In this morning’s gospel it sort of sounds like Jesus doesn’t want to get involved. When his mother Mary tells him that they have run out of wine at the wedding of which they were attending, Jesus says, “what has that got to do with me”?
Before going to much farther, I need to point out again how impressed I am with Mary, the mother of Jesus. She sees an issue and confronts it head on. She speaks to Jesus about the issue – no wine. She also takes the initiative and tells the servants to do what he tells you. Jesus said “my time has not yet come”. But Mary seems to have an inside track, she seems to know that Jesus’ time has in fact come. She is the same person who about 30 years earlier when told by the Angel that she would give birth to the Messiah, immediately praised God and said “ let it be as you have said”. Remember the block buster sermon on the Magnificat a few weeks ago? We can learn from Mary.
So, Jesus didn’t seem to want to get involved in the trivial problem of running out of wine at a wedding. Maybe he was too busy, drinking wine at the wedding party with his friends, maybe he was tired from the travel to the wedding, or maybe he was just plain exhausted. Surely there must be bigger issues and concerns than running out of wine. And if God was using Jesus to be his instrument on earth, he surely would have picked a huge miracle of which the world would see as Jesus’ first miracle, not making wine. Why would Jesus need to get involved in something that seemed so insignificant?
Did he get involved to appease his mother, did he get involved to show off, did he get involved to help those in need? Was it about the wine or was it to show his compassion towards people in need, however trivial and small it may seem? Could this account of running out of wine be an example to us that God gets involved in everything, not just the big picture stuff?
And what about Mary? How does she fit in here? Why does she mention this running out of wine to Jesus, unless she knows something?
I’d like to use this as a backdrop for talking about getting involved.
Let me start off by saying, this is not about making anyone uncomfortable or to make anyone feel guilty. It is meant to help us all think, to think about how we can be involved. How we too can be “winemakers”.
This is not to take the official ST. David winemaker title away from Mary Moore who up in the Deerfield hills makes her brew under the cover of darkness in the name of the church, but for us to be at least apprentice winemakers.
As you may know, or if you don’t know – surprise - our parish going to sponsor a refuge from Afghanistan. There are many unknowns at this point, but here is what we know.
We are teaming up with the Cathedral in Springfield, and working with Jewish Family Services.
Jewish Family Services is a large, well-organized organization that specializes in refugee resettlement programs.
The person or people we will be sponsoring are vetted – meaning they have been screened for safety. They are here as Parolees. They are here for one year and upon completion of that one year, they must seek citizenship or return to Afghanistan.
We don’t know how many, male or female, kids or no kids.
We know they are currently being housed at either an Army or Airforce base here in the US, awaiting sponsors.
We do know that these are people who are basically enemies of the state of Afghanistan. These folks are the ones who in most cases aided the US forces for Afghan freedom and have left for fear of their lives.
We know that most of these people are people who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
They are men, women and children – seeking an opportunity to simply live their lives.
So, let me tell you about our experience in the refugee business to help articulate what may lie ahead.
About 25 years ago The Church of the Good Shepherd in WS decided to sponsor a refugee family. We felt the need to get involved. We saw the horrible pictures coming out of Bosnia and knew somehow that we needed to be involved. Bosnia was a war-torn country, families (mostly Muslims) were being displaced, torn apart, stripped of everything they had and, in many cases, murdered. So, a group of about 10 people started meeting, collecting stuff to fill an apartment. We met a lot, had good intentions and as good Episcopalians do, talked a lot, but we really had no “plan”.
Anyways, one night we received a call from the agency we were working with telling us our refugees were coming at the end of the week! So, we called for an emergency meeting that night. I attended, my wife Lainey didn’t. At the meeting we were all in a panic. We were informed that we would be welcoming a family of four. Not knowing what the next steps were, we got a few people that would meet them at the airport in Boston, bring them back to WS. We had a bunch of cloths, furniture, household stuff, but we were missing one thing. A place to put them!
We went back and forth, what to do. A hotel – so expensive, almost not feeling right, was that how we wanted these people to start their new lives, how do we pay for that, etc. So, out of the blue I said “ they can stay with us”. When I got home Lainey (my wife) asked “ so, how did the meeting go”? I said, good.
I’ve got some news for you. We have company coming on Thursday! She was awesome, she laughed and we laughed together, not sure what this was all going to become, yet we were at peace with it, knowing that all would be well.
Fast forward, on Thursday we had 4 Bosnians living in our house. A Husband a truck driver (same age as me), a wife, homemaker (basically the same age as Lainey), a 16-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. No English – except the boy, a bit.
They stayed in our finished basement for two months. Participating in our family life, while getting them acclimated to their new homeland. We got the 16-year-old boy enrolled in high school, got him on the soccer team try outs, where he became a standout player. Our daughter instructed all her friends at school to be nice and never let this boy eat alone. After going to Walmart buying shoes and clothing for job interviews, knocking on lots of doors, we got the father a great job after drawing pictures, making sounds with the personnel manager who by the grace of God, said “ I’ll give him a chance”. By the way, upon seeing the personnel manager a year later said “ he’s one of the best employees, I’ve ever hired”. The mother started her own house cleaning business, using contacts everyone had.
Over the two months they physically lived with us, we had stickems on everything in our house, showing them what everything was in English.
We drew pictures, made noises, like kids playing games. They began to eat American food and yes, I ate some Bosnian food. When it came time for them to cook and I would ask what are we having they would simply say “Cat”. As I constantly made fun of what they cooked and they knew I had a weak stomach. (They were only kidding of course). We laughed a lot at each other and realized that we were all the same. Simply people who wanted to live in peace, raise a family and worship God in our own ways. We valued each other’s friendships and understood life’s cruelties.
Since their coming here, they have all become US citizens. The father has since retired with a pension, 401k and social security. The mother cleaned houses all those 25 years, they bought and paid off a house. The son owns his own trucking business, has a wife, two children and a home. The 3-year-old graduated high school a member of the national honor society and graduated college.
Through them, we have met many other Bosnians, who’s stories are similar. People who just needed someone to get involved in their plight. Someone to turn their water into wine.
Now, I’m no winemaker, but I know that everyone needs a fair shake. All of us at one time were refugees. Someplace along the line, somebody from each of our families had to cross the ocean, and thank God this country let them in and were given the opportunity. These people are no different than our ancestors, except they are faced with indignity issues.
About a year ago, the mother and father were visiting with us at the house and when they were leaving to go home, the father gave me a hug and said “ I will never, ever forget, what you people did for my family, look what we have “.
I share these cliff notes of our experience of some 25 years ago, not in boasting, but in thanksgiving to God for the strength to get involved.
I also share it to say that “nothing has changed”.
Much like 60 years ago Martin Luther King was preaching racial equality, and just like 55 years ago, Robert Kennedy was preaching gun safety, 25 years ago we we helping Bosnian refugees, today we are helping Afghan refugees. Our world just doesn’t get it. Many things have just not changed.
In thinking about the Afghan refugees these 25 years later, I feel “tired”, “busy”, “spent”, “time challenged”. Really easy to not turn their water into wine, and let someone else deal with it.
“What does that have to do with me”?
At the end of this morning’s gospel the steward tasted the water that had become wine and said “ Everyone serves the good wine first, and then serves the inferior wine when the guests become drunk, but you have kept the good wine until now”.
Sort of ironic
At the beginning of the gospel, no wine, something of little significance.
Then at the end of the gospel, the wine – everyone happy and satisfied.
Jesus took a problem and gave it life; He became a winemaker. Maybe we can imitate Jesus and become winemakers too, by taking someone’s plight and giving it new life.
I can’t help but I feel a sense of responsibility to respond to Mathew 25, where Jesus says
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan