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John’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, he “revealed his glory”.
Does that mean a “blaze of glory” – a spectacular show which would wow the crowds? Apparently not. John suggests that not everybody present knew what had happened: the servants who poured the newly-created wine knew, and the disciples knew, and presumably Mary the mother of Jesus knew, but the steward in charge of the feast didn’t know.
Jesus often wanted to avoid publicity. He was happy to work quietly. The point about the glory of God is that it transforms, not that it necessarily draws attention to itself. Some of the best work done by Jesus’ followers today is done quietly, away from the crowds and the cameras.
One of the biggest issues of our time is debt. The situation is likely to be made much worse by the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic, which will probably leave even more people burdened with frightening levels of debt, leading all too often to a downward spiral into hopelessness and sometimes even suicide. One of the agencies working to help people out of debt is Christians Against Poverty (CAP). CAP has been endorsed by, among others, Martin Lewis and Prince Charles.
Less well known but at least as significant is a recent report on CAP by LSE Housing and Communities. This is how they describe what they do:
LSE Housing and Communities first came across the work of CAP in Newham, East London, in 2014 when they were interviewing people struggling with debt. This is what they found:
Three years later they were asked to carry out a review of CAP’s work in over three hundred church-based debt centres around the country. They interviewed a substantial number of CAP’s Centre Managers, clients and volunteers. And they examined the records of over twelve thousand people helped by CAP over a three-year period. As part of the review they calculated the social benefit (or SROI: Social Return On Investment) which has accrued from CAP’s work. Their overall conclusion was this:
CAP delivers around £31.6m gross social benefits, and a net benefit of £22.9m for an expenditure of £8.7m. This is a ratio of 1:3.6.
In simple terms, for every pound invested in CAP the nation benefits to the tune of three pounds sixty pence. In particular, the average social benefit for every household which sticks with CAP beyond the first exploratory visit is four thousand six hundred and twenty-one pounds.
LSE Housing and Communities conclude that the work of CAP is:
… a deeply impressive, even invaluable, contribution to society.
The London School of Economics is a strictly secular body and does not lightly hand out accolades like that to any organization. They do so in this case because they have experienced something of the joyful surprise expressed by the steward of the feast at Cana as he commends the bridegroom for keeping the best wine till last. Like the steward, the LSE researchers tasted and tested the work of CAP and saw that it was indeed very good.