January 17, 2022
You Want Us to Drink What?!
It may not be an exaggeration to say that you have probably heard the story of Jesus's first miracle a hundred times or more. The wedding at Cana. Water turned into wine. Saving the best for last. This is such a well-known story that it has been turned into a billboard: the question "Got faith?" plays on the "Got milk?" marketing trend from the 1990s, and the billboard pairs those words with the image of a faucet pouring water into a wine glass. As soon as the water reaches the glass, it has turned into wine.
Recently, I read this passage (John 2:1-11) once again with a group of friends. This time, one detail grabbed my attention which I don't think I had noticed before:
The six huge jars, right? John notes that they were "the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing." In other words, the liquid inside them was never intended to be ingested by anyone. The water was for external purposes only: washing hands, arms, perhaps faces and necks.
Can you imagine how dirty that water would have been? But Jesus tells people to drink that stuff. All grossness aside, something remarkable occured to me: Instead of using the water for an external washing, Jesus wants to use the wine for internal transformation. Instead of cleanliness in outward appearances, Jesus wants people to experience internal purification.
I shared that reflection with my friends during our time of discussion. The very next person who spoke commented on the same detail, but in a different way: she noticed that Jesus was repurposing an old Jewish religious ritual. Jesus was inviting people to let go of how those ceremonial jars had always been used. Jesus was asking people to step into the present work of what he was doing right then and there, instead of relying on traditions and rituals of the past.
That idea rang true for me, as well. Remember Jesus saying something about new wine and old wineskins?
It's interesting to me that the "Got faith?" billboard refers to this miracle, even though faith is not mentioned in John 2:1-11. Faith doesn't seem to be important in the story at all, except perhaps in Mary's response to the shortage of wine.
If we reduce a passage of scripture to a simple billboard or bumper sticker slogan, we risk missing the richness of what God is communicating to us through scripture.
Let's keep reading scripture, listening for God's voice, and discussing what we hear with each other!
Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan
January 10, 2022
An Urgent Call to Prayer
Psalm 34:18-19 (NASB)
18The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 The afflictions of the righteous are many, but the Lord rescues him from them all.
Many years ago a dear sister in my home church in Akron, Ohio, Sister Bernice Burke, fell down her basement stairs and broke her neck. For months she rehabbed, but never fully recovered from her injuries. Eventually she made it back to church in a wheelchair, but her faith and her testimony remained passionately strong. Her focus scripture was that listed above. Specifically she used to quote frequently, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all." Her deliverance was made perfect when the Lord brought her home to be with Him.
Although we have hung a new calendar on our walls, or have seen it changed on our phones and tablets, we are still dealing with the challenges that 2021 and 2020 brought us with the COVID-19 and all of its variants. Regardless of your political leanings, views on vaccines, masks, booster shots, social distancing, etc., we have been impacted in incredible ways because of it. It has caused many of our congregations to be hit by illness and death. It has caused continued disruptions to services and events. It has really been hard on so many. On top of that, other illnesses have been very difficult for us, leading to several people within our state to deal with the loss of loved ones.
During December, our State Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Dr. Bill Jones, shared a tribute to two great long-term leaders in Michigan and the Church of God, Rev. Dr. Gerald Nevitt and Rev. Bill Miller. In December, we lost two other key leaders within the Church of God in Michigan. On December 22, Rev. Paul Pakizer, the Senior Pastor of the Riverside Park Church of God in Livonia, passed away from COVID-19. His Memorial Service will be on February 13. On December 27, Pamela Lynn Baker, the wife of Rev. Carl Baker, the Associate Pastor of the New Creation Church of God in Flint passed away. Her Spirit-filled Memorial service was this past Friday. These were two very dedicated and beloved servants of the Lord, both of whom made a big difference in their congregations.
I have been deeply saddened to hear today, January 9, that Rev. Jerry Webb, having just retired as the Senior Pastor of Hope Crossing Church in Sterling Heights, passed away. As I write, some of our other pastors are recovering from bouts of COVID-19, and some of the key leaders of other congregations are dealing with sickness. It is so crucial that we be a united people who are determined to cry out to the Lord for His delivering, healing power to sweep over us, on us, through us, and around us. It's well past time that we stop fussing and fighting over political positions, rhetoric, and conspiracy theories. It's time to pray, pray, pray! It's time to seek God for His help because lives depend on it. Please let us know whom we can pray for and how we can pray for you and your congregations. We will share that among us, and in one accord take it to the Lord in prayer.
May the Lord bless and keep us all,
Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor