The Rev. Calvon T. Jones, Assistant Minister, the Memorial Church. File Photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications.
By the Rev. Calvon T. Jones
The Memorial Church of Harvard University
(The following is a transcript from the service audio)
Let us pray. God, you are still God. You are Alpha and Omega. You are the beginning and the end. You are still a present help in the time of trouble. You are amazing. You are powerful. God, you are excellent. God, let someone be blessed by the message today and let the words of my mouth, the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight. Oh God, you alone are my rock and my blessed redeemer. In Jesus's name. Amen.
You have heard the readings for today. Of the time that I have with you, I would like to place a tag upon the text that you have heard, where it constitutes the context from which I will attempt to preach. Use what you have. Use what you have.
Beloved, there is a disease that yet plagues our nation. There is a disease that plagues our communities, our churches, our youth. There is a disease that plagues our world. There is a disease that has the power to cripple our very existence. Doctors have not diagnosed this disease. Psychologists and psychiatrists have not diagnosed this disease. Beloved, this disease is racism, hate, and white supremacy. This disease comes to snatch the dreams of our young people. It comes to snatch the dreams of adults. This disease, if you're not careful, will divide churches, break up homes, schools, community, and ethnicities. It comes to separate the people of God. It comes to snatch the goals and aspirations of God's people.
This disease called racism will have a giant believing he is a nobody. This disease called racism will have an accomplished person feel like they are not good enough. This disease will have people thinking that they're going to make it to heaven, but all the time God is not pleased because of the hate that they have allowed to enter into the chambers of their heart. This disease, beloved, called racism will have a person hating another person for no apparent reason.
Because of years of oppression, marginalization, dehumanization, and racism upon Black folks in this nation, it is a disease that starts at an early age, that comes to relinquish the power and the divinity of Black young children all over this world. Beloved, this disease called racism, this disease called hate, this disease called white supremacy is real and it does indeed exist.
But although this disease exists and has caused immeasurable harm in the world, God has a special way of stepping in and reminding us that we are created in God's image. God has a special way to remind us that we have the power to change not only our hearts, minds, and spirits, but we have the power to change our world into a world of love. God has a way of showing us that we have the power to use what we have to change our surroundings into a beloved community. God has a way of sending conduits of justice and peace to remind us that we have the power to stand up against evil, to stand up against injustice, and to stand up against a disease called racism.
This morning church, I don't mean to burst your bubble, but God is not pleased. God is not pleased with the racism that is permeating this land. God is not pleased with all that we are facing in this world today. This morning church, Reverend Jones stands, hallelujah, to shout and declare these words because as we are on the cusp of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's holiday, I can hear his words echoing in the halls of eternity. I can hear the words of Dr. King, "Whatever your life's work is, do it well. Even if it does not fall in the category of one of the so-called big professions, do it well. As one college president said, 'A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.' If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep those roads and streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music. Sweep those streets so well that all those in heaven and earth would have to pause and say, 'Here live the greatest street sweeper, who swept his job well.'"
Dr. King, one of the greatest prophets of the 20th century through his words, challenges everyone to use what they have. No matter who you are, what you are or where you live or where you come from, God calls you to use what's down in your soul, what's down in your belly to change the world. No matter your age, your ethnicity, no matter how tall you are, short you are, no matter where you come from. As long as you have breath in your body, God has called you to spread love, to tackle racism, to show the world the love of Christ and what to Christ looks like down here. Beloved, you have the power to use what you have to change the situation around you.
You've heard the reading today, particularly from the gospel according to John chapter 2 that speaks of this confidence and courage to use what you have. In the gospel, we find the first miracle of Jesus. Jesus, Emmanuel, God in the flesh, Jesus, the Lily of the valley, Jesus, the one who comes to change our lives. Jesus, the Christ comes on the scene. Not only does Jesus come on the scene, but he's joined by his mother and his disciples. And they all attend a wedding in the village of Cana. The wedding most likely had people from across the region coming to enjoy and see the couple who God had anointed and joined together to be married. And after the wedding, there was a special time, as we call it today, the reception, and the people were having a good time, enjoying each other's company, laughing, dancing, and smiling. Friends who had not seen each other in years were catching up. Family members who had been away for some time were reconnecting. And then something happens. The wine runs out.
I know some of you all listening right now, you gasp because I know some of you all don't know what to do when the wine runs out. Jesus's mother, Mary comes to Jesus saying, "They have no more wine." Jesus not wanting to be the only one to change the situation, not wanting to be the only one to be the star of the show, not wanting to be bothered asks, "Why do you want to involve me woman? My time has not come." Jesus, God in the flesh could easily fix the problem and help the need and rectify the situation by the popping of his finger or the snapping of his finger. However, he wanted those in that wedding to participate in the miracle. My God, I feel like preaching this morning, Memorial Church. He wanted the people to participate in miracle.
How many of us, hallelujah, call on Christ to do it? Call on God to do it? But I got news for you this morning. God wants you to use what you have. God wants you to participate in the miracle. Oh, glory to God. Jesus did not do it all by himself. Rather, he asked the servants and the wedding staff to participate in the miracle. He asked them to use what they had. There were six jars. Jesus asked them to bring the jars, fill them with water, fill them to the brim. And when they did that, Jesus used what they had utilized, what was nearby and turned it into wine.
Memorial Church, we are living in unprecedented times where the need is great. The need may not be that the wine ran out, the need may not be that we need more wine, but the need today is so great that we need to use what we have. Refugees are yet coming to our borders longing for help. Churches are closing all over the world. People are losing out on who they have been called to be. The Holy Spirit is missing in many of our churches. Natural diseases are at an all time high. COVID-19 is prevalent in the land. And not only COVID-19, but COVID-16, 19. Racism, systemic racism, institutional racism and so many inequities are rooted in our nation. There is a need in the land when people still cannot hold hand in hand, when people are still divided because of the color of their skin. Beloved, there is a need in the land. No matter how much money you have, no matter how many accolades you have, no matter how many degrees may be on your wall, God is asking you this morning, "Do you see the need?"
There are a number of things that we can take away this morning from the lesson. One that I believe is that Jesus sees you. When you don't think that you can fight against injustice, God is saying, "I see you." When you don't think you are valuable enough, when you think that you are insecure and you ask the question, "How can I tackle such a large and enormous problem called racism?" Maybe the enemy has tricked you to think that you're not smart enough, bright enough, pretty enough, that you're not old enough or young enough. Or you may think that you're not educated enough or you don't have a following enough to tackle the issue. Maybe you think you cannot help make a difference for those who are marginalized. Maybe the crowd has gotten in your way. Maybe the voices of people are in your head. Maybe the crowd has blinded your vision, but I have good news this morning. God sees you and is in inviting you to participate in the miracle.
In this text, Jesus includes the servants. Those who may have been overlooked. Those who may not think that they can tackle this issue. He invites them to participate in this great miracle. Those who may felt like they could not do it, are able to participate. Jesus sees the servants and allows them to use what they had, allows them to go and find the jars to help the need. In other words, not only does Jesus see you, but Jesus knows that you have deep down in you what the community, the nation and the world needs.
As I stated earlier in the sermon, Jesus did not call for the elders. Jesus did not call for the aristocracy. He did not call for the most expensive jars. He didn't call for the elite. He called on those who were willing; servants, the wedding staff. Glory to God. And as we deal with the many systemic problems of our day, remember that God has given you something special. That problem is not just for those over yonder but the problem affects you too. God has given you something, whether it's sources, whether it's your job, your career, your ministry, your connections to come and help stand for justice.
God does not want you to be silent. As the prophet of Isaiah states, "For Zion's sake and Jerusalem sake, I will not keep silent. I will not remain quiet until Zion shines out like dawn, and her salvation like a blazing torch." You cannot keep silent. Beloved, I will not keep silent. I will not keep silent and I will shout no more domestic terrorism. No more Trayvon Martins, no more Freddie Grays, no more Sandra Blands, no more Tamir Rices or Aiyana Jones or Eric Garner or Michael Brown or Breonna Taylor. I will not keep silent until all people, hallelujah, in this nation are valued. You cannot keep silent until Jerusalem, God's community, God's beloved community shines bright. Until all of us are able to walk in community, are able to sing together, live together, I will not keep silent. And I beckon unto you this Sunday morning, do not keep silent. Use what you have.
And today, despite what the enemy tries to do, despite what isms we may face, like Jesus, and the servants of the gospel, you have the power to turn water into wine. You have power to turn ugly into a beautiful message. You have the power to turn a mess into a message. You have power to turn a dry place into a Holy Ghost-filled place. You have to use what you got. You have to use what you have. If it's being a teacher, use what you have. If it's going to trade school, use what you have. If it's being an activist, use what you have. If it's being a preacher, use what you have. If it's being a singer, a lawyer, a historian, a writer, or a poet, use what you have. If it's being a banker, use what you have. If it's being a mechanic, use what you have. If it's being a leader, use what you have.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, oh, I ask you to use what you have. For there is no book you cannot write. There is no song you cannot sing. There is no play you cannot direct. There is no sermon you cannot preach. There is no school you cannot attend. There is nothing that you cannot do. Use what you have. Remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
As Dr. King stated, "If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep on moving. Don't give up." Remember the Word of God says that we can do all things through Christ that strengthen us.
Memorial Church, I got to go to my seat now. I'm looking at the clock. I don't know how long I've been, but I know I got to go to my seat now. The world needs you. The nation needs you. The city needs you. Your community needs you. The church needs you. Your neighborhood, your home needs you. Whatever you do, oh beloved, do not remain silent. Remember that God has given you power to fight for the oppressed, to fight for the marginalized. God has giving you power to show love, to give love, and be love. Show the world that we are all a part of God's family. Let us show the world that in Christ there is no east or west in him, no south or north, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide world. In Christ, we are one. Remember the world needs you. You have power to turn water into wine until Zion shines. Don't be silent, but use what you have. Amen.