarrassing, it’s a disaster. Wine isn’t just a social lubricant; it’s a sign of the harvest, of God’s abundance, of joy and gladness, and hospitality. And so when they run short on wine they run short of all these more important things.
But thanks to Jesus’ mother’s awareness of the situation (the lack of wine as well as what it signified), Jesus commands the servants to fill the containers.
He doesn’t point out the irresponsibility of the father of the bride for not providing enough wine. He doesn’t condemn the guests for perhaps consuming more than they should. He simply, yet miraculously, provides a sign of God’s blessing and abundance: six huge basins – 180 gallons – of fantastic wine, more than enough for even three more days of partying. No one would leave this wedding thirsty, for abundance and blessing overflowed.
What’s striking about Jesus’ first reported miracle is how completely ordinary it seems. Turning water into wine, while impressive, certainly seems to be pretty low on the list of life-changing miracles attributed to Jesus. But it is the complete ordinariness of this miracle that makes it profound.
It is a miracle made possible by paying attention to the community’s needs, withholding condemnation, using ordinary everyday objects, and daring to bring the truth of God’s abundance into a situation where hope seems scarce.
Actually, the water-to-wine miracle bears a striking resemblance to what is the true first miracle of Jesus – the Incarnation. The translation of John 1:14 found in Eugene Peterson’s The Message, says it best, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
Like the water-to-wine miracle, the incarnation of God in Jesus is a miracle made possible by paying attention to the community’s needs (a Savior), withholding condemnation (John 3:17 - “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world”), using ordinary everyday objects (flesh and blood), and daring to bring the truth of God’s abundance into a situation where hope seems scarce.
As people created and redeemed by God, the miracles of incarnation and water-turned-to-wine guide our ministry in and among the everyday ordinariness of life. We pay attention to the community’s needs, withhold condemnation, use ordinary everyday objects, and dare to bring the truth of God’s abundance into a situation where hope seems scarce.
May your faith inspire you to be so submerged in your community, so attuned to the particular terroir of your unique community, that you would notice the empty vessels that are begging to be filled.
And may this church and its neighbors work together to help our neighborhood flourish, so that God’s abundance can be experienced.