Sermon 7-13-2014  ‘Paying it Forward’

John 2:1-11  please read this scripture prayerfully before reading the sermon

Friends Education Fund Scholarship Sunday

Pastor Ruthie Tippin; First Friends Meeting Indianapolis


Today is a ‘water into wine’ kind of day. A day when common things become uncommon.  Ordinary becomes extraordinary.  The usual becomes very, very unusual.  Every day can be a ‘water into wine’ kind of day… Early Quakers believed that because they lived lives like that.  They believed that they lived in the power of God… that God lived in and through them, and their example was the life of Christ Jesus, lived in the power of God’s spirit.  Water into wine may have been Christ’s first miracle, but it repeated itself, over and over again through the lives of all those who lived in the power of God’s spirit.  It still does.  Today is a ‘water into wine’ kind of day.

 Ordinary water became extraordinary wine.  How did this happen?  We know Jesus’ mother ‘suggested’ that he help out the wedding party.  But… who else was a part of this story?  The wine steward.  The bridegroom… we get in on their conversation, yes.  But there are others that are often neglected.  Who?  The common, ordinary, behind the scenes servants were the ones who brought the water to Jesus.  They were a part of this miracle, too!  So many times, the simple, ordinary tasks we do as a part of our daily lives become something much bigger than we would ever anticipate.  How many times before had the servants brought out those water jugs?  How many times have you done simple tasks, repeated tasks, routine things, and have thought nothing of it?  Have you ever waited to see their effect? Have you ever seen what Jesus has done with your simple, everyday actions? Have you watched to see your water turned into wine?

 John Williams would be amazed at the extraordinary wine that has come from the water he brought to Jesus, so long ago in Salem, Indiana.  John was a freed slave who worked in Salem as a blacksmith.  Salem was the county seat of Washington County, where freed slaves from Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina settled in the early nineteenth century.  John lived his life as an active part of the community.  He built one of the African Methodist Episcopal Churches there in the early 1850’s.  Tragically, he was murdered some ten years later.  His gravestone sits on that church’s property to this day.          

The founders of Salem, IN were Quakers – Mr. and Mrs. Lindley.  Mrs. Lindley named the town after her hometown of Salem, North Carolina, which we now know as Winston-Salem.  Mr. Lindley was a good friend of John Williams’, and before his death, had agreed to serve as the executor and investor of John’s estate – he had set aside $6000. (In today’s monies, his estate would be worth over $150,000.)  In his will, John proscribed that the monies were to be used for the education of young black children. 

Soon thereafter, [1870] the Home for Friendless Colored Children was opened in Indianapolis by Quakers at 319 West 21st Street at the crossroad with Senate Street.  (It is now a major intersection covered with an overpass for I-65 South.)  'When it opened, it was the only orphanage in the state of Indiana to care for African American children.  At the end of the home's first year, it had housed 18 children.  By 1922, it had sheltered more than 3,000.  Although most of the children came from the Indianapolis area, the orphanage accepted orphans from all over Indiana. In 1922, the management of the orphanage changed hands.' The closing balance became the basis of the Friends Educational Fund, a scholarship fund for black college students, administered by First Friends Meeting.  I will let Friend Dan Harlan share the rest of this story, when we meet him in Fellowship Hall after meeting for worship!

 Water into wine!  All those days in the blacksmith shop.  All that daily labor.  All those dollars earned – set aside to be invested, paid forward, for children not yet born.  A common, ordinary person became a not so common, very extraordinary person who has cared for orphaned children, and educated hundreds of students since his death, more than 140 years ago.  The water of his life has become wine… full bodied, good wine.

 Think for a minute… sit back and remember this past week – this past month – this past season of your life.  Think of all the simple, ordinary things that you’ve done, or that you do every day.  Maybe you care for a child.  Treat patients.  Cook in a restaurant.  Care for people’s legal concerns.  Work in a blacksmith shop.  Everyday – Ordinary - Show up and do your job kinds of things.  Perhaps you don’t realize how extraordinary they can be.  What great impact they can have over time.  And what a difference they can make, moments, days, months, years and years later.  No one may ever tell you.  You may leave the wedding reception before the wine of your life is served.  That does not matter.  What matters is the expression of God’s love and power known in others lives because of you.

 This last winter was incredibly snowy.  I had to buy a scraper, and because I’m so short, I got one that telescopes.  I could reach across my windshield better, and got pretty good at cleaning the snow off my car.  One day, I was at Kroger’s, and cleaned my windows off to drive home.  The car sitting next to me was totally covered.  So, I cleaned it’s windows off too!  It was so much fun to think of the reaction the person would have when they came out to their car!  From then on, I never could clean off my own car without cleaning off the one next to it.  It was so much fun!  

 You don’t have to pass a chemistry test to turn water into wine!  You can just have fun with the power of God’s Spirit saying to you, “Hey Ruthie – you’ve gotten pretty good with that scraper dealey… why don’t you have a go at that car next to yours?”   There are lots of ways to turn water into wine – no examinations needed.  Beth Henricks told me about a day she came home from work and discovered her lawn had been mowed, and she still hasn’t been able to figure out who did it.  Water into wine.  Drop a bit of change in someone’s parking meter.  Work this Wednesday at the Food Pantry.  Send someone a note, a text, an email, telling them what a great job they’re doing at work.  Hug your grown up children.  Pay for the person’s coffee in line behind you at Starbuck’s.  Water into wine…   


March 15, 2014

Dear Friends Education Fund Board,

I was a recipient of the Friends Education Fund scholarship for four years.  I graduated from Indiana University Bloomington and now live back in Indianapolis.  I have never forgotten the story about why the fund was established and the great benefit it was to me.  I’ve always wanted to donate but keep waiting for the right time.  So I have not won the lottery, so I thought I better do something now.  Please accept my small token of appreciation.  Please keep my gift anonymous… 


A $1000 check was enclosed.

 Today is a ‘water into wine’ kind of day.  But then, God reminds us that every day is for making water into wine… for taking the ordinary and turning it into the extraordinary.  For understanding that what may be common to us, may be something of great value to others.  For living fully in the power of God, not negating anything.  For living in the present, for the future.  For paying it forward…

 Have you ever tasted that kind of wine?