17.1.16

Mary and Jesus and Good Disagreement

I preach this sermon today after hearing the scriptures afresh this morning and so beautifully read, caught up again by the imagery in Isaiah of the Bridegroom and his Bride. I can not help but explore John's Gospel and that Wedding at Cana, in the light of what God is saying to us after a week of conversation on such topics in the Anglican Communion.

If you were with us a few weeks ago, you'll remember Jesus in his childhood, as a twelve year old, staying behind in the temple and missing to his parents for three days. We heard of Mary's anxiety.

Here now, eighteen years later, and at a wedding with anxiety over missing wine, there is much to learn from conversation, where two people: Mary and Jesus seem again at odds with one another.

When Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, he had been unapologetic to his mother. Here, as a man, in response again to his mother's fears, he uses words we find quite puzzling.

If Jesus had been more the middle-class Anglican – in response to Mary's, “Son, why have you done this? Your father and I have sought you anxiously,” he might have responded: “Oh I do apologise, I became so distracted at the temple I lost all track of time. I'm so terribly sorry.”

And to the situation in Cana and his mother's whisper about the lack of wine, he might have responded, “Good grief, how appalling, thank you so much for bringing this to my attention, let me see what I can do.”

But Jesus doesn't respond like this on either occasion. When wine runs out, he responds with “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

In the temple, when 12, his response had been, 'Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house.' 

The truth can not be compromised by the desire for politeness. 

Mary would not have known what we know by the phrase 'My hour has not yet come.' We know it points to the hour of his glorification on the cross but she would have thought he was declining her invitation to immediately sort the wine.

What she does in response, though, is to trust that Jesus will act. She instructs the waiters at the wedding to do whatever Jesus tells them; made confident by her faith in him (though she knows not quite what he will do) she tells waiters to, “Do whatever he tells you.” These, her last recorded words in the gospel of John.

What are we to learn from these passages this weekend of all weekends, when the news has explored decisions made by the Anglican Communion in the recent meeting of the Primates of the Provinces? One decision reached was that the Episcopal church, who last year, without consultation, changed their doctrine of marriage, will become unable to take part in communion decision-making for three years, as a consequence.

The love between Mary and her Son was, of course, without question and yet in the two conversations we have explored briefly this morning, opinion was not harmonious. Jesus travelled back in silence from the temple but we're told lived in obedience to his parents.

Jesus told his mother his hour would come later and yet made the wine flow in response to the faith she placed in him.

There's lots of give and take when we're living in relationship.

Perhaps what Jesus and Mary model for us then is that as Mother of God and Son of God there can, for a while, be good disagreement and yet unimpaired love and certainly holy communion; that we trust that both Jesus and Mary acted for the good of God's people. 

After them, people everywhere are to seek together, as best they can, the will of the Father. 

Jesus chooses his Father's House over his mother's home as he stays in the temple; is obedient to the Father though it pains his mother; and in this points to the hour that will come when he does similar, and she stands at a cross to witness his surrender.

Mary asks waiters at a wedding and Christians today and everywhere: 'Do whatever he tells you.' The problem will be that this 'doing' is interpreted differently, that we can not, just like Mary, for-see, always, what Jesus will do. We must trust, though, that in his actions, he reveals the glory of the Father, not always in ways we'll understand or are necessarily easy, his greatest glory being revealed on a lonely hill and on a cross at Calvary.

On both occasions Jesus acts. 

In the first story, becoming lost to a Mother temporarily, but right at home in his heavenly Father, in asking questions at the temple, Jesus grows in wisdom and the Holy Spirit, surrenders other priorities to the authority of his Father.

And here at that wedding with wine fast becoming lost down the throats of gathered guests, Jesus will make more again and grow the faith of his disciples, who begin that day to know him better from this first demonstration of his authority.

Perhaps ultimately from this story, then, this morning, we are to be those who here ask questions of our faith together, so we might grow in wisdom and in the Holy Spirit and trust in God's authority.

Where we come to different conclusions, (and we're bound to do so temporarily) despite this we're to continue loving one another and learning from our diversity, as we travel in communion to catch glimpses of his glory. Amen.

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