I believe that the Wedding at Cana story is more of a shame story than a miracle story. (Thank you MP.) In a nutshell: Jesus takes what is shameful and creates something beautiful. Few things in 1st Century Palestine were more shameful than offering poor hospitality to guests (i.e. running out of wine at the wedding.)
Shame trumps guilt every time as the curse that keeps on cursing.
I can’t let go of this story from Chicago last week about the young woman who hid her pregnancy from her parents and was so ashamed/afraid to face them, that she dropped her newborn from her eighth story window. Imagine the level of terror this 19 year old was experiencing. She was willing to sacrifice her child in order to spare herself the insults or attacks or shunning of her parents. Please pray for her as she has been arrested.
When shame is not addressed, it continues.
In a ridiculously incomparable segue, I also believe that many of our congregations live in shame storms. Congregations remember the days when their choirs went on tour and their pews were filled and their youth programs were brimming with energy. Some of those same congregations now patch together a much smaller group of singers and rope off the back pews. There are many, many churches with no children much less any youth. We lifelong church people might not say so, but to a certain extent, we are ashamed.
It’s not as crushing as the shame of an unwed teenager with conservative parents, but it causes similar fears. We fear making choices because a “bad choice” could be the end of us. We fear taking risks because we don’t believe we can afford risks. We cannot joyfully worship because there’s a cloud hanging over us.
Maybe we’ll just cover up the problem and it will go away.
But I’m here to tell that you that Jesus takes what is shameful and redeems it. It’s not just a Bible story.
If you are facing something shameful right now – whatever it might be – please know that there is someone out there who will walk with you. If you are a congregation on the cusp of closing, know that this is not the worst thing. Water can still turn into wine, in a proverbial sense. Sometimes dying churches can be transformed, but Jesus is the only one who can do it. And sometimes Jesus’ people are so loving – no matter what we’ve done or who we are – that our lives can be transformed too. Shame is never the last word.
Painting of The Wedding at Cana by Daniel Mitsui.