I was startled by something I heard on the news this week, or rather, by a new perspective on something I heard and something I was familiar with but now see differently.
Over the past week or so, the violence between Israel and Lebanon has escalated, and both sides seem to share some measure of fault: Lebanon for harboring a terrorist organization and allowing them to build their bases among the civilian population (a popular terrorist tactic, I understand), and Israel, for its unrelenting and devastating, and, some say, severe over-reaction to the actions of their enemies. Can there truly be a right or wrong side in this when so many innocent civilians are dying? Or is this latest violence merely a fresh echo of so much of the same that has taken place over the decades?
As I was pondering the horrific scenes of violence and death across the world, I heard something surprising that brought me and my faith into that situation more deeply. As the story unfolded over the past few days, Israel was trying to destroy a terrorist missile launching site and instead bombed a site with more than 50 civilians, over 35 of them children. This happened in the city of Qana, the name of which I didn’t recognize until the reporter linked it to the biblical city I know as Cana in Galilee as likely being the same place where, according to John's gospel, Jesus performed his first miracle/sign at the behest of his mother.
Do you remember the story? Every time I perform a wedding I think of it as I pray, "Eternal God, our creator and redeemer, as you gladdened the wedding at Cana in Galilee by the presence of your Son, so by his presence now bring your joy to this wedding." These young people in the gospel story were ashamed and embarrassed because the wine ran out for their wedding feast. Their lives would be for-ever damaged by the shame of not providing for their guests at this great village-wide party, and maybe by their cheapness in not having enough. "Do as he tells you," Jesus' mother Mary tells the servants. And even though it didn't make much sense to them, they did as they were told, filling the large water jars to the brim with water and then serving it to those at the feast.
The situation was turned around for that young couple, and Jesus showed us, in that little village of Cana so long ago, something of the nature of God: he delights in bringing happiness, peace and joy to his people.
It's so hard to see that region with so many wonderful biblical connections for us Christians being torn apart by hatred and violence, and it's difficult to imagine that we haven’t learned much of anything since then. What would a 21st century version of Jesus’ miracle look like? What would Jesus' mother tell us to do? Rather than beverage alterations (turning water into wine), pray that the sorrow, fear, war and death that grips that nation be turned to a time of peace. Pray for wisdom for our leaders, for the church to be bold and strong, for the families grieving the loss of their children and families.