What makes us who we are? Is it what we do? Is it what happens to us? Is it our race or gender, gender expression, sexual orientation? Our age or education? Is it the way other people see us or the way we see ourselves? What makes us ordinary or extraordinary? Is it genetics or family relationships? What about environment or economics or opportunities? Mental health or physical health? My mother once told me that my grandmother asked how I could possibly have gotten into Princeton when I didn’t know anyone. Of course, my mother also told me that I had some “artistic skills” but they were learned, and my brother had the “real” talent. I grew up feeling less than ordinary, less than important. It took years to change that.
In more recent years I’ve been dismissed as just a woman, too young or too old depending on the circumstances. Sometimes it’s just a pastor. Sometimes it’s just queer. I shouldn’t know what I know or be able to do what I do because I’m not something in the eyes of someone who at least thinks they have power or authority over me. I can’t be Christian because I’m bi-sexual. I can’t be a pastor because I’m a woman. I can’t speak to mental health issues because I was educated in seminaries. The list goes on and on. I used to believe these judgments. I used to question myself and my value and my abilities all the time. I had a voice in the back of my head that constantly second guessed nearly everything I said or did.
Not anymore. Maybe it’s the privilege of being over 50, maybe it’s grace, maybe it’s healing, but I’ve come to a place where I know that no one thing defines me. I am more than a sum of all my experiences, education, roles, mistakes, and triumphs. I am decidedly more than anyone’s perception or judgement of who I am, or who I am not. And you know what? I am extraordinary.
And so are you. It’s ridiculous to allow anyone or any one thing to define who we are unless, of course, we’re talking about faith. God tells me I am Beloved and I am Delight. God says the same thing of every human being. Unfortunately, we don’t believe this message of love and value as readily as we believe the people who dismiss, devalue, and demean us.
Maybe more importantly, we believe that our value is determined by all the things society tells us define us. The funny thing is that social values are established and maintained by those with power. Those with power will always seek to disempower and oppress everyone else. They will twist everything to their version of truth and tell us everything else is wrong. How many of us have fallen prey to this power-hungry, greedy nonsense?
How many times and how many ways has God demonstrated God’s love for humanity? How many stories do we have that tell us it is God who makes the ordinary extraordinary? Jesus turned water into wine. The water was in purification jars and Jesus made it into wine. Water for purification rituals wasn’t needed when Divine Love Incarnate was present. Why not take that water and turn it into wine that would allow the wedding host to continue to offer hospitality?
This story also tells us that we become extraordinary when we use our gifts in service to someone else. Who we are and what we are able to do, don’t matter if we don’t use what we have in service to others. We are not meant to deplete ourselves for the sake of others. We are meant to serve others in a way that builds them up, that communicates their value as God’s Beloved or God’s Delight.
Imagine how different the world would be if we all recognized who we are and used the gifts we have in service to others. If everyone did this, not for the purpose of recognition, validation, praise, or payment, but to share the knowledge and power of God’s love? How extraordinary would we all be then?
RCL – Year C – Second Sunday after Epiphany – January 20, 2019
1 Corinthians 12:1-11