On Signs, Miracles, and Green Lights
January 16, 2022
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
On the third day 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. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “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.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
Today’s sermon is titled On Signs, Miracles, and Green Lights.
For the past five months I have been shopping for a used car. It feels like it has been twice that long. I must admit that it has never taken this long for me to find a car I’m really excited about. Yes, the prices are high because of a computer chip shortage; that’s part of it. But, really, what I am not finding is the sense that I have found the right one.
I believe in this sense of rightness, this sense of knowing, that can be so elusive until I feel it and then absolutely unmistakable once I do. I have a few names for this phenomenon, depending on the particular circumstances, but I believe that the source of this phenomenon, the source of this sense of rightness I seem to always be searching for, is the Holy Spirit of God. When something or someone feels like the right fit, when something or someone (or even an idea) makes me light up inside and I can feel myself smile, it feels like a blessing.
Let me be very clear here, Friends. And I may be going out on thin ice, theologically. I do not believe that God is a force that is moving me like a puppet on a string, nor do I believe that God is making things happen or not happen in my life. I believe that God is a force of goodness that I am learning to look for. I believe that God is a force of goodness that does not cause calamity, violence, illness and death, but God is a force of goodness that is with us in all that we may endure. I believe that God is a force of goodness that I am learning to rely on as I make decisions. I am learning that when I feel a sense of rightness, or a sense of knowing, it is not because God has intervened, it is because I have found the place where goodness, where God-ness exists.
Like I said before, I have a few names for this phenomenon, depending on the circumstances. I call them either green lights, signs, or miracles. Green lights are what I call the most common, everyday kind of occurrences that guide my decisions. It is often a little spark inside when I have what seems like a good idea. For instance, earlier this week I saw some shrubbery with clusters of seedpods still hanging on the branches and I knew right away how I could relate those seedpods to my spiritual life and write about it in an email to send to you, my church family. Seeing those seedpods was a green light for me; I knew instantly I was onto something. I love that feeling. I have learned to rely on that feeling.
Sometimes, circumstances are so unusual that I do not call them green lights. I call them signs. For example, I might be questioning in my mind who might be willing to serve the church in some way and then I receive a phone call, out of the blue, from the very person I had just been thinking about. I call that a sign. I have learned to really pay attention to signs.
The rarest events, of course, are the miracles. There are only a few I am aware of. One was the time the grizzly bear jumped on my back but did not hurt me, and another was the time I lost my keys on a beach in Maine and then my son found them there ten days later. Those are times I will never forget. There have probably been other miracles in my life that I am unaware of; I hope so.
The green lights in my everyday life are my absolute favorite. They are not as memorable as the miracles and signs, but it’s the green light moments when things feel right and clear (not always easy or good, please note). It’s the green light moments that bring clarity and offer the assurance that I am aligned with a force of goodness much greater than myself. Naturally, most moments of my life are not like that; that’s why the green light moments stand out in stark relief against the norm: the unanswered questions, the stress, and the deliberations about what to do and when.
I can completely empathize with Jesus in our story today, when Mary is pushing him to save the day by turning the water into wine. He essentially pushes back, tells her the matter is none of their business, tells her his “hour has not yet come.” Mary pulls a move that only close family and friends can when she tells the bystanders, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”
Now, Friends, no one knows exactly what transpired, but something happened. Maybe Jesus had a green light moment. Maybe there was some internal change, some spark of knowing that it had been his self-doubt speaking before, or his fear that was making him hold back. Something happened. We can only imagine.
There is one thing I know for sure. It would take a good long time to fill 6 stone jugs, each holding 20 gallons or more. That’s one hundred and twenty gallons. Even with a water pump and a hose it would take a long time to fill 120 gallons. Jesus had time…time for doubt and fear to creep in, time to question the whatever sense of clarity and self-assurance that led him to ask for the stone jars to be filled. We can not know what may have gone through his heart and mind, Friends, but I am sure that we have been in similar situations.
We have all, I am sure, found ourselves wanting to please someone we care about, wanting to do the right thing, wanting to help, wanting to make a positive difference and yet not quite sure if we should or if we could. It is likely we will find ourselves in such a place again in the future, weighing the what-ifs, searching for that sense of rightness, that sense of knowing that is not yet there. In such times, there may be someone there, someone like Mary that loves us and believes in us even when we do not believe in ourselves. That someone may just be all we need. They may be our green light.
There will be times when there is no one there to give voice to what we need to hear. There will be times when we have to act in an instant and trust, and there will be times when we know we must wait, listen, and be ready to see a green light coming from somewhere or from someone unexpected. In every moment, the force of goodness is there, too. We are not alone.
In closing, Friends, and as we look to an uncertain future, I pray that we will not be daunted by the unknown. I pray that we, instead, will be focused on the green lights that lead us, in love, through all the hardship and challenges of our lives. So be it. Amen.
In the stillness of winter, Lord, turn our hearts and minds to your presence. Help us to travel through our days slowly and with great care, paying close attention to how we are and where we are. Make us ever mindful of ways we can share your love, with a kind word, a smile, a note or a phone call. For all those who are ailing, Lord, we pray for their comfort. For all who are without, may they find the resources they need. For those facing death, we pray for peace. All these things I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray by saying Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever and ever. Amen.
I leave you with these words from Martin Luther King, Jr., from his sermon, preached in Montgomery, Alabama on November 6th, 1956:
“I still believe that standing up for the truth of God is the greatest thing in the world. This is the end of life. The end of life is not to be happy. The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may. I think I have discovered the highest good. It is love. This principle stands at the center of the cosmos. As John says, ‘God is love.’ He who loves is a participant in the being of God.”