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Speaking to the Soul: Upstairs-Downstairs

Speaking to the Soul: Upstairs-Downstairs

Week of Christmas 2, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 103 (morning) // 114, 115 (evening)

Isaiah 52:3-6

Revelation 2:1-7

John 2:1-11

Today’s gospel reading about the miracle at Cana has some features of upstairs-downstairs stories like “Downton Abbey.” These stories feature two distinct spheres: that of the land-owning class who prepare sumptuous feasts and nurture their foibles, and that of the servants who toil downstairs and behind the scenes to keep the other world running smoothly. Jesus may be spotted in the upstairs world as a guest, but only the downstairs world knows him for who he is.

In the gospel for this morning, the “upstairs” world is throwing a wedding feast, while the “downstairs” world tries to keep up with the upstairs appetites. Panic strikes when they run out of wine. Jesus’ mother informs her son about the situation, and she instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Jesus asks the servants to fill six stone jars with over twenty gallons of water each. Then, he tells them to draw out some of the liquid and serve it to the chief steward of the wedding feast.

Here we see the difference between what the “upstairs” world experiences and what the “downstairs” world knows. The gospel tells us that the when the steward tasted this water-turned-wine, he “did not know where it came from,” but “the servants who had drawn the water knew.” The steward must have been astonished by what he tasted. He calls the bridegroom and marvels to him that, instead of serving the good wine first and the inferior wine when the guests were drunk, he had served inferior wine first and saved the good stuff for later.

If the steward was astonished, then the bridegroom must have been baffled. He certainly hadn’t strategized to serve inferior wine and keep good wine in reserve. He hadn’t even planned properly to keep the wine from running out! Where had this good wine come from? What was the steward even talking about?

The people hosting the party “upstairs” might know that Jesus was on their guest list, but they don’t know the difference he made to the feast. They find themselves stunned and confused by this new wine. But the people serving “downstairs” know Jesus and his role in the universe, infusing it with massive quantities of generosity, mercy, and joy.

How often do we look behind the scenes or down the stairs to the places where Jesus is working the miracles of generosity, mercy, and joy that give our world its goodness? Those are spheres that only servants, or those with servant hearts, can enter. Only there can we discover the secret work of Jesus, letting the heart of God supply the world with all it needs.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal.  She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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Chaz Brooks

Upstairs, Downstairs was way better than Downton Abbey.

I’m not so sure the Wedding at Cana is the best scene to trot out the liberation agenda. The focus doesn’t seem to be on the servants or the master, but on the abundance of God that is available when Jesus comes into our world, which makes a wedding banquet an entirely appropriate setting.

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