Friday, May 06, 2011

A Mother's Word of Advice

Wedding at Cana of Galilee - Coptic icon
Here in the U.S., Sunday is Mother’s Day. Happy day, mothers and the sons and daughters of mothers! Don't we have a lot to be grateful for?

One of the best words of advice ever offered, says my old friend Paula, came from a mother. You may know her. Her name was Mary. The words she spoke to the servants at that wedding in Cana ring out loud and clear:

“Whatever he (Jesus) says, do it.” (John 2:5 - context here.)

There's a lot more going on in this story but this advice alone can be broadly applied to good effect. What does Jesus say to do? What has he said? What does he tell us is right, is important? That’s what you should do. This requires cultivating the arts of listening, asking, praying, seeking – and yeah, responding and obeying.

As I’ve been working my way through the Old Testament this semester I’ve been impressed by how much Judeo-Christian spirituality is and always has been about responding to God and following him, not approaching faith and practice as a creative consumer. Human nature – aided in our time by postmodern culture but for time immemorial by our bent toward self-determination – likes to approach religion as something we build for ourselves. We decide how (and what or whom) to worship, when, and with what level of commitment or intensity. It’s all personalized to meet our needs. We write our own job description. God’s, too. And then we're indignant when things don't work out as well as anticipated.

I don’t know about you, but the God I worship is the same one who laid out detailed plans for the tabernacle and temple (not apparently consulting with local architects or artists) as well as the priesthood, the purity laws and the feasts and the sacrificial system. These weren't man-made; they came from God. When God's people get off course he raises up a prophet, and sometimes a conqueror, to keep them from getting further and further from him. He knows what is best, what we need, and what obstacles and temptations will take us down. In his mercy and compassion he guides and seeks after us to bring us back, when necessary (and it was) by making the supreme sacrifice.

Come back soon for a post about wine and weddings. I don’t drink and I’m not married but I had some questions about this Cana story and decided to dig a little deeper.

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