By Rev. Peter Karanja
August 29, 2021
Video of entire service: https://www.facebook.com/hanscomparkchurch/videos/4336295126413473
Scripture: John 2:1-5, Philippians 4:4-7
My parents are some of the best business persons I know. My mum started selling homemade cakes while in school to pay her tuition and to support her siblings while my Dad would learn so many languages from the customers or clients who would come to buy his goods or items that were mostly shoes and clothes. My Dad and Mom made not only a good couple but also great business partners. Their success in retail business made me aspire to be like them.
They taught me how to be a good retailer, which entailed not only skill of counting and exchange of money but also to come to an agreement with a customer. They mentored me so well that by the time I was 13 years old, my parents were confident that I could be trusted to run their retail business.
On a few occasions they would leave me to run the business when they were not around. Of course as a teenager I wanted to spend the entire day hanging out with my friend and playing. So they would ask me to run the business, and I would say okay but not be happy. I would say to myself; “I don’t want this. I am not an adult, and I am not ready for this.”
Back in Kenya, folks bargaining for goods is the order of the day in the open air markets. However, not everything is for bargains. You only know something is for bargain if there is no price tag attached to it.
I noticed such a trade here in the US is known as haggling. It is interesting how I learnt this term from our staff parish relations committee (SPRC) chair Donna Bush. She was generous enough to give me a ride to pick up my car that had stopped working due to the broken starter so I explained to her that I had to bargain for the quoted price with the mechanic and she was like what? Then I started to explain to her the process…then she laughed and said we call that “haggling.”
Here is the picture of the haggling between me and the mechanic.
You would have expected me to have a face to face conversation with him to be a proper haggling; however, we both went digital. The Kenyan in me won’t just say go ahead given the quoted price, so I had to haggle. By the way, haggling is such a norm in Kenya’s open air markets that if someone doesn’t engage in haggling they are either: very rich, a visitor or a tourist.
We all at one point seek to be heard or wish the price of our choice for certain items. And haggling or bargaining business can make this possible. Haggling can be very interactive. No wonder one of the noisiest places you will find in Africa are open air-markets. It is one of the places where you are okay to make the loudest noise as you wish and no one will see you as a nuisance. Actually, the louder the haggler, the better strategy of attracting the customers.
One might say that those people who engage in the business of bargaining or haggling might not have a strong purchasing power. However, one thing is for sure when everyone is given the power to negotiate there is that sense of satisfaction, respect and trust that gets developed. Even if both parties won’t come to an agreement but because of the time spent by both parties negotiating they are never the same. Their conversation can lead to great connections, trust and even friendships.
Haggling as it might sound can be annoying at times because it requires lots of bargaining, negotiating, and of course it isn’t an easy business strategy because it can be time consuming. It requires patience and humility especially when the vendor is dealing with a persistence customers who are not willing to raise their bid to a higher price.
On the other hand, it might be a very humbling experience for the customer who becomes very vulnerable to the vendor without the assurance of being heard and granted the wishful price.
In today’s scripture the gospel according to John 2:1-5 we have an interesting scene that is being portrayed. Mary the mother of Jesus is calling him out in the public. I guess this is a great trait among mothers who usually call out on their kids to be at their best.
Well, we can see in this scripture that Jesus wanted to lay low due to his reactions but here was Mary. I would like to imagine their conversation.
Mary: Hey! Jesus do you have a second…?
Jesus: Yes, Mary. What is the matter?
Mary: Imagine we have no wine. (Mary shaking her head)
Jesus: What does that concern me?
Mary: (rolling her eyes, looking at the wedding aides) Look, whatever he tells you do it.
I am intrigued by Mary’s attitude of persistence and assurance.
Yes, Jesus had the right to complain; he felt it was not time yet or probably this is not the way he wanted to begin his ministry. Again he just wanted to be like any other invited guest free from stress. Far from disruption, enjoy good meals, music, and dance. He was there purposely to party.
And for goodness sake the organizer of the wedding should have known better…it was on the third day people partying they should at least have more wine reservoirs or if it was worse called it off the party. It is fascinating how they would hold parties for days.
However Mary couldn’t stand the shame of lacking knowing that Jesus was present. And being fully aware that Jesus’ was not just an ordinary guest. He had the power to do miracles and wonders. He is Emmanuel God with us. All she needed was to convince the aides or the helpers to heed to whatever Jesus was to tell them.
Mary knew better for the party to move on and save the face of the host, the family and the organizers of the wedding. They needed help from someone who was able to do the impossible.
Apostle Paul was also another good haggler. I guess this is a trait that he might have acquired while doing his tent-making business. Having experienced the power of prayer in troubles. He wrote his letter to the Philippians assuring them just like Mary when they felt stuck, afraid, helpless they were not to be anxious but in everything through prayer and supplication they were to make their request known to God. – Philippians 4:6.
Unlike the haggling we get involved amongst ourselves, when we pray to God, we complain or negotiate our supplication. God is all powerful and is always present to hear us and wants to hear us again and again.
Both Mary and the apostle Paul experience teaches us that God does care about our needs to be heard, and this is true because Christ says we should knock and ask and it shall be given to us.
We learned on Thursday during Worship in the garden that Jesus is ever present even in the midst of our entangled life disruptions. God is beyond our disruptions that we face.
So the word today is challenging us to rely upon God’s provision and just like the blessed Mary, we ought not to be ashamed to call out on Jesus who is our savior, friends and redeemer in time of joy and even sadness.
Thanks be to God.