Friday, January 11, 2013

Water into wine

My friend Steve Bell has not given me permission to publish this perfect thing he wrote:

I don't know if you're a talker by nature. I'm not particularly. Sure, I can do it, but the truth is, I can do it better once I've had a drink or two. On this day, I'd had a few. Enough to settle the nerves, and not enough to say anything regrettable on such an important occasion: my youngest brother's only daughter's wedding, where I was most honoured to be the Master of Ceremonies for young Lilah, and her groom.

Her new husband, Andrew, is a good man. I'm most pleased for them both, though not a little worried about their security, as Andrew has left his trade to follow this emerging Rabbi, Jesus. Of course, Andrew and Lil invited them all. But the numbers were as expected, and no-one quite knows how the unthinkable happened: We were, quite literally, wringing the wineskins. Thankfully, I was one of the first to know, and I'd done my utmost to steer the guests' attentions to activities other than drinking. But soon enough, the inevitable was unavoidable: Andrew and Lil, still blissfully unaware, were soon to begin their ever-after ashamed: they were to fail at providing for their guests. All custom and tradition called for them to be shamed, ostracized, and held low as an example to ensure such poor hosting would not happen again, and I, as the Master of Ceremonies, was to announce this news.

What happened next happened out of my sight; not difficult to achieve in my 73rd year. But I've pieced together in the last few days what took place: Mary, the mother of the Rabbi, who was helping with kitchen duties, called her son quietly to the entryway, and together they discussed Andrew's predicament, the news of which was slowly spreading amongst those present. In the entry stood several wash-jars, now empty, and it was these that were quickly filled from the spring. To be honest, I'd hoped beyond hope that more wine would materialize from someone's home nearby, and when I was presented at the head table with a mug of water drawn directly from one of these jars, heads began to turn to see how I would approach what needed to be done.

Murmur descended to silence, and I drew that deep breath that one draws when one needs to think very deeply, very quickly. As slowly as I could manage, I turned to look for Jesus, for some hint or clue as to where he was going with this. I found him standing with crossed feet beside a pale Lil, his left arm around her shoulder, and his right holding a mug. With the tiniest of flourishes, Mary leaned over and filled the mug with wash-jar spring water.

He blinked slowly. The corner of his mouth crept up. He raised his own mug towards me with that across-the-room 'cheers' - took a gulp, and nodded to me to follow.

I understood the choice was mine. I drank. I stared into my cup. Raising my eyes, I started to scan the room of guests, regarding every pair of eyes. The choice was all of ours.

"This wine", I declared emphatically, "Is the best wine you will ever taste. Whether you can enjoy it now is for you to decide".

Slowly then, a true miracle took place. Almost all of the guests felt it, as we sat together enjoying that cool spring water. Together we chose humanity, we chose grace, and we put people before our traditions.

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