Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


("The Wedding at Cana, Taddeo Zucarro, from the Bowyer Bible, 1616, from Wikimedia Commons)
John 2: 1-11:
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 gave 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.

The story of "The Wedding at Cana" is always a fun one for imagining all the characters. In fact, it's one St. Ignatius used in his Spiritual Exercises, and it's often one of the first ones participants do in the 30 day Ignatian Retreat. The servants' points of view in this story are priceless.

I'm sure in the beginning, as they filled the six water jars, their thought was, "This guy is nuts! He's nuts, his mother is nuts, the whole family is nuts!" But they did what they were told, because, after all, they were servants, and after all, Mary and Jesus were guests at the wedding, and their job was "serve the guests." Do what the guests tell you. Don't argue with the guests. Don't offend the guests. Chances are, the servants did this act with an attitude. Perhaps some of them thought these two guests were messing with them. Perhaps they were already anticipating bringing these water jugs to the steward and having the steward chew them out for bringing jugs of water when they were out of wine, and being played for idiots.

But somewhere in carrying these jugs over--perhaps one sloshed over a bit--one of them noticed, "Hey, there's wine in there!"

No doubt they tasted the wine before they brought it to the steward (after all, if you just had your water jug turned into a jug of wine, wouldn't you taste it?) and already realized what the steward soon discovered--that it wasn't just wine, but good wine.

Somewhere in the middle of the action of serving--and quite frankly, in this story, serving in a very mundane way, and very possibly, serving with a bad attitude--came the miracle. More than likely no one noticed it at the moment it happened, but in my mind, it probably became noticed when some of it simply spilled over in the act of carrying the jugs.

The Greek word for "servant" in this text is "diakonos"--what we would now translate as deacon, and what we in the Episcopal Church generally see as an ordained call. Our Book of Common Prayer says that the deacon is to "make Christ and his redemptive love known, by your word and example, to those among whom you life, and work, and worship." The deacon is to "interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world." The deacon's life and teaching is to "show Christ's people that in serving the helpless, they are serving Christ himself."

But our "deacons" in our text are far from "ordained." They might very likely had been slaves, or indentured servants, or day wage workers. They're pretty ordinary, actually, and their job is basically to schlep stuff. They are being called upon to do the most menial of tasks--but in the middle of this incredibly menial task of schlepping jugs of water, the water is turned to good wine.

This story is a reminder that it is within our servitude in which grace flows and abounds. There's a miracle that can occur in the middle of our serving God through serving others that happens independently of our attitude about it. We are freed from the burden of stressing over whether we have a good or a bad attitude about it--what a deal! The only requirement is that we remain aware. The only problem with "bad attitude" is it does close us down somewhat to that awareness. But miracles, being miracles, have a tendency to slop over the rims of the jars in which they occur, because miracles don't seem to have a need to stay within boundaries.

Furthermore, we don't have to feel a call to be an ordained deacon to have a diaconal ministry. The "ministry of the baptized" comes with prepackaged priestly and diaconal ministries. I have always found it useful to sit with both the ordination vows in the BCP for priests and deacons and ask myself "what's out there where I can exercise these promises in my own life? I don't have to kneel in front of a bishop to do this."

So I invite you to simply read the story of the Wedding at Cana, and start by imagining yourself as the servant. Then sit with the ordination vows for deacon and simply ask these questions:

"Who are the helpless in the world I see around me? What is my interpretation of the needs, concerns, and hopes within this world? How can I best serve Christ by serving them at this time in my life?"

Simply go inward and listen, then step outward. Happy trails!

4 comments:

Thank you for this. I love the wedding at Cana story for numerous reasons, this is but one aspect.

It is always those at the bottom of whatever food chain that seem to be at the heart of what Jesus - and in this case - his mother, were up to. The servants - lowest of the low at that wedding gig, yet they were the first witnesses.

Absolutely, Fran...and other than Jesus, who would have known and understood more about that "lifting up the lowly" part than his mom?

Great exercise, Maria! Your thoughts reminded me of MLK Jr quote:
"If you want to be important—wonderful.
If you want to be recognized—wonderful.
If you want to be great—wonderful.
But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall
be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.
And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.
You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to
serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity
to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."

Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, February 4, 1968

So true, Joanna, so true. Thanks for the MLK quote. It's a dandy.

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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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