The wine gave out. -John 2:3
In the gospel of John, Jesus’ first miracle is turning huge jars of water into fine wine. But before he did this amazing and abundant thing, there was a moment of despair. Weddings lasted for days back them, and people came from miles around to stay for a while. Running out of wine was not only a faux pas and a snub to all the guests, but also a logistical nightmare, since hosts were responsible for providing for the many guests’ needs. The words “the wine gave out” bear some weight. The hosts and the head steward were probably freaking out.
In some way or another in this life, the wine is always giving out, isn’t it? I mean, things do run out, break down, fall apart in any number of ways. Our best laid plans go awry. Sometimes it’s a simple thing like running out of postage stamps. Other times, it’s a much bigger and more life changing problem, like not having enough money for the rent and losing one’s home. There are some problems that are not easily or simply fixed, and that seemingly only God can heal or put back together. And sometimes it seems you just need a miracle.
I am thinking about the article I read in the Sentinel this week about the overfull homeless shelters in Keene. For an increasing number of people, resources are giving out. What are we, as followers of Jesus, being called to do about this in our community? How can people of faith, as the body of Christ, take part in a turnaround and be a source of some abundance? I know many of us already give food, funds and time to 100 Nights meals, the food pantry and other local agencies. There are many ways to help our neighbors in need - and - here is another important and specific need that some of us may feel called to meet.
Cindy, the minister at the UCC church, has asked all her colleagues to tell our congregations about their serious need for more volunteers in the overflow shelter that is mentioned in the article above. What they need is people who will help set up, greet, and then sleep over. Volunteers arrive at 8:30pm and leave the next morning at 7am. They are looking for helpers who can come at least twice a month on the same day of the week each time - as well as volunteers who are willing to be on a sub list to fill in when someone misses their night due to illness, weather, etc.
The overflow shelter is run by a staff person from 100 Nights. Church volunteers are there simply to assist. Volunteers will receive clear and simple training, and things there have always gone very smoothly, since the quieter folks from 100 Nights are the ones who use the overflow shelter. Members of the UCC have covered this ministry on their own for 5 years and are praying for some assistance. The overflow shelter stays open until about April 1.
What might Christ’s miraculous abundance look like in this situation? How can we at St. James be the vehicles of turning some empty jugs into unusually good wine? Please consider whether you are willing to step into this important ministry during these cold, cold months. Showing up is the most important part of it, but you could also bring board games, hats and gloves, or special snacks to share with our neighbors and show them that people care.
If you are able to companion our neighbors who have no option but to sleep in an overflow shelter, you can contact me or you can email the coordinators at the UCC directly:
Hilda Demoya (phone: 357-3749)
Sherman Morrison (phone: 762-7864)
This is a small, specific step to take in the midst of a growing and heartbreaking problem. Maybe you have other actions you’d like to focus on having to do with legislation, city regulations or zoning. But I suggest spending time shoulder to shoulder and face to face with both your neighbors in need and the issues they face will both inform and inspire you. Because changing our hearts and habits is God’s most abundant miracle of all.