I listen to a podcast from Mike Rowe. You know him, the voice behind most of our current-generation Ford commercials and dozens of nature and science related documentaries as well as the television show “Dirty Jobs.” Well, Mike has this podcast called “The Way I Heard It.” It’s reminiscent of the Paul Harvey-style of storytelling: offering clever, behind the scenes nuggets of information about people or events, offering a sponsor-endorsed ad for, say, the Bose Wave Radio. Then, he’d return to his story of the person or event. And with a final flick of his voice, the veil was lifted and he would close with “And now you know the rest of the story.”
Well, Mike Rowe tells stories in the same fashion, candidly admitting his reverence for and desire to emulate Mr. Harvey. Mike has a story about a young, lowly lieutenant listening to the telegraph taps of German, Italian, and Russian news systems during WWII. On one such occasion, after sitting in his wooden chair hunched over the radio, earphones tightly closed about his ears, he heard a distinct series of tapping. There, amidst the static of the radio on that cold evening of March 5, 1953, our lieutenant heard a rhythmic tapping, a secret that only this young airman could discern. The most hated and feared political leader in all the world, a man who organized the slaughter of thousands upon thousands of innocent lives, a brutal and sinister human being. The rhythmic tapping told the news: Josef Stalin was dead.
We read this morning in 1 Corinthians of the various gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, and others. Each one of these are a part of the whole. If one should fail, the whole is incomplete. However, when one responds and reaches out using the gift God has given with each being that “one,” the whole is truly, well, whole.
I find this passage apt for THIS particular morning as today is our annual meeting. This is the time of the year that we gather as a church body and celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the previous year. We speak of opportunities that we were presented before: faithfulness in stewardship; responding to community needs; caring for the temple—this building and its objects; nurturing God’s people through various ministries; comforting those who have experienced loss this year. We are St. Matthew’s, and we are the Body of Christ. And we, like our young lieutenant from Mike’s story, sit hunched over the receiver listening for the tap tap tap of God telling us the next move we are to make.
In the story from our Gospel, it is actually the mother of Jesus who is doing the tapping. But I will come to that in a moment. There is a great deal going on in the fabric of the text. There are so many symbols shifting in and out within our reading. For example, the wedding feast is in its third day. It was Jonah who was in the belly of the beast for three days. After the crucifixion of Jesus, He was gone from the earth for three days. And there are three symbolic links to the Passion of Jesus: Number ONE: He says that His hour has not yet come just as He told His disciples throughout other instances of the Gospel texts. Number TWO: water symbolizes the Jewish purification rites of the Old Testament and yet it is Jesus who brings the new way of purification. And Number THREE: when the water was changed to wine and the “sign” was performed, His glory was revealed to His disciples, and they believed.
As these signs gave issue to things to come, we see in this episode of Jesus’ life the first step in the things to come for Him. There He is, the Son of the Most Holy God, a guest at a wedding with his disciple friends. I can imagine Him enjoying the music and laughter and joy of this immense event. I can see Him smiling and hugging the other guests. I can imagine His humanity in this event. Divinity breaking into the lives of man and walking amongst them. And as He is participating in this feast, a potential event happens.
This is a moment that could be a possible disaster, significant humiliation for the bride, groom, and families of the new couple. Wedding celebrations were to span seven days. It’s day three, and they’re out of wine.
But, someone has been watching. Someone has seen the faces of the servants in attendance, faces of joy and laughter and tears and as they move throughout the rooms sharing in this happy celebration. A few of those faces gradually shift from joy to doubt to worry. These few faces begin to seek one another, to huddle together in hushed voices in the corners. Someone has observed the changes and feels the tension creeping in like a smokey shadow desiring to snuff the shimmering candle.
Mary. She was paying attention. She saw these furtive movements, these strained faces, snd what did she do? She went to her son. Mary. Our Lady who in Luke told the Angel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me.” She bore the Son of God and gave birth to the Savior of the World, for all generations. And we call her Blessed.
She saw what was happening. And she acted in the only way she could: she spoke to her Son. And as a result, I see the humanity of Jesus, one enjoying the celebration of a wedding, become the Divinity of God Almighty as He performed His first recorded miracle. And the symbolism of the event — Jesus changing water to wine at a wedding while we His followers are called the Bride of Christ — is a most powerful event. And as He responds to the promptings of His mother, this Jesus of Nazareth steps into His call as the Savior of the World and takes that first step towards His crucifixion.
And it was Mary who proclaimed her Fiat: Let it be! Mary brought forth the Savior of all. Holy is her name. And in the event of our wedding of Cana, she was the catalyst that saved this celebration from ending in disaster. She participated. She observed. She attentively watched. And, she responded.
My prayer, as we continue this new year of our church model ourselves like Mother Mary as we watch, as we observe, as we pray, as we say Yes, Let it Be Done, as we respond to Christ our Lord. And, as we sit hunched over our own desks — as our young lieutenant did (a young Johnny Cash) listening to the tap tap tapping of the telegraph through the static — while we pray and praise and weep and celebrate, I pray we remember that we are all one working together living into our gifts and vocations and desiring above all to love God and serve Him through His church of St. Matthew’s of Enid.