Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Sunday, January 17, 2016


(The Rev. Canon Dr. Winfred B. Vergara. St. James’ Elmhurst.1/17/16)

It is amazing that the first miracle of Jesus, that of turning water into wine, happened at a marriage in Cana of Galilee. It may have been coincidental that the wine ran out during the wedding reception and Mother Mary had to tell his Son Jesus to save the day. It may have been coincidental that the wedding planners underestimated the party; that there are more wine drinkers than there are wine. 

But if we believe that nothing in this world happens for a reason, then there are at least three reasons why the first miracle of Jesus happened in the context of marriage.


Culture is defined as a sum total of human values, habits, beliefs, traditions and arts of a people or group of peoples. Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama defines cultures as “fingers of God pointing to Christ.”

Culture in Galilee, as in most rural villages, are often characterized by five “f’s”---family, friends, food, festivals and faith---and wedding ceremony is one of the celebrations in which these five f’s converge.

This is the first reason why the first miracle of Jesus, that of turning water into wine, became significant. Can you imagine what kind of festival is that going to be if there was no wine? Unlike in Vegas, what happens in Cana would not stay in Cana. It would spread throughout Galilee and the bad news would be “The wedding feast ran out of wine--and it was a dry and boring festival!”

It turned out however, that Jesus, the Nazarene who would later become the Savior of the world would begin his salvific ministry by saving a family from utter embarrassment! Instead of the bad news, the Good News came out from Cana: “Some hosts serve the good wine first and then the bad; but in this festival, the finest wine was served at the end!” 

When Jesus is in your party, you expect a great celebration! Amen?

To be acquainted with one another is great, to be girlfriends and boyfriends is greater but to be husband and wife is the greatest, highest and deepest form of friendship. You can be close to your acquaintance, you can be closer to your friends, but you can only be closest and most intimate with your spouse.

In marriage, you share the deepest form of companionship. In marriage, you are called to “leave father and mother and be joined to your wife or husband and the two shall become one.” 

This leaving and cleaving has to do with far more than sexual or physical. Marriage is a spiritual union of husband and wife. The injunction in the marriage ceremony says, “for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish till death do us part.”

That is why marriage is not easy, and so many married couples which began as plain romance have ended up in divorce or separation because marriage is hard. 

Are you able to look beyond each other’s imperfections and complement each other’s inadequacies? Are you able to live together, day and night, knowing that you will always have things to work through? When you fight, as most couples do, are you able to let go and let God; to forgive and forget; to make up and start all over again?

In our refrigerator, there is a poster that says: “10 Rules for a Happy Marriage.” Let me read them to you:

1.     Never both angry at the same time
2.     Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire
3.     If one of you has to win an argument, let it be your mate
4.     If you have to criticize, do it lovingly
5.     Never bring up mistakes of the past
6.     Neglect the whole world but not each other
7.     Never go to sleep with an argument not settled
8.     At least once every day say one kind word or compliment to your mate
9.     When you have done something wrong, be brave to admit it and ask forgiveness
10.    (This is the one I life best!) It takes two to make a quarrel and the one in the wrong is the one who does the most talking!

We’ll these are great rules to live by but they are easier said than done. As human beings we are subject to human frailties. So in most instances, it is only by God’s grace that many marriages last.

Because of its intimacy, sacredness and mutuality marriage has become the symbol of the mystical union between Christ and His Church. St. Paul said, “Husband love your wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” “Wife, see to it that you respect your husband.”

In the analogy of heavenly marriage, Christ is the Groom and the Church is the Bride. And the value that binds Christ and the Church is love.

You know, as human beings, we are all imperfect. Even how much we try to do our best, we still make mistakes. We are all sinners. Even those who are considered saints, they were also sinners. St. Paul said, “The good that I want to do, I do not do; the bad that I do not want to do, I do.”  

The Book of Hebrews tells us that God is a God of love and mercy, more than a God of  judgment. If God is all judgment, who can stand? All of us will fall down; our feet will turn to clay. 

That is why we should not judge people lest we be judged. Instead of judgment or criticism, we should be generous with praise and encouragement because we are all imperfect human beings.

I am now married for 37 years and been a priest for 38 years. I find that marriage and priesthood are similar. They are a calling, a vocation. And the relationships that exist in marriage and in church are similar. Where mutual love, respect, generosity, patience, forgiveness exist in marriage that marriage will last. But if love flies off the window, that relationship will end.

I have been to churches where members are so loving and so appreciative of their priests and of one another. Where there is love, the church grows spiritually and in numbers.  I have also seen some churches where members are so critical, so disrespectful and so unappreciative of their priests and of one another.  In a church where there is no love, relationships do not last and the church declines and dies. You may have a beautiful building but if there is no love in that church, that church will become empty.

So whether in marriage or in church, the cord that binds people together is love. Money has nothing to do with it. It does not matter if the couple are rich or poor. They are happy if they love each other. The same is true with church. It also does not matter if the church is rich or poor; if they have a good building or just rent a hall. Where there is love, that church is happy and it will grow. This is because God is love and when people love, God is there. And if God is there, the Church is alive!

There was a story of a little boy who wanted to see God. So he packed food and drinks in his back pack and went on a journey. At the park, he saw an old woman staring at some pigeons. She looked hungry so he decided to share his sandwich. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that he wanted to see it again so he decided to share his root beer as well. They ate together at the park, smiling at each other. As the day wears on the boy decided it was time to go home but before he left, he turned around and gave the old woman a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

At home, the boy’s mother was surprised to see the look of joy on his face. She asked, “Son, what did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “Mom, you won’t believe it but I had lunch with God! And you know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old woman also returned home, radiant with joy. Her son, stunned at the look of her face, asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?”  She replied, ”Son, you won’t believe it but I had lunch with God at the park. And you know what?  He’s so much younger than I expected.”

Is God in you? Yes, if love is in your heart. The Bible says, “God is love; and everyone who lives in love, lives in God and God is in him.”

A.    Let me pray first for all the married people who are here May I request all you who are married, to stand where you are. Even if your husband or wife is not with you, please stand. Everyone please close your eyes. Let us pray:
“Almighty God, who consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and His Church; bless these married couples that they may so love, honor and cherish each other in faithfulness  and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home maybe a haven of love and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 431)

B.     And now, everybody please stand. Close your eyes and I will pray for the church.
“Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed that his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one. Grant that your Church, being bound together in love, maybe united in One Body and One Spirit, that the world may believe in Him whom you have sent, your son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, one God now and forever. Amen.”(BCP 255)

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