17 January 2016


On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."" And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."" His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."  ~John 2:1-5
Supposedly Jesus was around 30 years old when he mouthed off to his mother at the wedding in Cana. Reading the passage from John this week made me laugh out loud-- perhaps the first time I have ever laughed a a bible passage.

The reason for my laughter is Mary's response to Jesus when he basically tells her that he's not going to do anything about the wine situation. Instead of getting into a fight with him about his timing or his recalcitrance she just acts as if he graciously offered to help her by instructing the servants to do what he says.

This is such a universal 'mom' moment. I have a teenager of my own. He has many sterling qualities and is frequently both cheerful and helpful; however, like all parent-teen relationships, ours has had it's ups and downs. There have been times when I told him to do something and he refused. I learned a long time ago that he best thing to do in those situations was to acknowledge the resistance, but expect him to follow my request regardless. Much like Mary in the quote above, I make it clear that I expect him to act on my request.

My son was a December baby, so I have felt kinship with Mary in the past, but this is the first time I really connected to her as a mom who has expectations of her son that may not fit his idea of himself.

Much like the Canaanite Woman in John 15:21-28, Mary, in this moment, is pulling Jesus up short and encouraging him to really think about what he just said to his mother (possibly in front of all of her friends). She doesn't get into a fight with him, she doesn't call him on the carpet, she just pretends that he answered in the way she would expect a polite and dutiful son and guest to do.

In the chronology of John, Jesus already has some disciples and might be feeling much like a youngster out on his own for the first time-- unshakable in his certainty and disdainful of his elders' life experience. I still remember that feeling of 'knowingness' that carried me through my early twenties. Sometimes I even miss it. However, I also remember when my lack of life experience would prove that my parents still had a thing or two to teach me.

In this brief moment, we see Jesus choosing to respect his mother's request. We see him realize that, while he may be God-made-man he still has to answer to his mother for his behavior in certain circumstances. We also see the beginning of a pattern where, when he is called out on his grand proclamations, he is willing to stop, think, and even reconsider his words and deeds in the light of another person's experience.

This is a side of Jesus that I don't think can be stressed enough. Even though he is the Son of God incarnate he is not immune from the errors of mortals. He is sometimes arrogant, definitely a know-it-all, and prone to believing he is always correct. These two, very different, women both stand and remind him that just because he is the Son of God doesn't mean he has all the answers.

In these times of turmoil in both the world and the church, I don't think it is a bad thing to believe in a God-made-flesh who we can stand up to and argue with. In fact, even in the old testament God has been willing to be argued with and talked out of some of God's plans.

Going back to my own son, when he was little we would ask him if he would like to do "A" or "B" and most of the time he would say "C". His third option was frequently better than the ones his father and I had come up with, so we learned to listen for 'Option C' before making up our mind. Perhaps God is also listening for that third option and we just need to be willing to speak up and maybe even argue a bit.

We would be in good company if we did so.


 Bible quotes are from the NRSV on Bible Gateway

12 January 2016

Named and Claimed

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1
The wise men have been and gone; now the readings lead into the baptism of Jesus and the start of his time as an earthly teacher to those that follow him.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:21-22)
Jesus is named by the Holy Spirit in this moment. He is clearly called out as the Son in this moment and claimed as the beloved. My first experience with the idea that names have power was through Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Series. At the time it was a trilogy consisting of "The Wizard of Earthsea," The Tombs of Atuan," and "The Farthest Shore" (she has since expanded the series). In the novels, the fundamental way that magic works is through naming. It starts with the idea of a 'true name,' that is given to a person as they leave childhood behind:
On the day the boy was thirteen years old, a day in the early splendor of autumn while still the bright leaves are on the trees, Ogion returned to the village from his rovings over Gont Mountain, and the ceremony of Passage was held. The witch took from the boy his name Duny, the name his mother had given him as a baby. Nameless and naked he walked into the cold springs of the Ar where it rises among rocks under the high cliffs. As he entered the water clouds crossed the sun’s face and great shadows slid and mingled over the water of the pool about him. He crossed to the far bank, shuddering with cold but walking slow and erect as he should through that icy, living water. As he came to the bank Ogion, waiting, reached out his hand and clasping the boy’s arm whispered to him his true name: Ged. Thus was he given his name by one very wise in the uses of power.
Throughout the series, Ms. LeGuin builds on the idea that the basis of all magic is the knowledge of the true names; and that: "A mage can control only what is near him, what he can name exactly and wholly."

As a youngster, this idea impressed me and encouraged me to see all things as worthy of their own names with secret power that was beyond my understanding. It also dovetailed with my emerging faith. Even then I could see parallels between Ged's naming ceremony and the baptismal rite. The idea that names hold power reaches back at least as far as Genesis, where nearly the first thing we see is God using the power of naming to call the world into being: "God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day." (Genesis 1:5) In the readings coming up for the Feast of St Peter we see Jesus not only name Simon 'Peter' but claims him as the rock and foundation of the church.
And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Matthew 16:17-19
In both the New Testament and in Ms LeGuin's work the new name is not given by the family. Instead it is given by God or by a person of power. In order to enter into his ministry, Jesus was named as both Son and Beloved by the voice from above. In order to enter into an apprenticeship with a mage, Ged is first named. Ged sheds his childhood name and adopts two new ones-- a 'use name' that is his everyday name and his 'true name' which he is told never to share.

This where the two texts diverge. Ged is reminded that his 'true name' is private and that sharing it will give other mages power over him. Jesus is named as the 'Son' in full view of witnesses and that naming marks the beginning of his ministry. It is only after he is baptized and named that he goes out among the people to preach, draw followers to him, and do miracles.

It is not until he is named that he can claim his place in the world. It is not until he his named that he can claim others as his followers and name them. They in turn, take their new names out into the world to share his word.



 Le Guin, Ursula K. (2012-09-11). A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle Series Book 1) (pp. 16-17, 56). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

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