Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Glory of Jesus, Adult Forum Class, 1/20/13

Adult Forum class is hosted by Terry and Danese Grandfield at 9:15am Sunday mornings in The Langor Lounge. All are welcome!

The Glory of Jesus

For this class Terry and I joined with the Men's group to do our study. We had an engaging and enjoyable conversation about our lesson. Thanks to Fred, Angelo, and Tim for joining us!

The reading from Isaiah 62:1-5 provides us with hope, even when it appears all around us we are losing ground or being defeated by life. For the people of Israel it was a difficult period after returning from many years of exile in Babylon. How they must have experienced joy when they were able to return to their homeland, only to realize upon returning how great the task would be to rebuild not just the physical buildings and structures of their society, but also their lives.

The prophet Isaiah sees their disillusionment and wants to encourage them to not give up.... on God, on themselves, on the process of rebuilding their lives, one small brick at a time. He believes God has brought the people back and he is willing to get in there with them, first by encouraging them, but also by not giving up on the promises of God he has in his own heart.

Today we often expect a quick answer, especially as Christians, thinking if God pronounces restoration it should translate immediately into all areas of our lives. When we feel discouraged because years later we still see rubble and destruction within us, or we think our cries for personal change have gone unanswered, we can choose to remember, based on portions like Isaiah 62, that God loves us. The way the prophet illustrates this through his choice of words is beautiful:

"You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."

Even fully embracing God's love for us and his covenant relationship towards us, it requires time to rebuild. In our world today physical buildings arise more quickly than ever before, but when we have experienced the effects of a hurricane it takes years to recover. As we witnessed in recent experiences with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the resulting landscape may forever be altered. 

Tragedy and exile may forever change the landscape of our hearts and souls, but God's love for us remains a constant source of hope. This knowledge encourages us, as it did the people hearing Isaiah's words thousands of years ago, to keep trying, to keep believing, to keep working for God's restoration in ourselves as well as in the lives of others, and in the physical world around us.

The picture of marriage in Isaiah leads us into a discussion of Jesus's first miraculous sign, which happened to take place at a wedding.

I love the first miracle of Jesus for many reasons! As a mother it makes me smile when I think about Jesus and his relationship to his Mom, and how we see in this passage the role Mary played in her Son's life, pushing him, just a bit, to reveal who he truly was. 

In John 2:1-11 we are given first the context of the story- there was a wedding; Mary was there, Jesus and his disciples were invited. Obviously we gather that Jesus had already left home and was hanging out with his disciples. He had already been baptized by John the Baptist, spent forty days in the wilderness.

Yet with all that serious stuff going on in his life he takes the time with his disciples to attend a wedding, showing He has not distanced himself from the day to day life of the community. And there he is, at that wedding, when his mother approaches to tell him there is a problem......."They have no wine."

I like the response.

"Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come."

We all laughed in class, imagining the look Mary may have given him in reply, considering our own experiences as children with mothers..... and for me also, my own response to my kids when their reply at my strong suggestion provokes a negative response. Not that Jesus is being negative or disrespectful to his mother- he isn't. But initially he is choosing to question what she is asking him to do. When he states "My hour has not yet come." he is reminding her of his mission and the specific timing he knows God has set for his revealing, his hour actually referring to his passion and crucifxion.

But sometimes, as I have told my own children, mother knows best!

Mary is not hindered by the response. She goes to the servants and tells them, "Do whatever he tells you." This relationship between mother and Son is real, and I believe indicates a mutual respect spiritually. Yes, Jesus is being lead by God as God's son; but Mary, mother of God, sees and knows parts of the divine plan also. This is a wonderful picture of the working together of male and female perspectives to provoke an event, one that will express the nature of God within the community.

It may not seem important to provide wine for a wedding, certainly not enough to warrant Jesus using this opportunity to produce his first miracle. Mary sees differently and Jesus listens, acts accordingly, and produces GOOD wine.

What can we take away from this first miracle for our own lives?

Mostly, we all agreed, it shows God cares about everything in our lives, even those we might perceive as unimportant or insignificant. Terry and I shared a personal story of a wedding- our daughter Amber and her husband John's, in which we first thought we wouldn't have fried chicken because the grocery store misplaced our order, and this was a couple hours before the reception. They agreed to get the chicken done in an hour, all 200 pieces, and because of that the chicken was very fresh..... everyone raved about it later! During the reception we grew concerned there might not be enough for everyone, as some of our young people were loading up as they went through the buffet line....I prayed and hoped there would be, and as it turned out, there were a few pieces left over. I like to believe God saw us through, cared that we wanted to offer the best food and hospitality to our guests we could.

In the same way Mary didn't want the people hosting the wedding in Cana to be embarrassed because they ran out of wine. Water was not drinkable or safe in most instances back in this biblical time period, so wine was the beverage of choice to serve at weddings, making it a very important component to care for the guests.

It is great to be reminded of the Lord's care for us in all areas of our lives.

In this week's Reflection from Living the Good News this story is translated into something larger to be applied to our view of society:

“They have no wine.” Mary’s statement encompasses more
than the immediate, physical need to keep the wedding
reception rolling. As Elizabeth Johnson points out in
Truly our Sister, it is a painful reminder of the scarcity in
which Galilean peasants lived under Roman occupation.
For once they wanted to escape their grinding poverty
and celebrate—until the wine ran out. Mary’s initiative
prompts a bountiful abundance—simple math suggests
120 gallons of the finest vintage!

Furthermore, Mary’s words describe the situation of
countless people around the world today. “They have
no wine,” nor health care, safety, food, jobs, freedom,
education, opportunity, political power.

She must have spoken with authority: the servants follow
Jesus’ directive on the strength of her words. If we have
ever stereotyped Mary as silent, passive, or resigned to
the status quo, the story of Cana corrects our image.
Just as she crosses the taboo line into the male section of
the party to address Jesus, so she names our needs and
encourages our bold initiatives to change injustice.

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