John 2:1-11 & 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
January 17, 2016
May peace and grace be upon you in the name of our Triune God. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about being a catalyst.
This weekend we celebrate and honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Did you know that Martin Luther King was actually named Michael King Jr.? His father (Michael King Sr.) was also a minister who married a minister’s daughter. After his marriage, Michael King Sr., took over as pastor at his father-in-law’s church and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. Eventually Michael Jr. would follow his father’s footsteps and also adopt the name and become Martin Luther King, Jr.
At a young age many would have never guessed that Martin Luther King, Jr. would grow up to be a religious leader. He was an extremely bright young man who entered college at the young age of 15 and earned his doctorate by the age of 25. It has been stated that “Although his family was deeply involved in the church and worship, young Martin questioned religion in general and felt uncomfortable with overly emotional displays of religious worship. This discomfort continued through much of his adolescence, initially leading him to decide against entering the ministry, much to his father's dismay.”
But we know his legacy, how he would rise in leadership and ministry and lead the country in the nonviolent civil rights movement. Yet, he was unaware or not ready to answer his calling at first.
This morning we are met with two scripture passages, one from the Gospel of John, which is a book that tells the story of Jesus, and the other from the first letter to Corinthians. This reading is a letter from the disciple Paul to the people of Corinth. Now Paul is not one of the twelve disciples; in fact, he actually persecuted Jesus and it was not until after Jesus’ death and resurrection that he experienced a conversion and became a follower of Christ.
Paul, like Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great leader of his day. In our passage this morning Paul is reiterating to the people that we all have gifts and talents…”to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” (1 Cor. 2:8-11)
When I first read this scripture I thought of spiritual gifts as our talents, or what makes us unique from one another. Maybe even what we are each individually good at doing. And that is not far off, but after taking a closer look, I came to learn that the Greek word Paul uses for gifts “is almost non-existent beyond the Pauline epistles [beyond the letters Paul wrote]. It is the word charismata (from which comes our English word, charismatic), typically translated as “gifts.” …this rare word is a cognate of the Greek word, charis, meaning “grace.” Thus for Paul these diverse gifts flow directly out of God’s grace.” 
Our gifts come directly from God’s grace. What makes us unique and our talents is not because of our genetics or our own innate ability but rather are divine gifts of grace from our God. We all have divine gifts from God just as Jesus was a divine gift and had many divine gifts from God.
Some people are able to recognize their divine gift or talent from God, while others need a catalyst to show them. I think Jesus fell into both of these categories. He understood he had a mission and ministry but also needed his mother, Mary to prompt him. Just a couple of weeks ago we met Jesus in the temple wanting to learn more, asking questions and growing into his gifts and ministry (Luke 2:15-21). We have also heard Jesus say in scriptures, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and after a miracle he performed “go, your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34). Jesus knew his gifts but he also needed some help and prompting from his mother Mary.
Let’s look again at the Gospel of John. Here Mary, Jesus and his disciples are at a wedding when the wine runs out. Weddings were then as they are today - a cause for big celebration and if the wine were to run out the groom would be humiliated. So when the wine runs out Mary nudges Jesus and says, “they have no wine.” Jesus responds to her “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus is telling his mother, Mary that he thinks it is not time for his gifts and divinity to be shown. But Mary is a catalyst. She goes on and tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them.
And as we just heard, the six stone water jars, which were filled with water not for drinking but for the spiritual act of purification or washing, are taken to the head servant who tastes the water which had now become wine, a miracle indeed!
Yet, changing the water to wine is not the only miracle I take away from this passage. In fact, I see two additional miracles. First is Mary being a catalyst to Jesus. She is the first disciple of Jesus and she knows what gifts and promises her son Jesus has within him. She understands that he has a divine gift and it is her insistence and prompting which leads Jesus to act, to turn the water into wine. And as a direct impact to Mary being a catalyst, the second miracle occurs, Jesus’ disciples came to believe in him. Thank you Mary!
Martin Luther King, Jr. also had catalysts along the way. He stated that: “My call to the ministry was neither dramatic nor spectacular. It came neither by some miraculous vision nor by some blinding light experience on the road of life. Moreover, it did not come as a sudden realization. Rather, it was a response to an inner urge that gradually came upon me. This urge expressed itself in a desire to serve God and humanity, and the feeling that my talent and my commitment could best be expressed through the ministry. At first I planned to be a physician; then I turned my attention in the direction of law. But as I passed through the preparation stages of these two professions, I still felt within that undying urge to serve God and humanity through the ministry. During my senior year in college, I finally decided to accept the challenge to enter the ministry. I came to see that God had placed a responsibility upon my shoulders and the more I tried to escape it the more frustrated I would become. A few months after preaching my first sermon I entered theological seminary. This, in brief, is an account of my call and pilgrimage to the ministry.”
His father was definitely one catalyst for Martin Luther King for he was a minister and deeply wanted Martin Luther King to follow in his footsteps. Martin Luther King also mentions above about his last year in school at Morehouse when as the turning point at which he decided to go to seminary. It was during that time that he meet Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays. President Mays and Martin Luther King would meet for hours discussing theology and it was May who influenced Martin Luther Kings’ spiritual development. “May was an outspoken advocate for racial equality and encourage King to view Christianity as a potential force for social change.” May was a catalyst for Martin Luther King. He recognized the God given gifts in Martin Luther King and helped him see his gifts and calling.
Then later it was a woman who would be the catalyst to launch Martin Luther King, Jr. into leadership in the civil rights movement. It was the year after Martin Luther King had moved to Alabama when the “42-year-old Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus to go home from an exhausting day at work. She sat in the first row of the "colored" section in the middle of the bus. As the bus traveled its route, all the seats it the white section filled up, then several more white passengers boarded the bus. The bus driver noted that there were several white men standing and demanded that Parks and several other African Americans give up their seats. Three other African American passengers reluctantly gave up their places, but Parks remained seated. The driver asked her again to give up her seat and again she refused. Parks was arrested and booked for violating the
Montgomery City Code. At her trial a week later, in a 30-minute hearing, Parks was found guilty and fined $10 and assessed $4 court fee.
On the night that Rosa Parks was arrested, E.D. Nixon, head of the local NAACP chapter met with Martin Luther King Jr. and other local civil rights leaders to plan a citywide bus boycott. King was elected to lead the boycott because he was young, well-trained with solid family connections and had professional standing. But he was also new to the community and had few enemies, so it was felt he would have strong credibility with the black community.”
We all need a catalyst, a mentor like President May or a Rosa Parks or Mary mother of Jesus in our lives and we too are called to be catalysts. A catalyst that creates a spark, sets something into motion, proclaims the divine light within someone or simply put, encourages and validates a gift in another individual. Mary was the catalyst for Jesus at the wedding in Cana. She saw and felt the spark of Jesus’ divinity long before everyone else and he needed her to provide the spark to set him in motion.
A great way to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. this week is to recognize each other’s divine gift given by the Grace of God in each other and spark that gift into action. By acknowledging, supporting and encouraging each other to use our gifts we will be continuing the work of Martin Luther King and the work of God.
Christ has come and has been revealed to us and as we continue on this road of epiphany, we are called to see each other’s divine gifts and encourage one another to use and act on those gifts. As the apostle Paul said: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
May we be a catalysts to one another.
 Richard Carlson, “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:1-11” https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2737