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Friday, January 18, 2013

Water to Wine

I used the Upper Room's Disciplines 2013 for my morning devotions most mornings. The readings for Sat & Sun are from John 2, the wedding at Cana story, where Jesus does His first miracle and turns water into wine. Here are the versus from Bible Gateway.

John 2:1-11

The Message (MSG)
1-3 Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.”
Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.”
She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”
6-7 Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim.
“Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did.
9-10 When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”
11 This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

The reading from Disciplines for Sunday, JANUARY 20, (Upper Room Disciplines 2013 (p. 23). Upper Room. Kindle Edition.) brought a different perspective to this passage than I had heard before. 

The author for this week's reflections is AMORY PECK, a retired teacher/trainer, living lakeside in the Pacific Northwest. He talked about how this passage reflects God's creativity in taking what is at hand and making a miracle. He talked about how many churches bemoan the fact that they don't have enough resources to run a Web site, publicize or (my addition) offer enough interesting classes, etc, to attract more people.

Mr Peck had begun the reflection by relaying a story of a family reunion in which the kids had made their own drums and formed a drum choir to entertain everyone. Mr Peck felt it was the highlight of the gathering, showing creativity, enthusiasm and love. He said we often overlook the simple resources available to us and, if we just work with God we can  re-create them into a miracle.

With all the work I have done for the last 2 years cleaning so much "stuff" out of this house, the idea of being creative with what is at hand really grabbed me. I have not been happier in my living situation by having more "stuff". I have actually been "drowning" in it. I have been more comfortable in the sense of having more stability and knowing that my basic needs will be met. I do not minimize what a luxury that is. But I have not been happier.

When Ted and I first got married (1970), materially, we had nothing. I was an undergrad student and Ted was in graduate school. My tuition was paid for by a savings account my mother ha created when my father died. She faithfully put 7 months of my Social Security survivor benefits in the savings account from the time I was 12 years old.

Ted had a small stipend for being a graduate assistant, and I had a small income from my work-study part-time job. There were many weeks when we wouldn't have had enough food, but my mother brought us a bag of BOGO groceries she had bought, and Ted's parents invited us to Sunday dinner every week and sent us home with leftovers!

It was a very exciting time both personally and in our country. College was fun (and crazy at times too). We were part of a ground-breaking Christian community. We were trying so hard to live as Scriptures described the 1st century churches. We spent many hours together, shared meals, child care, money, and homes. Ted and I lived in a large Victorian style home with 4 bedrooms and a finished attic. We often had folks living with us. Sometimes it was students who needed low rent in order to stay in school, and sometimes it was a ministry to fragile folks who needed love, support and stability. Ted and I did the best we could. It always fell short, but grace would intervene and create something good out of our immature muddling.

When we moved to Philadelphia, we were part of a church fellowship that challenged our understanding of Christ as a social leader. Our church in Ohio had been very Evangelical and conservative. I can only described Jubilee Fellowship in Philadelphia as radical. We began to see how following Jesus entered our public lives as well as our private lives. It was good to care for people individually, but it was also important to carry those beliefs with us into the voting booth and public arenas. 

In both churches, we had very little of material value, but we had love and care for one another, a sense of mission to those around us, and faith that God would provide our needs. And Ted and I rarely had serious needs, but when we did, our church family came through; money for unexpected car repairs, or plumbing repairs, babysitting when we needed to go out, sharing our car with others who needed to go somewhere where public transportation didn't go, etc. In Jubilee Fellowship, we shared one lawn mower for the whole community, and one member macramed a tennis net for the public tennis courts since the city no longer provided nets. We were creative with what God had given us!

I don't want to romanticize those early years in our adult lives.  Examining all of our beliefs, learning new ways to live, butting heads with many wonderful but strong personalities was often painful. But there was a vitality of life that I look back on nostalgically. I often wish that God would fill me with that energy and commitment once again.

So how does this play out today. In our current church, we have limited money. Folks give sacrificially so that we can have a full-time pastor. A member donates his skills to build and maintain our Web site. But we are full of love and care for one another, and those who visit see and feel our commitment to God and to one another. that is how we draw new members. They will know we are Christians by our love.