Today’s gospel reading in the liturgical calendar is the story of Jesus changing water into wine. It’s his first public miracle, and it’s all about abundance. Last week, I talked about abundance in the natural world, and today I want to talk about abundance of the spirit.
I love that Jesus’ first miracle is in support of a feast of celebration. He’s attending a wedding and the unthinkable has happened: They’ve run out of wine. Weddings were multi-day affairs, so this was a big issue. The wedding ceremony, as we think of it, took place over the first 24 hours, but the entire celebration could last as long as a week. Running out of wine before the week was over would put a large damper on the celebration (water wasn’t safe to drink, so they would get very thirsty).
It was also embarrassing for the bridegroom, who didn’t leave on a honeymoon once the marriage was consummated. Instead, the bride and groom stayed to celebrate with friends and family. (If you think about how far many of us travel to attend weddings today, and what it means to reconnect with far-flung family, you can understand why this multi-day tradition is perhaps one worth reviving….) Abundance is the theme of the celebration: family, friends, love, food, wine…it’s certainly a problem if the wine amphoras run dry. Jesus solves the problem and sets a standard: abundance is a measure of his ministry.
I’ve been thinking about a different type of abundance over the past week or two. Henry is now on the board of Cruzando Fronteras, the Episcopal Diocesan border ministry. He’s making a trip down to Nogales (a ninety-minute drive south of here) about once a week—and he seldom goes down with an empty car. In fact, over the past month, he has gone down multiple times with his Honda CR-V packed to the roof with donations for migrants at the border: clothing, shoes, toiletries, and backpacks. This abundance of donations has flowed in from faithful Christians around Tucson and even Phoenix, as word has spread about how many migrants arrive on our border with little more than the clothes on their backs.
Cruzando Fronteras provides shelter on the Mexican side of the border in a handful of safe houses, sanctuaries where people can wait for their turn to cross the border. (The ministry is also currently arranging to rent a multi-story building near the border to consolidate its efforts.) In these safe houses, people can choose a backpack and fill it with clothing, a toothbrush and comb, and a pair of shoes that hasn’t been worn through on the long trip north.
This is true abundance for these migrants: a modern miracle not unlike that wrought by Jesus at that long-ago wedding. After weeks or months on the road, these migrants are given an abundance of riches: food, clothing, shelter, a shower…I’m in tears writing this. We are Jesus, each one of us, when we minister “to the least of these,” as Jesus commands(!) us to do.
What are you doing to minister to the least of these? Where are you bringing joyful abundance?