Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The wedding feast at Cana

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever He tells you.”

John 2:1-5

The gospel for the second Sunday after the Epiphany was the very familiar story of the wedding feast at Cana, which was the site of the first miracle performed by Jesus.

It wasn’t widely publicized at that time, and as miracles go, it wasn’t that big of a deal. With a little effort, I can turn water into beer (the third most popular beverage in the world) if I add some yeast, some malted barley and some hops. In today’s world, making available 150 gallons of good wine to a small wedding party that already was pretty well buzzed would be the height of folly, and the kind of act that would make trial lawyers very appreciative.

This year, though, the reading provided an opportunity for the revelation of a real miracle, one that is much more significant than the one that took place at Cana.

I have been attending services at a small local ELCA church for a little better than two years, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I noticed a small sign over the front door that read “servants entrance”. Although I know that we are all servants of the Lord, it wasn’t until this past Sunday that I realized the full implications of the phrase.

On a sunny Saturday morning this past October, one of the younger members of the congregation died suddenly, and I took off some time from work the following Wednesday to attend the funeral at the church. In all my visits to that location, I have never seen more people crammed into that little house of God than I did that day. All of wrestled with how to deal with the situation, but in the final analysis, we were all simply being God’s servants because our mere presence at the church provided at least some “moral support” to a couple of families who continue to grope with the tragedy.

One of families that was in attendance that day was the family of a young man named Danny.

Danny has been plagued with kidney problems for many years, and has undergone a number of operations that attempted to improve his health.Since all of us need at least one functioning kidney in order to live, his wife Kim put out a plea last summer to the congregation for a kidney donor.

A number of people from the congregation agreed to be tested for compatibility, and one candidate (in particular) leaped to the front of the pack.

Pastor Daniel is an interesting guy, the kind of preacher who generally manages to turn the traditional sermon into a thought-provoking and relevant conversation. His father is also an ELCA minister, which means that Pastor Dan “is the son of a preacher man”. With apologies to the late Dusty Springfield, he is one of the few religious leaders “who could really reach me”

In addition to his many good qualities, that fact that he came up with the idea for a “beer and Bible night” makes him OK in my book.

In order to be considered as a kidney donor, potential donors must pass three major hurdles – they must be healthy, have a compatible blood type, and pass a “cross match”. They also must pass a psychological screening After several months of tests, Pastor Dan was found to be a good match for Danny.

Since the first living kidney transplant took place in Boston in 1959, more than 50,000 Americans have donated their kidneys to people in need. According to the National Kidney Registry, there are three types of living kidney donations:

Direct donations
Paired exchanges
Non-directed donations

Of the three, direct donations (where the donor knows the recipient) are the rarest due to the fact that the donors are incompatible in the majority of cases, which means that Pastor Dan’s compatibility with Danny is highly unusual.

Although the procedure is more dangerous for the recipient than the donor, it is not entirely without risk for the donor:

Interestingly enough, people who have donated a kidney typically outlive the average person. Although the exact reasons for that aren’t known, there is suspicion that the altruistic act of giving the gift of life and the happiness and satisfaction that follows has a positive impact and leads to a healthier and longer life.

If you’ve ever had eggs and ham for breakfast, you’d agree that although the chicken made a contribution to the meal, the pig definitely made a commitment.

Although people who choose to be ministers freely give of themselves, it’s not a stretch to say that very few of them are as committed as Pastor Dan.

The surgery is scheduled to take place in the near future, and it will put Pastor Dan out of commission for about six weeks.

To quote from John again:

“Jesus did this, the first of His signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory: and His disciples believed in Him”.

Although it’s difficult to imagine that anyone could doubt Pastor Dan’s sincerity, his selfless and courageous act should be convincing proof that all of us should believe in him.

God bless you, Pastor Dan, and God bless all of us.

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