These two stories were presented at the recent conference at Willersley Castle on the theme “Re-Telling the Stories of Jesus”. The first story, by Trevor Dennis, was read during one of his Plenary Sessions. The second story was written during a morning session when delegates were asked to write a story. Other stories from delegates will appear in due course. You are invited to submit your own stories if they are similar in style to those appearing here.
Please note – this first story is copyright and may not be printed, transmitted or used in any other form without the express permission of the author.
- The wedding at Cana
A reflection on the wonderful story in John 2.1-11 of the turning of water into wine, taking careful note of a text where nothing is fortuitous, every detail significant.
A hidden village, tucked in the hills of Galilee, guarding its obscurity, hoping not to be noticed, Cana, Khirbet Qana el-Jelil, a name to roll around the tongue and taste for very sweetness; “the place of reeds,” it means, where winds make gentle music and birds weave round nests between tall stems, an empty rum, now, left to the fox and the hyrax, but once most holy ground, for the Son of God was known there, reluctant, put on the back foot by a woman who could not take no for an answer, unable in the end to keep his generosity to himself.
There was a wedding, you see, on the third day, anticipating resurrection, a veritable feast, and God is most at home at feasts a feast is what he plans for us all, when all is well and all manner of things are well, a feast to declare his lasting commitment and his love, when he will serve and we will drink the wines from his cellar laid down for us before the start of time.
There was a wedding for a week. The people of Khiberi Oana ei-Jelil cannot quite manage a week, their resources will not stretch to that, the wine runs out. The wine runs out! Such looming disgrace! Will they ever live it down, the families of that young man and the girl beside him, shyly wondering behind her veil, splitting the light in all her finery, as much as they could afford and more? Will they ever live it down, that there was not enough, so the laughter ran out and people no longer danced but fell to wondering about the evil eye and how long this particular union would last before disaster struck, as so often it did in those dusty streets so near the sighing of the reeds? Will they ever live it down?
Yet this is Galilee, where there are whisperings of God in the air, the lilies of the field wear the scent of heaven, and a certain Jesus from the village of Nazareth is among the guests. Anything might happen. Disgrace might be turned quite all to grace. You never know; it has happened before. This is Galilee, waiting to be God’s dancing floor.
Yet would it have happened at all, if she had not been there, too, the mother of Jesus, her name well hidden from our sight, but not her mind, her determination that disgrace should once more be turned to grace, as once it was for her at the birth of her fine son. Would he, her son, have moved, if she had not risen from the circle of the women, left their ribald songs, turning sour for lack of wine, and told him to do something?
Would he have sat there, waning for his hour co come, knowing it was not yet not tiil the cross was raised, the nail; driven, and the thorns biting deep? That would be the time, the time for God to come our of hiding for the curtain to be split, and all the world to become his holy of holies. That would be his hour, not here, in Cana, out of the way in Galilee before he had barely begun.
And so he calls her “woman” as a second time he will, when the cross is his and a circle of thorns all his dress.
“Do nothing, woman, it is no concern of ours.”
“Oh yes it is!” says Marv to herself. “I know nothing, thank God, about a cross. All I know is this weddings and wine run out, eyes meeting, heads shaking, two families sinking into shame, and a young girl and her man thinking it is all spoiled.” So, saying nothing to her son, she turns her head to the servants: “Do whatever he tells you,” she cries, in a loud voice that he can also hear, and then she smiles at him, triumph in her laughing eyes, knowing he will have to do something now. Heaven will have to arrive earlier than he had planned. This village wedding turned to water needs now become the feast of heaven, and God will have to open his cellar to bring out the wine laid down before the start of time.
He will do it quietly. He will not do the pouring, as is his wont. No one will know, not the bride and groom, not their families, nor even the master of the feast, who has been bearing his own disgrace that there was only water left.
And so it is, and so it is, and heaven that day comes to Khirbet Qana el-Jelil, and all is very well, and never do they live it down and always and for evermore, till the village is a ruin and the pilgrims go to the wrong place a few miles to the south, always they will tell of that wedding when the wine flowed like a living stream, with such pleasure held in every drop, such fine generosity, and the young woman cried for very joy behind her veil, and her young man, also, and there was much embracing to be done and dancing wild beneath the stars and such rare, such precious hope! And still, when the last echoes of their laughter have died upon the Galileeair, and only the birds call among the reeds, even then their story will be told, to make God’s merriment.
Mary taught her son a lesson that day:
don’t do it by the book.
© Trevor Dennis – 2012
I wrote this response to the Conference of 2012 being asked to Re-Tell a story involving God. You are invited to submit others for consideration. The events in the story happened to myself, wife and son in 2006 as we journeyed through Ghana.
- On the Road to Bolgatanga
On a very hot an dusty road to Bolgatanga somewhere North of Tamale, we were driving along in our nice four wheel drive car, my wife, one son and myself. The landscape was parched dry, villages few and far between, people on the road even fewer. People often think, church people even, missionaries like myself and wife went to Africa to bring the Gospel because God was not there, But they are wrong, you know. While living there God showed us that he had beaten us to it and, could teach us a thing or two.
Anyway, to return to the tale, as I say, we were driving along when we reached lunch time and decided to stop for a “bush halt”. So we pulled up on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in particular, opened the window to let some fresh air in, as well as the heat, dust and flies. Lunch was going to be a simple affair of a piece of bread, a tin of sardines and some Pringles. The latter were the height of luxury as they cost a bomb in Ghana so we set to enjoying our meal. Oh and we included a pineapple brought along for the ride from Cape Coast 450 miles away to the South.
As we sat and ate our meal, you, God came out of the bush. Well, a bunch of children appeared and only later did we recognise you. They stopped and had a long discussion and so did we. “O Lord, they’re going to come and ask for money or pens and pencils. Send them away, they’re only beggars. I mean, look, they are dirty, ragged and up to no good at all. Oh, they are now coming towards us. – Hello!” Nods and smiles and what’s this they are offering? Some sort of berry, looks like a Cape gooseberry or some such like. Is it safe to eat? Well, it must be OK because if they can eat it it isn’t going to poison us, is it? “Meda-ase” (“Thank you). So we each take a berry and eat. They taste good. We nod and smile to the children. Now what do they want? Oh, they want the empty tin – remember the sardines, all gone by now. They are going away now but then they stop. Now what? They’re coming back. They point at the Pringles pack so we give them some and they point again. Ah, they want the tube and we watch as they carefully share out the Pringles one by one. And they come back again and we are offered the berries again.
And so they and we go on their way, they laughing and playing as children the world over do and we left to contemplate the meaning you had for us.
God, you taught us the meaning of neighbour by using those children who were acting out the Gospel message despite their lack of ability to talk with us.
But then I remember what, it is claimed (mistakenly) St Francis of Assisi taught, “Preach the Gospel, but use words only when necessary”