You could always count on Jesus to steal the show. A happy couple says I do; there’s the daddy-daughter dance, then a toast or two, but just as the bride and groom go to cut the cake, the wedding guests make a beeline for the back room, where, word is, Jesus’ pop-up craft brewery is cranking out the booze of the century. He is the master of grand stunts and colorful flourishes: turning water into wine like this, or strolling across the sea, or taking a little boy’s brown bag lunch, and stretching it to feed 5000, or, not least, coming back to life again, crashing his own wake, as if he were only milking death for the freezer casseroles and carnations and sympathy cards. Jesus could charm and wow a crowd, that’s for sure! Yes, you could always count on Jesus to steal the show – only, it wasn’t a show. … Let’s not lose sight of all those behind the scenes, those doing the hard work – the hard work of schlepping in gallon after gallon after gallon, shouldering over-brimming jug by over-brimming jug of the water Jesus would use in making wine (and, come on, make water into wine with a measly wiggle of his nose or snap of the fingers is all). Let’s not lose sight of the small, the spent gaggle of apostles going from one grumpy picnicker to another with those precious few pieces of bread and fish, telling them, No hogging! Hey, one per person! We’ve got 5000 mouths to feed! Let’s not lose sight of the bone-weary women who struggled under the weight of Jesus’ lifeless body, who bathed him with oil and spices and tears, who laid him in a tomb and devoted themselves to the bitter duties of grief. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that behind Jesus, behind this great man, there were a great many. And they put muscle behind the miracles. This was no show, this was real and sure.
These believers were the workhorses who helped make possible so many wonders and signs. Theirs was the sweat-power funding the salvation Jesus preached. They had a hand in the healings wrought. Which is why, even after the Messiah was no more, even without him in their midst, the show would go on. Which is why, when Jesus had gone from them, and for good, the wonders and the marvels and the signs – these did not cease; they did not die with Jesus. Christ’s merry band of disciples had learned from the Master, and so when they gathered together anew, they did just what he always had them do. They rolled up their sleeves and put elbow grease into good deeds. And, as Luke tells us in today’s scripture lesson, through them, through the fledgling church, miracles flowed still, miracles real and sure. So many and so mighty were the healings performed by Peter and the other apostles that the whole city buzzed with yearning and hope. The diseased and the despairing, the desperate and the dying – these would be carried, these would crawl to the streets where Christians were known to pass. Everywhere Peter would walk, persons with ailing bodies, with anguished spirits, had strewn themselves in his path so that even his shadow might fall on them. For that was enough, that was enough, rumor had it – a fleeting brush with one who had kept the company of Christ; that was enough, that was enough, so they said – to be stepped over by one in whom the Spirit of Jesus was so potent and alive.
And as the show did not stop with Jesus, neither did great deeds of mercy and goodness die with the first Christians. For, Old South Church, this is your show, this is your story. This is you. This is who you are to each other and to the world. You are the modern-day wonderworkers; you are the ones whose muscle translates into miracles. You are the ones who sweat out the good, but unglamorous work has always fallen to God’s people. You are the ones who make chili and lasagna and chicken and drive it hither and yon across Boston and the burbs so that those newly home from the hospital don’t have to think about how they will get dinner on the table. You are the ones who visit the most vulnerable and frail among us, who call upon those who are alone and afraid, and who deliver them to the front door of the church on Sunday morning, who greet them by name and who walk with them, arm and arm at their slower pace. You are the ones who handwrite the loveliest little notes so that the sorrowing and the celebrating know that they do not weep alone, but that we all are with them, in mourning or in mirth. You are the ones who knit prayer shawls and Marathon scarves to wrap around, to warm worn spirits. Indeed, you are the ones who witness this, whose witness to a comfort and peace passing all understanding, set the city of Boston buzzing in yearning and in hope. It wasn’t a show; it was real and sure – the casseroles and cards and calls and car rides, and all that yarn, the miles of yarn, the miraculous multiplication of the skeins and the scarves. These were real and sure, and so, too, were the tears they beget and the tears they dried. The wonders and marvels and signs Christ worked, these he is working still, working through you now. His Spirit is alive and potent in you. Jesus’ ministry of healing and upholding, all his mending and making whole – you have a hand in this. Thanks be to God. Amen.