“What’s your Geek? Who’s your Mary?” ©The Rev. Laurel Dahill, 2016 2nd Sunday After Epiphany January 17, 2016

If I may paraphrase Paul’s letter to the Corinthians… Now there are a variety of ways to geek out, but the same impulse; and there are a variety of interests, but the same creativity. The same God activates everyone’s passions. All the things we geek out about serve the common good. To some are given the ability to speak different languages; to others the passion for prayer and ministry. Some dedicate their lives to medicine, others to helping foster understanding. All these gifts are activated by the Spirit.

I heard a funny take on the beatitudes once, “Blessed are the Geeks, for they shall inherit the earth.” Heh heh, the geeks. The modern equivalent of the meek, I guess. When we think of geeks, do we not often imagine the thin, lanky kid with the thick rim glasses held together with tape at the center? The iconic geek speaks in obscure cult movie phrases. They roll their eyes at how ignorant the rest of us are. Geeks are little-tolerated by the more socially sophisticated people. In movies and TV, it’s often the geek who saves the day because they know how to break the code, or have the invention, or can piece together the clues. The geeks will inherit the earth because in the future everything will be so technologically advanced, that only the geeks will know how to reboot the system.

Geeks in real life don’t all look like the hollywood version, though. Geeks come in all sorts of varieties. Think about the geeks you know. Is there someone in your life who has an interest that you don’t necessarily share, but that their passion for that thing is inspiring to you? Among my favourite geeks are Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers on Car Talk every Saturday morning. Their automotive geekiness has helped countless mechanically disinclined people with their car troubles. Because there are those geeky enough to become astronauts, we here on the surface world have gained important research for such things as treating osteoporosis. Steve Jobs, in his garage workshop, in 1968. Enough said. Click and Clack, and astronauts, and Steve Jobs, all of these people have been given gifts by God and are thus inspired to focus and develop the things they love to do. They don’t just do these things, they do them BIG. And all the rest of us benefit from that they love to do most. Who are the people you like to think about who engage the gifts they’ve been given to the degree of geekiness? Maybe it’s an activist or adventurer, maybe a saint or scholar. Consider how their activities benefit others. Isn’t it remarkable that the people we think of in this way make what they do so well look so easy.

Our Gospel story today shows us an important moment in the life of Jesus, when he geeked out at a friend’s wedding. It seems Jesus already knew what he was capable of doing. For him, turning water into wine was probably a no-brainer. He’d already mastered that miracle a long time ago. It’s like those knitters who can take a ball of wool and tie a bunch of knots in it on some sticks and suddenly: socks! Pssh! Everyone knows how to do that! [eye roll] I’m guessing this miracle in Cana was just something Jesus could do, no big deal. If that was the case, then why did he have to make 180 gallons of wine? That’s a little much, don’t you think? When geeks do their thing, they do them real big. Could it be that the Saviour had a little geek-out moment? Regardless – what he was simply capable of doing benefitted everyone else around him. One of the important parts to the story is that Jesus activated what he loved to do – what God put him on earth to do – and the result was good news for the whole community around him. It’s like those knitters who churn out warm items for our homeless neighbors. Their knitting geekiness ends up being a huge benefit to the people around them.

One of the ways I’ve come to recognize that something is a gift of the Spirit, rather than a passing interest or hobby, is that the act of engaging with that gift gives energy to keep doing it. Eventually passing interests and hobbies get tiresome, or we lose interest, or we get bored of them. But things that we do that are gifts of the Spirit give us life. They give us energy to keep doing them. We find we can’t wait to be able to get back to doing those activities. More than that, whatever it is that we do so passionately is often something that can be turned outward for the benefit of other people. The gifts that we are given by the Spirit are meant to be shared.

We’re all geeks when it comes right down to it. If, according to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we all have been given gifts by the Spirit to do remarkable things, and we all have been given such unique gifts, then we all have it within us to geek out about something. More than that, whatever it is we geek out about, is something that can be used to benefit others, and make our community stronger and more vibrant. So, yes; indeed, blessed are the geeks. What’s your geek?

What are the things you really love to do – those things you look forward to doing again and again – those things that would break your heart if you were ever prevented from doing? What do you geek out about? Those are the things end up serving the community around you more than you can imagine. The question we are left with between Paul and Jesus, is about discerning the gifts God has given you, and how you are called to engage those gifts. Don’t be afraid to geek out about whatever it is that you love to do. Do it big. There are people around you waiting to be inspired by what energizes you. Moreover, there are neighbors who need to benefit from what God has given you. Let your inner geek shine.

It’s one thing to be a geek – and proud of it. But it’s another to admit it and engage your geekiness. We may all have it within us to do great things for our community, but sometimes we need a little encouragement, a little push in the right direction, a little permission to geek out.

The Gospel story isn’t just about Jesus. It is as much about Mary. According to the story, Jesus wouldn’t have acted if it weren’t for Mary’s encouragement. “My hour has not yet come,” he said. Mary didn’t argue with him. It’s like she didn’t even hear his protest. What she said was enough to give Jesus the encouragement he needed; the push in the right direction; that bit of permission he needed to let his inner miracle-geek shine. Jesus could have made enough wine to appease the guests or the wine steward. It sounds like they were all already a little over-indulged, so it shouldn’t have taken much wine. One stone water jar might have been enough – but all six?! Jesus went way over the top! He made way more wine than was needed. And way better wine that was expected on top of it. But it might not have happened if it weren’t for the person who encouraged him. Thanks to Mary, we have Jesus’ first miracle.

Who encourages you? It feels good to be given the all clear to be fully yourself. God puts people in our lives who help us become all that God has made us to be. We all have a Mary. Who’s your Mary?

To whom have you been a Mary? Perhaps it’s your children or your spouse that needed that… gentle push to use their gifts – or the massive shove to get them going. Either way. Don’t we all sometimes need someone to give us permission to release our inner geek. When was the last time you were Mary to a geek on the verge?

Geeks give the world an important example of how to relish in the gifts God has given all of us. What do you geek out about? What is it that you’d be happy talk about at any time? The thing that gets you fired up? In these parts it a lot about cars. Computers and the tech industry is also widespread here. There are more than a few music geeks in this parish. Even sports, and TV and movies offer ways to connect and build strong and vibrant community. Do you know the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

We all have within us the ability to geek out about something. And the ability to facilitate someone else to use the gifts that God has given them to improve the lives of countless others. The world needs you, sisters and brother. The world needs you to engage whatever it is that inspires you. Surprise the world, like Jesus did at the wedding. Let your gifts shine like God knows you can. Find someone who can give you the permission you need to be all that God has created you to be.

Ask yourself: What’s your geek? Who’s your Mary?

Be the good news.

Advent: 5am on a Loading Dock

“DIY Advent: 4am on a Loading Dock” ©The Rev. Laurel Dahill, 2015

In summer stock theatre, there’s a very small window of time to clear one show out, and put another show into the theatre. That window is typically less than 36-hours. Musicals are a staple of summer theatre, so the sets are big. Change-overs are chaotic. Carpenters are tearing down the set from the closed show and installing the new set; electricians and sound crew are pulling out cabling and moving instruments; painters are touching up seams; properties crews are putting little things everywhere, and the special effects technicians make it feel like it’s raining and there’s a stampede coming and everything is on fire, all at the same time, while the riggers are yelling “heads!” Changing from one big musical to another in 36-hours is a frantic feat of coordination. It is kind of chaotic.

At some point, round about 4am, there’s a pause. That’s when the old set is out, the new lighting and sound is in, and everyone is waiting for the paint on the floor to dry so the new set can go in. There’s nothing to do but wait. In that pre-dawn time, the crew would get to take a break on the loading dock.

For a few minutes there was stillness and quiet. Birds hadn’t woken up yet and dew was just beginning to form on the grass. We would sit together in silence and watch as the eastern sky would begin to lighten. The world was new and pure and clean. There was an inescapable promise of good things ahead. Everything was right with the world. That might have been my favourite time in the crazy busy world of summer stock theatre.

I like it when Advent feels to me like 4am on a loading dock. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, the world feels like the chaotic hustle and bustle of a change-over. Everyone is moving about doing their thing, trying not to bump into each other; trying to make sure they get their part done; waiting for others to get their stuff done so they can get out of our way and let us finish doing our thing. And we only have a short time in which to get all these things done. Like opening night, the curtain of Christmas is going to go up, whether we’re ready or not.

But it’s not Christmas yet – even if all the stores want us to believe it is. It’s Advent. This is an entirely different season for Christians. Advent is the time of waiting, being quiet, observing the changes happening in the world around us, and being truly present with how God is speaking to us. Advent is that time when we perceive the inescapable promise ahead of us. If we’re doing Advent right, it feels like standing with fellow pilgrims on the journey of faith as the light of the world approaches.

Advent is hard to do. The world around us isn’t interested in being still and waiting on God. We’ve all got Christmas plans that need tending to: family will arrive, parties have to be planned, decorations have to be sorted, and of course there’s all those gifts that need to be gotten and wrapped. As long as we have internet shopping and 24-hr grocery stores, we don’t need to watch for the dawn, because the sun never goes down on Christmas preparations. It’s really hard to be present with Advent in the spirit in which it exists for us. But there are lots of ways to be present with God in this sacred time of year.

This is the first of a series of sermons on how to experience Advent in more fulfilling ways. We’re calling it the Do-it-yourself Advent series, because you too can do Advent in your very own home. It’s easy. For the 4-weeks of this special season, you will get four unique perspectives on the Advent experience, and a take-home instruction sheet on how you can do Advent the way each of the preachers does Advent. If you’ve ever struggled with understanding this season, or spent so much time focusing on Christmas that you miss the special gift that’s already here for you to unwrap, then this series is for you.

I do Advent by embracing the waiting. I love the hopeful anticipation. I love the quiet before the dawn. I love the tenderness of the light that grows and illumines each new, pure, and clean day. In that time I feel closest to God and the most receptive to hearing God’s voice.