I wonder if in years to come, what happened that day in Cana of Galilee became the stuff of family stories to be told over and over again. I wonder if that unnamed couple entertained their children with imitations of the expression on the steward’s face when he tasted the excellent wine that, for some reason, had been saved until well into the wedding celebration. Or whether the couple spoke to themselves and to others about what an honor it was that Jesus himself had come to their wedding and performed his first miracle there to save the day for them. It would have been a social disaster to run out of wine at the wedding. Very embarrassing to the bridegroom and to his family, and probably even worse for the servants who were responsible for making sure that there was enough wine to go around.
We don’t know. We don’t know how many people knew, at the time, that there had been a miracle. The servants who had poured the water and then ladled out the wine, they did know. The steward didn’t know, but word must have spread, and we hear that after this miracle of abundance—a hundred and twenty or a hundred and eighty gallons of excellent wine—after this, the word spread, and the disciples did believe.
We had a thing that happened at my own wedding forty years ago in New Hope which did become the stuff of a family story, which is why I thought of that. Our disaster, or potential disaster, happened when the caterer didn’t show up.
I was only three weeks old when I was baptized, so naturally I don’t remember the event. It’s not surprising, although when you think about it, it’s kind of strange to have no real recollection of something so momentous, something that really set a course for my life. I have the pictures, I have a certificate, and that’s about it. But I look back on it and I know that a lot of my identity was formed in that moment, and you can see that in all of the details of that day.
There’s a picture of me with my godparents. My godmother was my mother’s cousin. My mother was an only child, and so this cousin was the closest thing she had to a sister. My godmother had had a baby who was two months older than I am, and he was my buddy in the early years of our lives.
My godfather was my father’s uncle. He was someone who was known in our family for his humility and also for his personal holiness. He was very devout. He was really a good guy, and since my dad’s dad had died when he was a little boy, I think he was sort of a father figure to my father also.
Today on the sixth anniversary of my ordination I’m grateful for meaningful work, and grateful also for all of those who have been my teachers along the way, beginning with the priests and pastors who were my models long before I found myself walking down that long path we call “the process.”
I’m grateful for the people of my parish who supported and encouraged me as I pursued the dream, for the professors who shared their wisdom, for the friends who walked beside me in seminary. I’m grateful for those who stood with me on ordination day.
I’m grateful for those mentors, ordained and lay, who knew what I was supposed to be doing before I did, and who gently directed me, and for those who taught me simply by the way they received my ministry.
I’m grateful to my family for their support and patience especially over these past 10 years or so.
This part of the journey has been shorter that I thought it would be, but rich enough for a lifetime of grateful prayers.
Now I’m looking forward not only to having more time for my family after March 1, but also to discovering what the next phase of this adventure will bring, because leaving parish ministry doesn’t by any means imply that I’m done. But I have to admit to some anxiety going forward, and I’ll say that I’m grateful for those I know will be there with me, continuing to help me find the way.
If you were paying attention over the past couple of weeks, you might have noticed that there were no “wise men” at our stable on Christmas. They didn’t get there until this morning. They started out nestled in some holly on one of the back windowsills, and by last Sunday they’d moved forward a little, but only as far as one of these windowsills here.
Because it’s a long way to Bethlehem, you know. They were on the road for a long time. It took a while to get there. But today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s a word that means a sudden manifestation, or a flash of understanding. And our wise men have finally taken their place with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds all gathered around the manger.
Which of course is completely wrong.
The wise men weren’t there at the manger in the Gospels. They never met the shepherds. The traditional crèche scene like ours is based on the Nativity story as Luke told it, although the stable looks more like something you’d find in Europe than in Bethlehem.
But Luke never mentions the magi—only Matthew tells a story in which they arrive in Bethlehem after Jesus was born, perhaps long after Jesus is born, and the find him with Mary in a house, not a stable.
So what you see on proud display here is basically a Biblical inaccuracy. I guess the best thing we can say about that is, at least we’re not the only ones.