On New Years Eve on Dec.31, 2019, my family attended the special New Year’s Eve service at our church. During the service, our pastor read out a specific Scripture to each section in our large sanctuary. Here was my family’s Scripture: Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Little did I know, but within three months of this Scripture being spoken over our lives, we’d experience a crisis that would halt our daily activity and cause us to stay home to avoid exposure to the Corona Virus. There were so many hours of speaking words and doing deeds in my household like schooling and working from home while keeping the household running. Our special Scripture from New Year’s Eve proclaimed that in everything I said and did, I was to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. Some afternoons, though, I’d run out of steam or my patience would run thin with my kids or my job requirements weighed heavy on my mind leading to headaches. Nearly running out of toilet paper and seeing none on store shelves for many weeks alarmed me.
I have also begun a special project with the Charlotte Teacher’s Institute in which we are studying the effect of World War 1 on people and on my town. It’s a topic that I had never really considered that much in regard to how WW1 affected a US town. Of course, I had studied World War 1, the Great War, as a student in high school and knew it had been fought in Europe but my new research is giving me a window into the past of how the US trained soldiers in my town and how it has affected the city’s infrastructure, business and growth.
In the early 1900s, America did not have a standing army. Americans didn’t see the need to pay people to prepare for war. When the call came for Americans to become soldiers, thousands of men enlisted in the US Army. Army bases did not exist yet so the US Government erected tent cities in established cities around the country to house and train troops who would be sent to Europe to fight in WW1. In my town, by July of 1917, workers started building the groundwork in fields around the edge of our town and by September of 1917, the Canvas tents housed over 30,000 troops. Our town transformed into a Tent City within a city.
Our town already had a railroad and textile mills, banks and businesses. Due to having thousands of troops in town, the state and federal government paid men to build streets to connect the army Camp which was several miles away back to the city, sewers and electrical work. The soldiers ate at the camp, at the YMCA or Red Cross that were set up inside the camp. They passed their time by conditioning their bodies in drills, athletic competitions, reading the news, watching theater productions, hearing music recitals and by spending time outside of the walls of the camp. The first group of National Guardsmen who came to our Camp visited area churches, restaurants and stores.
The citizens of my town welcomed the soldiers. They invited them into their homes for Sunday dinners and appreciated their devotion to our country in preparing for War. By the next fall of 1918, the Spanish Flu attacked soldiers in the camp and civilians in my town. The war ended on Nov.11, 2018 which we now observe as Veterans’ Day in the USA.
The contributions of the servicemen and women who served in the US Army helped to set up infrastructure to allow my city to grow economically. The mills paid workers well due to a great need for textiles during the War. Local businesses developed during the war time and continued to grow even after the army Camp closed down in 1919. I know that many people worked together to build the foundation of the city. These were men who had traveled here from all over the country; African American and White men came to the camp and completed the paths that would lead to progress.
When I think of progress, it denotes the idea of expanding an idea or thought to show improvement. The Scripture spoken over my family to let our words and deeds to all be in done in the name of Jesus is a directive to lead us toward progress. Just like the US Government needed the civilians and soldiers to build new roads and buildings in the city, we have to build our paths that lead to righteousness. Our actions live out the words that we express. “It’s so much easier said than done” is an old saying but rings true. We can think and say words that mean well, but the actions must follow.
As we move into what our new world will look like in various phases, we have to think about what to say or not say, what to do or not do. As a Christian, my words and actions reflect on Jesus. I want to say and do the things that will promote well being, promote peace and share truth.
Eventually the Spanish Flu pandemic in my town and the world ceased 100 years ago and life went on. Hundreds of thousands of people in the USA died due to complications from the Spanish Flu but many others either survived or never contracted the Flu. After over 3000 soldiers got the Spanish Flu and over 300 over them died at Camp Greene, World War 1 ended. In our town, the workers dismantled Camp Greene and salvaged wood to build new homes and businesses.
The old was gone and the new had come. The Canvas Army Camp went up quick and dismantled in a flash. What had been accomplished? The Allies won the war, capacity in our men and women developed and the city had expanded. This growth shows me that overnight, I may be asked to do some hard things but eventually, I will see the fruits of my labor and development.
Am I paving the way for success? Do my words build up or tear down? Can I make better choices to act in a way that is pleasing to the Holy Spirit? These are questions that I have asked myself throughout the pandemic during our time. I’m sure that many people have wondered how life will be different once the pandemic is over. It’s too soon to tell but I know that the choices we make now based on what we say and what we do will build up or tear down, bind together or rip apart.
If we do what Jesus wants us to do, we will progress and be guided through tough times. Mary, the mother of Jesus, gave wise advice to some servants at a wedding which reminds me of how we should do whatever Jesus says. In the Biblical historical time period, when there was a wedding party, the tradition would have been to share the best wine early and then as the guests filled up on it, the servants would replace it with the cheaper wine. At a wedding where Jesus attended with his mother and disciples, the wine ran out. I imagine that the servants frantically looked and searched but there was no more wine however, the party needed refreshments. It could have been that Mary just noticed that the wine had run out and casually mentioned this fact to Jesus. Somehow, I just have a feeling that she expected Jesus to work and show up big time to help navigate through the crisis.
Jesus’ first miracle was about to happen in his earthly ministry. At age 30, he attended this wedding and positioned himself to be in just the right place at the exact time of need. Jesus told the servants to do something to help with the lack of wine situation, but before they carried out his plan, Jesus’ mother nailed it when she said to the servants, “Whatever He tells you to do, do it.” She knew that her son had arrived in a spectacular way in that manger in Bethlehem but then thirty years later, she must have realized his time had come. He was about to show His other world citizenship as the Son of God not just Mary’s earthly son.
John 2:11 explains the details: Jesus said to the servants, “Fill up the jars with water.” The servants filled each jar to the brim. I don’t hear the servants asking, “Why do I have to fill the jars up with water? The wedding party and guests are expecting wine? Water is not wine so why should I do what you say?” Instead, the Bible records that the servants filled the jars to the brim and when the master of the feast tasted the liquid, it became wine. He was so impressed that he thought the bridegroom who had hosted the party had saved the best for last.
During any crisis, don’t we all feel a bit like the servants at the wedding? We ask, “What are we going to do? How will we get through this? Will there be enough food or toilet paper? When will be able to feel better? Life does fall apart. Stuff runs out. People leave. Hearts are broken. Lives shatter. The thing that I love about Jesus is that He’s always with us. His Word tells us what to do next. Reading His Word and praying in alignment with His Word lays a foundation for me to walk across.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, confidently proclaimed to the helpers at the wedding in John 2:5, “Do whatever He tells you.” I have no doubt that her words pack a punch of wisdom even now. Why? Do you know what happened when the servants followed Jesus’ directions? The water changed into wine. The improbable became a reality. The disaster became a time for Jesus to make a way and supply a need.
I just have a feeling that during the Covid 19 disaster and any future crisis that Jesus would want me to do whatever he said and apply his lessons in my life. He said a lot in his time on earth and only a portion of what he said and did is recorded in the Bible. In the water to wine miracle, I notice a few lessons:
- Notice and Know. Mary noticed the problem and knew that Jesus had capacity to make it right, to fix the problem and to make an adjustment.
- Listen and Lean In. Once you hear God’s voice whether it is His still small voice as we meditate in prayer or from His Word, listen to it. Take the time to lean into the truth and not rush away trying to find an alternate solution.
- Follow and Flourish. If I follow His commands, I will have life that is full and overflowing. If not, I will feel disappointed, out of control and a total failure.
- Rejoice and Realize. When the impossible becomes possible, it’s time to rejoice. It’s okay to feel joy and allow it to fill us with a new, refreshed sense that He cares. Realize that if He restored the wine, he can certainly restore our souls. Replenishing is His specialty!
- Trust and Obey. Whatever He says, do it. Trust God to work it all out and not give up because it’s not happening on your timeline. Obey him and don’t lean on your own understanding. He is directing and working all things out for your good and for his glory.
The servants no doubt had to either take the heavy pots that would have held dozens of gallons of water to either the well or brought buckets of water from a well to the vessel. They did work and laid a foundation by doing what He said. They didn’t see or know in advance that the water would miraculously change to wine but they followed Jesus’ directions and discovered a direct correspondence.
Follow His directions and trust Him. In whatever I say and do, I must do it all in the name of Jesus and give thanks to God.
Jesus shows us in His Word that he overhauls a situation in his own way. It will not always look the way you thought it should look. If you feel like the answer is slow to come or it’s not what you thought it should be, know that He is the intricate designer of every hill and valley, every mountaintop and river bed. He knows how to get you through the next day, the next hour, the next moment. Trust and you will have His peace abiding while all things work together for your good and His glory.
In whatever you say and do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God. I hope you will let the words from Colossians 3:17 guide you as we continue to navigate in a world that needs His touch.