“Beloved, I know something about tea,” said the Rev. Zina Jacque at the 9:15 a.m. Friday Ecumenical Service in the Amphitheater. “The plant has to be carefully chosen, prepared and matured.”
Her sermon title, originally scheduled to be “Holy Objects — A Cloud,” was changed to “Holy Objects — A Tea Bag,” and the Scripture text was Esther 4:1-14.
Since ancient times, she said, growing tea has been a painstaking process. The plant has to be carefully chosen; not just any tea tree will make good tea.
“The tree has to be prepared because it can grow wild if it is not pruned,” Jacque said. “It will waste energy growing long branches and not put the energy into the leaves.”
A tea tree has to be mature, about 4 to 7 years old, to bear the best leaves.
“We see that in Esther,” she told the congregation. “She was carefully chosen by God; she spent years being prepared by her uncle, Mordecai.”
Esther was an orphaned, female Jew living in Persia.
“She had all those strikes against her,” Jacque said. “She was prepared by hardship and given strength and a legacy from her uncle.”
Once Esther had been selected by the king, she spent a year being prepared to be queen.
“She spent six months having oil of myrrh rubbed on her and six months learning about cosmetics and perfumes,” Jacque said. “I could live a life like that.”
Jacque said Esther matured into a woman who could take hardship and make stepping stones.
“You were carefully selected to come to this place of beauty and safety,” Jacque said to the congregation. “Your hearts have been lifted and strengthened by the wisdom you have heard. You have been challenged by what you have heard. You have been prepared to take these moments and grow into the person that you are. You have matured in every minute of every hour of every day to be ready for all the challenges you will face.”
But you can’t make a good cup of tea without hot water.
“If a tea bag had feelings, it would not sit calmly in the water and say ‘thank you, hot water,’ ” Jacque said. “We are not made strongest in the easy moments; it is when we go home and someone pours hot water on us; it is when you tell someone our nation is not living up to its vision, that someone will throw hot water on you. Or when you tell someone you went to the Jum’ah prayers on Friday or were led in worship by a gay bishop, someone will pour hot water on you.”
She continued: “Or when those people at the border had the nerve to believe what is written on the base of the Statue of Liberty, there is hot water coming. We know the hot water is coming and we have to say, ‘shoot your best shot, hot water.’ We are going to get stronger and better and be what we were meant to be.”
You are God’s tea bags, Jacque said to the congregation.
“Like Esther, you don’t know what will happen when you step out, but you have been carefully chosen, prepared and matured,” she said. “You know this week has prepared us for hot water.”
Tea is a beverage that refreshes. God, Jacque said, will have your back when the hot water comes.
“We live in a time that is messy, complicated and hateful. But we are not a single leaf,” Jacque said. “We need our brother and sister leaves in the tea bag. I believe God sent you into the world to slake the world’s thirst. Will you? Will you hear God’s call to be good tea? The world is thirsty for what you have.”
The Rev. Carmen Perry presided. Katie Miller, a scholarship student with the International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons from Joliet, Illinois, read the Scriptures. She has completed her first year at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, where she will be studying music therapy. At today’s worship, the Motet Choir sang “With a Voice of Singing,” by Martin Shaw under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. For the prelude at the Thursday morning worship, Barbara Hois, flute, Debbie Grohman, clarinet, and Willie LaFavor, piano, played “Two Epigraphes Antiques,” by Claude Debussy. This week’s services were supported by the Randell-Hall Memorial Chaplaincy and the Geraldine M. and Frank E. McElree Jr. Chaplaincy Fund.