My kids and I are very big fans of the marvel superhero movies. We have watched almost all of them, and they are for the most part great stories of the triumph of good versus evil, of the importance of making moral choices, and of the imperfection of humans. In short all of the Marvel characters have flaws. Some of them are little better than villains. But throughout the series the thread of choice and free will runs. At one point in one of the movies one of the “antiheroes” who is little better than the people he opposes is knocked to the ground and he gets up, dusts himself off, and starts after his opponent with revenge in his mind. He is brought up short by one of his companions calling out:
“Two or three times!”
“Two or three times!”
“People think that being a superhero is something that you do every day, you get up, you brush your teeth, and you save the world. Really though what it comes down to is the two or three times that you make the right choice. That is what separates us from the villains.”
In the scripture today, Jesus is confronted with one of the two or three times that defines him. When his mother comes to him, to tell him of the problem at the wedding, you can almost feel the exasperation in his response. “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come!” Here we have Jesus, asked to step up, make a statement by performing a miracle, and start along a path that will lead inevitably towards sacrifice and death. Until this point, he has led a relatively uneventful life, a tradesman from an obscure village, quiet, unassuming, normal. What he is being asked to do changes everything. It is one of those defining moments, and he knows it.
Often when we are confronted by these defining moments, they are commonplace, a part of our lives and we do not see their significance until much later. I had one of these defining moments and I want to talk about that now.
A little more than 20 years ago, I was living a quiet, life, in my mid-thirties, I was quietly following along a path of least resistance, going to work, living alone on a quiet street, not really having much impact, either on myself or others. Life was easy. I had had goals; they hadn’t really worked out and I had pretty much given up on anything ever changing. One of my neighbors liked to garden and also had a small dog and I had become casual friends with her due to our common interests. She was in a bit of a bind, she led a small youth group, and needed a couple of people to help for one of her events. She asked me if I was interested in helping. I said yes.
Such a small word, such a small decision, how was I to know what a change that one decision would make to my life. From that choice, my life was turned 180 degrees. I became involved in my community and as a result over the past 20 or so years, I have:
Met my life partner
Raised and continue to raise our family
And countless other things.
None of this would have happened without that one choice, one of those two or three choices that define who I am.
So, where did that choice come from? Who was the person who gave me that choice? How did it happen?
The short answer is that it was from here! One of the staff of this church realized that I had something to offer, that I could make a difference, that I belonged. This church is an agent of change and a provider of defining choice. Whether we stand before the altar at a baptism and resolve to raise our children better than we were or attend a celebration of life and decide to change ourselves and our attitudes to better emulate those who have passed on. Whether we attend an AA meeting and tell ourselves that it is time for a change or go to community dinner and get the energy to go out the next day and change our lives for the better, this church makes that possible. Jesus knew, when he made that choice in Canaan that after that choice was made the world wouldn’t be the same. He willingly sacrificed his life just to be that change agent. To Jesus, making wine wasn’t the object of the exercise, it was being an agent of change. To the church, it is not feeding people, or baptizing children, or celebrating lives, it is changing lives. To me, it is not where is my dollar going it is how much change will this make. I know it will make a lot of change!
But it gets better. In my current job, I am in the position now to offer defining choices to others. I often, in my work can relate the mission of Habitat to potential staff, volunteers, and the general public. Sometimes, I can see change happening right before my eyes, as they realize that they too can make a difference. Most people, I find, just want to make things better, they want those defining moments in their lives to mean something, and they want above all for their efforts to benefit the greater good.
Last week, habitat had a public event to kick off a fundraiser. As is our custom, we asked a partner family to talk about the impact of the program. She talked about working four jobs, about constantly having to move, about the fear of uncertainty and about the lack of stability before the program changed her life. Since she moved to her habitat home, she has been able to cut back on her work hours and spend more time with her child and has improved her job performance and received both a promotion and a raise. This is the type of change that a social service organization or church can create.
A few days after that, I heard the news of the death John Mann just before leaving for work. Shortly after that I was driving over the Malahat while his music was playing on the Radio. It hit me hard John Mann was the same age as I am. But I realized that thanks to the change brought on me by this church I have:
A wonderful family
A great Job
And I belong to a fantastic, caring community
Thank you, Duncan United Church!
Last year at the invitation of the national church, we were asked to participate in the Halo study, a study that measured our social impact. The wider church is concerned that as Canada becomes a more secular society, governments may take away some of the tax exemptions and other help given to support organized religion. Our Halo calculation showed a net benefit to us and our community of $5.11 for every tax receipted dollar given. This means that every dollar given creates over five dollars of change for our community. This church creates change and will go on creating change. Our dollars support this.
Maybe this dollar changes nothing
But this dollar could change a life
This dollar could change our community
This dollar could change the world
Help create change