The Fine Wine of Human Kindness
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So, they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.John 2:1-11
Today’s Gospel story is probably one of the Bible stories most of us have heard throughout our lives. Maybe we heard it in the cycle of Sunday Gospel readings. Or maybe we heard it proclaimed at a wedding we attended in the past.
There are three things about this story which I’d like to focus in on.
#1 Today’s story happened at a wedding feast. Jesus was perfectly at home at such a festive occasion. He loved to gather with family and friends. Loved to enjoy a bottle of wine with friends. Jesus was no severe, austere killjoy. He loved to share in the happy rejoicing of a wedding feast.
Have you ever known someone who made you feel as if you were bathed in sunshine? Jesus was like that. Everywhere He went people were drawn to Him.
#2 Today’s story happened in a humble home in a village in Galilee. This miracle did not occur in-the-midst of a vast crowd. It took place in a simple home. Jesus’ action at Cana of Galilee shows what He thought of a home. As we heard in the scripture, He “manifested forth His glory,” and that manifestation took place in a home.
There is a strange paradox in the attitude of some people to the place they call home. They would admit at once that there is no more precious place in all the world; and yet, at the same time, they would also have to admit that in it they claim the right to be far more discourteous, far more boorish, far more selfish, far more impolite than they would dare to be in any society of strangers. Many of us treat the ones we love most in a way that we would never dare to treat a chance acquaintance. So often it is strangers who see us at our best and those who live with us who see us at our worst. We ought ever to remember that it was in a humble home that Jesus manifested forth His glory. To Jesus home was a place for which nothing but His very best was good enough.
#3 Today’s story took place in an Eastern culture where hospitality was always a sacred duty. It would have brought embarrassed shame to that home that day if the wine had run out. It was to save a humble Galilean family from hurt that Jesus put forth His power. It was in sympathy, in kindness, in understanding for simple folks that Jesus acted.
Nearly everyone can do the big thing on the big occasion; but Jesus, the Son of God, was willing to do the big thing on a simple, homegrown occasion like this family wedding. Jesus, the Lord of all life, and the King of glory used His power to save a simple Galilean couple from humiliation. It is just by such deeds of understanding, and simple kindness that we too can show that we are followers of Jesus Christ.
So those are three things I take away from today’s Gospel: that Jesus was a person of joy, that he had a profound understanding and respect for home, and that he was always willing to help another person in need, in this instance, a young couple in need. Three good things for us to contemplate this week.
As your pastor, please allow me to segue into another topic, if you don’t mind. As you have all discovered, we’ve entered back into worshiping together virtually through the gift of technology, and particularly the gift of Zoom.
I’m one of those rare individuals who can zoom morning, noon, and night. It doesn’t exhaust me in the least; but I understand I am a unicorn in this regard, so a sincere word of thanks to all of you for your willingness to join us virtually.
We are gathering virtually (today because our heating system is on the blink, but we’re also meeting virtually) because the virus has reached a level of concern, that out of shared love for one another we are caring for those most vulnerable among us by worshiping in this format, and not in person, at least for a while. How long of a while? We do not know. We’ll see what the virus does. All things considered the people of our parish have done an outstanding job navigating through the pandemic and we’re grateful beyond words that you’re all still here with us today. Before we know it, we’ll all be back in our beloved church again. For the time-being God gives us another opportunity to exercise our patience and trust muscles. So, I’d like to offer a word of encouragement about where we are at this stage of the pandemic.
Yesterday I took a walk around the block where I live with Max. At different times during the pandemic, this walk around the block has been a wonderful daily diversion from the computer. Yesterday, the sky kept changing from dark dense scattered clouds to moments when the sun came shining through. When the sun broke through the clouds with its burst of light – it often gave me pause to see again that even in darkness, the sun eventually shines again.
When I got home, there was a new email waiting from a friend I like very much. My dear friend included in their message a New Year’s greetings and a message of hope from one of our all-time favorite writers, E. B. White.
E.B. White was, as you may remember, the author of essays and stories about culture, nature, and the pressing issues of his time. He is perhaps best known for his children’s books, including Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. An ardent letter writer, he responded thoughtfully to many of the thousands of children and adults who wrote to him.
In 1973, when E. B. White was in his 70s, he received a letter from a man named Mr. Nadeau. Nadeau had expressed a bleak and hopeless attitude about humanity’s future and was reaching out to E.B. White for some inspiration.
Here is White’s response:
North Brooklin, Maine,
30 March 1973
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread but the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society – things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made quite a mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White
Now, of course, there are some anachronisms in the letter. We don’t wind clocks anymore, our hats tend to stay on our heads, and we know that a woman can be upright and a man, compassionate. But E.B. White’s optimism and steadfastness are evergreen; they are for all people and all times. Even though he wrote these words in 1973, we need his words as much today as in the 1970s. I need them. We all need them. This pandemic has challenged all of us; some of us to our wits end.
I like the way E.B. White encourages Mr. Nadeau without shaming him – the way he rallies him to hope without sugar-coating the bad times, the troubles inflicted, the messes we have made. I especially like the way he compares human society to the weather: “Things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly.” Who knows? Some of the most grievous issues in our own lives and in our times – the pandemic, the climate crisis, the great divisions in our country – may change and brighten sooner than our fearful hearts dare to imagine.
Yesterday on my walk around the block, I saw proof of how fast the weather can change. So, when the sun goes back behind the clouds, I’ll hang on to the hope in E.B. White’s words. I’ll heed his invitation to be an upright and compassionate person. I’ll wind the clock, put on my hat, and go out and spread the “seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right.”
I invite all of you to join me in doing the same.
Like Jesus, let us be people of joy. Let us renew our profound respect and love for home and those who live with us and whenever possible, help others like Jesus did, when he helped the young newly married couple who were about to run out of wine. Who knows what exciting adventures await us?
Peace friends, chuck.
Spirituality The Episcopal Church Clergy Epiphany Homily January 2022 Podcast The Rev. Charles C. McCoart Jr.
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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog
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