“New Gifts - Old Boxes”
Sermon: “New Gifts - Old Boxes”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from January 16, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
There are times in our life that we do receive gifts probably much more often than we ever imagined. But I did want to continue with what I was talking about with our young people. We often get gifts that aren't wrapped and things that we wouldn’t recognize. This Sunday’s lesson from the gospel, follows Jesus, having been tempted in the wilderness and coming back out.
And this is now the beginnings of his earthly ministry and he and his followers are at this wedding in Cana. Now I know I've been to Cana. In this day and age, they make a huge thing about, you know, there's a big tourist trade in Cana of wine. And having eaten in one of the restaurants there, and having had some, I don't know why anybody bothers you buying it to bring it home. But maybe after all the years, it just changed back to the water. I'm not sure.
But the thing about this story is it, Jesus is at this wedding and his mother is concerned because you know, a wedding party is over when they run out of wine. I mean, that's the way it was. If you ran out of wine, the wedding party was done. The traditional wedding, and that part was, everybody would come into a hall, they would bar the door. Nobody else could come in once it started, and the party lasted as long as the wine did. And then they would open the door and people would go home. So, it was a status symbol to be able to have the party go for a long time. And it was an embarrassment if you had not enough to keep it going for the number of guests you had.
So, Mary comes to Jesus and says, they're running out of wine! Jesus of course says, what does this have to do with me? And being the typical mother, she ignored what Jesus said and told the servants to do whatever he said. Isn't it just like a mother to kind of push somebody into being who they're called to be before they're ready? No mother would do that, would they? So, in a humorous way, that's a synopsis of the story.
Of course, Jesus tells him, fill, the jars that are for ritual cleansing. Now, these aren't just ordinary jars. These are jars that are specifically set aside for ritual cleansing for the holy. And he has them fill them with water and then draw some out and take it to the steward.
Now there's something about those jars, because no one would ever expect anything other than clean water to come from those jars. No one. And yet the servants take some water and they take it to the steward and the steward tastes it. I'm sure at this point, the servants are worried about what's going to happen to them after they bring water to the steward to drink.
The steward tastes it and immediately goes to the Bridegroom and says, but you save the good wine, you saved the good wine until last. Now put yourself in a position of everyone who was in that wedding. Let's start with the disciples. They had just started following this man, Jesus. And in the gospel of John, we don't even have their names yet, but they had just started following Jesus.
They’re at this wedding with him and what's happened? They're expecting that this party is over, after all they're out of wine. End of wedding.
And the first thing that they witnessed is Jesus turning water into wine. Now we've got all the wedding guests that are all gathered around. Maybe, they're still oblivious to the fact that they were running out of wine, but even so, suddenly they're getting better wine, better wine. When everybody knows that you serve the good stuff first and yet here, the good stuff has been reserved for those who have waited.
And so, they are surprised. Probably the only two people that were there that were not surprised was Mary and Jesus
Now let's flip over to our passage from Corinthians. Paul lists off all these wonderful gifts of the spirit. The gift of patience, the gift of discernment and all of these other gifts that Paul lists off as being spiritual gifts. And if we look through that list, there is probably nothing there that we would expect in the packages that we get them.
Paul lists off here, working of miracles and prophecy, discernment of spirits. Speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, an utterance of wisdom. Notice that he even separates utterance of wisdom and knowledge and the two different gifts. But none of these gifts are things that come in packages, we assume that we would recognize as being presents or gifts.
I mean, think about how do we get knowledge? How do we get knowledge? Well, most of us get our knowledge by making mistakes, right? We make mistakes. That's how we learn. I know it's hard to get that through to some of our school students minds, that mistakes is really the way we learn. Not by getting it right the first time.
Because when we get it right the first time, we can still make a mistake later, right? Especially if we think we know how we're doing it and we've rushed through it. We learned from our mistakes, and yet that's how we get what Paul says is a spiritual gift knowledge.
And we have to remember that in this day in Paul's time period, wisdom was equated with age. Now, how many of us, as we get older, think of it as a great gift? Ah, but it's a spiritual gift of wisdom. It's a spiritual gift of wisdom. And we in the Presbyterian church especially, should remember this because Presbuteros where the elders, the ones with the wisdom to guide the body.
So, these gifts come in packages we don't understand or recognize. When I was growing up in our household, especially as my brother, sister, and I got a little older. It was a great challenge to see how well we could disguise what we're giving our siblings for Christmas or not even our siblings, but our parents. One year, my father, well, for several years, my father had been saying that when his ship came in, he was going to build a train layout. But then he would turn around and say, but unfortunately with my luck, when my ship comes in, it will be a garbage scow.
Well, my brother, sister, and I got to where we all had jobs and we'd pooled some resources. And we got my father, his first H-O train set, and we wrapped it up to look like a garbage scow. Think about that. It looked like big garbage scow. I mean, wrapped in newspaper, all kinds of things. It was about this size, all kinds of wadded up bits of newspaper, and any other little bits of trash we could find, piled up in the middle of what was made to look like a barge. It was not what he expected when he opened it.
I one Christmas morning had a box. It was about 12 feet long and about six by six, six inches by six inches. The whole length of it. I have no idea where my brother got it. Wrapped in the Sunday comics because we didn't have enough gift wrap. And the whole box was stuffed with wadded up newspaper. There was a matchbox car at one end and a matchbox car at the other end.
I was 15 and my brother was giving me matchbox cars. No, in the middle of one of the pieces of wadded up newspaper was $200 that he had borrowed from me several months earlier. If I had not gone through each piece of paper carefully, that would have been trash.
You see, sometimes in life we get what we think is garbage, and yet God has buried in that trash something that is a true gift.
I don't remember what the name of the movie was. We watched last night on Netflix. You remember? But it had Robert de Niro and Robin Williams and whole bunch of people. We decided to watch it because we look at the list of the names of who's in it and said it's gotta be good. But it was about their adopted son. The adopted son was marrying his fiancé and his biological mother was coming up from Columbia.
And I don't know if anyone else has seen the movie, it's a rip. But the one thing about it is everything about this family was about as dysfunctional as you could get.
It was about as dysfunctional as you could get. And yet in the end, they discover that as far as all these weird relationships were, and the family and everything. They learned that there were many ways of loving one another, many ways of loving one another, but they had to go through all of these catastrophes to find out that simple truth.
You know, there are a lot of things in our life today that we go through, and we think that this is so bad.
Pick a catastrophe of the day, storms, COVID, floods, fires, whatever, you go through it. And you think it's so bad. And then you find that there were some real gifts in it.
I was checking the internet this morning and there's a story of an Uber driver. That a week ago when they had that massive tie up on I-95, this Uber driver at two o'clock in the afternoon had picked a 20-year-old woman up at union station in Washington, DC, and had agreed to drive her to Williamsburg, Virginia. And they were behind the blockade on I 95. And he tried getting off of the freeway and the police sent him back onto the freeway because the alternative routes were blocked with down trees and power lines. And he was worried about his passenger, about the safety of his passenger and kept offering her the food and drink that he kept packed for himself.
And he was concerned because he was watching his gas gauge go down, and yet he had to keep the motor running to keep her warm. And finally, he managed to follow a work truck that got through a turn around and went back the other way on 95 and got off and convinced her, texting with her parents back and forth, convinced them that it was okay. He was going to take her and check her into a hotel, and he was going to pay the bill.
Catastrophe. She wasn't going to get home to Williamsburg. He was having to pay all this. Wasn't going to complete the trip. Therefore, by Uber's rules would not get paid.
Well, Uber found out about it. He got paid for his time and his mileage. He got reimbursed for the hotel bill, Uber praised him for being so concerned about the safety of a passenger. And he got offered a job with a high-end ride sharing outfit that works out of four cities in the country as a trainer for their drivers, because they wanted that kind of customer relations.
Not to mention the fact that he now has a family in Williamsburg, Virginia, that would welcome him at any time because he took care of their daughter and kept her safe and fed and warm.
That catastrophe brought out his gift of compassion and caring for other people. And you see that over and over and over again in the face of adversity where someone's gift of caring is brought out. You know, Fred Rogers used to say that any time there is a real problem, look for the helpers. Look for the helpers.
Jesus was the helper at the wedding that nobody was looking for. He helped avert a catastrophe. And yet people still didn't know who they were seeing. That didn't come until much later.
We don't always recognize God's presence with us. Even as it's being manifested right in front of our eyes. but hopefully, eventually, in hindsight, we can see. In the meantime, let's appreciate the gifts we have and be open to the gifts that we as individuals may have been given, that we aren't even aware of. You know, we look at presents and gifts as things that we can open or that we see in others. But sometimes we have to open the gifts that are within ourselves gifts that we may not even know are there. Sometimes those gifts even come in old boxes that are beat up and crushed. And a being reused.
Sometimes they're not even wrapped. Amen.