It has always struck me as significant – and possibly controversial – that in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ first miracle could be referred to as something of a ‘party trick’. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus, following Mary’s prompting, turns water into wine. This is not cheap wine, but top shelf, high-quality wine – in my mind, it is Argentine Malbec or, at the least, Yarra Valley Pinot Noir. There is more, however, going on here.
Jesus responds to Mary’s desire that the family hosting the wedding are not shamed because they have run out of wine before the celebrations have ended. Instead of shame, they are honoured: “…the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from…Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’” (John 2:9-10).
As we start Safe Water September (SWS) and focus on the need and the right people have to access safe water, what does this passage say to me now? It reminds me that water was not a safe drink in first century Palestine. Wine was much safer. Jesus was helping not only the hosts avoid shame, but helping the guests celebrate safely. It’s a minor point, no doubt, but it resonates with me this month.
Water, for many people today, is still not safe to drink.
With the ravages of COVID-19, it is a privilege to be able to wash our hands and sanitise properly with running, hot water.
It is a privilege to be a part of an organisation that is attempting to turn unsafe practices around water, sanitation and health into safe water practices that give abundant life. It is a privilege to know that in Bangladesh, for instance, we’ll be able to provide women and children (especially) with sanitation devices that no longer shame or expose them to potential harm or ill health.
To me, they feel like core actions of Jesus – focused on how people live, their personhood, and sparing them shame.
Jesus works through the actions of his people to help others. That’s what SWS is all about. Turning harmful situations into ones that no longer bring shame. Helping people live full lives in abundance.
GMP Deputy Executive Officer