John 2: 1- 12 The Miracle of Concentration

January 17, 2016

by Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
Senior Minister

Einstein is said to have said there are two kinds of people, those who think there are two kinds of people and those who don’t. Just kidding. He also said there were two kinds of people, those who don’t believe in miracles and those who think everything is a miracle. I am part of the larger tribe. Sometimes I can’t believe I can talk to a friend in Australia and get a response in real time. Skype is a miracle. Plus it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Other times I marvel at the High Line and how smart the tourist industry is. Or I think about that rare purple bunting that showed up in Brooklyn looking for a good cup of coffee.

This text about the water and the wine is a miracle text. Jesus turned water into wine. He turned a social nightmare into a social dream. He concentrated his power and turned scarcity into feast. He did what his mother told him to do. Is it just my fantasy or did Jesus have a mind free of congestion? Was he trying to define a miracle for us? I’m not sure. He may just have been showing off. But he helped me inch towards a definition of a miracle. It is something for which we don’t have to pay. Miracles give us things beyond the reach of our payments. They are acts of grace for which we don’t have to work.

Now work can mean many things. Sometimes we work so people will think we are good. Or we work so people will think we are right. Or we work for money. Being good, being right and getting money are basicly the traffic jams in our brains. They clog our minds. Our motivations are rarely to prepare for the concentration of grace because we are so busy preparing for the concentration of works. Being good, being right, getting money, avoiding shame or blame.

Today as we approach an important conversation about race this afternoon and celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, I want to argue that a miracle is only something beyond the reach of goodness, righteousness or money. It comes from a mind and soul prepared for what it cannot earn and already has.

The rate of miracles has been decreasing as the rate of commodification has increased. Health care comes to mind. First you get a diagnosis, then you wonder what it will cost you, then you wonder what you did bad to get sick, then you think about what it means to be sick. Or water, brought to you from Maine by trucks in small bottles, right when we have perfectly good water right here in New York City. Or just drinking wine at 8 dollars a glass or 12 dollars a bottle, minus the discount if you buy a case. Just about everything has a price and so do most of us.

This permission to the commodity, the thing, the price tag is sinful. By sin I mean th avoidance of the mircle of grace. It turns out that een this late in the history of Christendom that most of us are spiritually dumb, even idiotic, even moronic, even imbelish.

The words moron, imbecile, and idiot mean different things.  In psychology, an idiot has the least intelligence on the IQ scale (this now is equivalent to someone who is mentally retarded or the more politically correct “mentally challenged”); an imbecile is not quite as dumb as an idiot and is now considered equivalent to moderate retardation; a moron is then the highest level of intelligence for someone who is mentally retarded, thus considered as being mildly mentally retarded.  Specifically, those who have an IQ between 0 and 25 are idiots; IQs between 26 and 50 are considered imbeciles; and those who have an IQ between 51 and 70 are considered morons.
These terms were popular in psychology as associated with intelligence on an IQ test until around the 1960s.  They were then replaced with the terms mild retardation, moderate retardation, severe retardation, and profound retardation.  In addition to this, other factors besides IQ are now used in diagnosing these levels of mental deficiency
The moron just does everything right. Idiots are almost always inappropriate. And imbeciles often have entitled relationship to a cdrtain ideology. Yes I am modeling political incorrectness on behalf of our conversation this afternoon and beyond.

When I say that most of us are spiritually unintelligent, what I mean is that Einsein would classify us as the first type of people, the ones who don’t believe in miracles.

Artists in these terms are different. They antagonize our intelligence.
Through music or comedy…..question carefully the stuff we take most seriously.

Christianity is actually so magical and mysterious that it is the moment where we briefly become idiots. We Can’t explain suffering. Become an imbecile and fight the faith.

Kant: Imaginary projection
Symbolic Metaphor

Real God is a word at the end of all ideology, the rupture of all symptoms the way the Shoa operates in Judaism, can’t justify it or explain it or find routes around it.

God is instructive of the real and the real is the miracle that we can’t pay for everything, buy everything, earn everything or even be that good, much less that right.

There are also two ways to form community. One is the tribal way where you find a good enemy and hate him or her. Tribal identifiers often say thank god I am not like them.

Any quick dismissal…Usually means we’re trying to hide something.

AA is another kind of community. There we share our vulnerability, our stupidity, our gone wrongness and refuse to be good or right or tribal. We get beyond the scapegoating of something else making us do it.
AA shares our mutual vulnerability and allows our suffering to be removed of its power.

Spirit as the resident genius inside each person. Already uniquely ourselves.

My hope for this afternoon and beyond is that we have a miracle. That we make space for grace. That we refrain from being good or right or figuring out how to buy or sell each other. That we share our stupidity and our vulnerability.

“Europe’s Churches are empty – but don’t take that as a sign of reason’s triumph. More than half of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls.”

I hope we will be like David Bowie who was spiritually promiscuous……….

I hope we will realize that there are many more than two kinds of people and that we are all a miracle. I hope that we will free our mind of congestion and concentrate on grace.

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