Tuesday, January 18, 2022



Today’s Gospel lesson is puzzling. 

John tells 7 miracle stories

        -- 3 taken directly from the earlier Gospels

       -- 3 roughly similar to the earlier Gospels.

Then there’s this one – water into wine. 

It’s entirely different.

Most miracles are healings. 

Others display Jesus’ power to the multitudes.

But he did this one privately in the kitchen


        – not publicly in the banquet hall.

The sommeliers at the party gave credit 

        to the bridegroom -- not Jesus.


So is this just a parlor trick?  

It must be important.  

It was Jesus’ first miracle in John.

In case we’ve lost count, the last verse says, 

This was Jesus’ first miracle

Miracle doesn’t mean magic. 

It means sign. But what’s it a sign of?


There’s much here I still don’t understand,

             but the main point is clear.

The first miracle keeps the party rolling. 

It enables the host to provide for his guests. 

But instead of just making a run to Argonaut,[1]


    Jesus used this miracle as a sign 

        of deep spiritual hospitality.

It’s the first miracle because everything 

    Jesus will do flows from that spirit 

    of profound welcome.

I used to associate hospitality

     with superficial niceties 

    in Southern Living Magazine.

But John Koenig’s book, 

New Testament Hospitality, says hospitality 

    was the heart of Jesus’ message 

            -- feeding the multitude; 

        the homecoming party for the prodigal son;

       sharing meals with tax collectors, 

           sinners, and pharisees;

            inviting: All who are weary 

           and heavy laden, come to me.

            Let the children come to me.


Christian worship still expresses 

           Jesus’ welcome.


T. S. Eliot called our sacraments commodious,


            the medieval word for welcoming.

In the Eucharist, 

    we receive Christ into our hearts

      as he receives us into his Body. 


In the Ancient Middle East, 

    hospitality was the foundation of morality.

Then the Bible elevated it 

    to a spiritual discipline. 

To see how this spirituality works, 

    we need to recognize the two sides 

        of hospitality – inner and outer. 

Outer hospitality welcomes 

    and cares for other people. 

Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas called it 

    the primordial act of gentleness.

He said we become our true selves 

    through greeting strangers 

            – people who are not like us.[2]

The Bible says our humanity blossoms 

    when we discover God in each other.

Centuries before Jesus supplied wine 

    for a party,

  Abraham invited three strangers into his tent,

          gave them food to eat and water to drink.

The strangers turned out to be God.


Just so, Jesus said, 

    I was hungry, and you gave me food

    I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; 

    I was a stranger, and you invited me in . . . 


    (For when) you did it to even the least 

           of my brothers, you did it to me.

The first Rule of Life for Christian monks says,

        Let all guests . . . be received like Christ,

          for he is going to say, 

“I came as a guest, and you received me”.

That’s outer hospitality.

The other side of the coin is inner hospitality,

    and outer hospitality is impossible  without it. 

All depth psychologists agree 

            that we have different parts inside.

They can be called subpersonalities.


Some are easy to get along with.

Other parts of ourselves we don’t like so much.

We try to banish them, but they won’t leave.[3]


Depth psychologist, Roberto Assagioli, 

    says we also have a Core Self, a Soul.

Our Soul respects all our subpersonalities, 

     is interested in them,

     and welcomes them as friends.

When our Souls befriend the disagreeable 

    parts of ourselves, we’re healed inside. 

We become whole. That’s inner hospitality.


Now here’s the connection 

         between inner and outer hospitality.

Recently I had a meeting with some people 

          who were angry with me.

As the meeting date approached, 

         I felt threatened and defensive. 

My Defender subpersonality, 

        which resembles an abused pit bull,

             was devising arguments to prove 

           I was right and they were wrong.


I was right, by the way, but that isn’t the point.

Usually, I do such meetings in pit bull mode.

But this time, for the first time, 

       my Defender and my Soul had a talk.

My Soul understood, cared for, 

     and appreciated my anxious angry Defender.

The Defender asked, 

    How should we handle this meeting?

My Soul said, 

        Suppose I take the meeting for you? 

The Defender said, ok. 

At that meeting, I listened to my attackers, 

    cared for them, understood their concerns, 

     and shared their hopes.

The meeting ended well, 

         and my enemies became friends.


Inner hospitality produced hospitality 

       toward others.


The wine for the party miracle comes first

            because all of Jesus’ teaching 

           and healing flow 

            from a deep spiritual hospitality.


But what’s that got to do with us? Just this:

Jesus empowers us to welcome 

        as he welcomes.

 At the wedding banquet, 

   he equipped the bridegroom to be hospitable.

He does the same for us.

Jesus empowers us to welcome 

           and care for our whole selves,

     then to welcome and care for other people.



So today, I invite you to be kind 

            to a part of yourself 

            that you don’t particularly like.

Then look for an opportunity to be gracious

            to someone you might ordinarily ignore.

It may not come easy; 

        but, by the grace of God, you can do it 

            -- and it’s the most important practice 

           of your spiritual life,

            the primordial act of gentleness.[4]

[1] Liquor store with which St. John’s Cathedral shares a parking 


[2] Levinas says we truly discover our existence and our nature

 when we encounter someone who is not us. Themore unlike us

the better. In object relations psychoanalysis we see ourselves 

reflected in the eyes of others. Like it or not, “no man is an 

island.” We need each other in order to be ourselves.

[3] This is why outer hospitality is impossible without inner 

hospitality. As long as we try to banish the disowned parts of 

ourselves, we project them onto other people. We see in others

 our own exiled subpersonalities. Even if we could befriend the 

other person as they are in themselves, we reject them because

 they carry the image of our despised parts.


[4] When a friend calls to me from the road 
And slows his horse to a meaning walk, 
I don't stand still and look around 
On all the hills I haven't hoed, 
And shout from where I am, What is it? 
No, not as there is a time to talk. 
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground, 
Blade-end up and five feet tall, 
And plod: I go up to the stone wall 
For a friendly visit.

                             -- Robert Frost