Monday, March 14, 2011

Timing

Literally, Jesus says, “Woman, what is that to you and to me?” His question to his mother in today’s gospel lesson (John 2:1-12) isn’t as harsh as it sounds. It was an honest question: “What does the wine running out have to do with us? We’re just wedding guests.” Mary doesn’t even hesitate. She says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Implicitly, she is saying to her son, “You aren’t just a wedding guest. You are the host of God’s great banquet.”

Timing is everything. Last night, I watched an on-demand episode of Top Chef, and, although she hadn’t seen it either, Elizabeth knew the outcome. I asked her not to tell me and instead guessed which competitor might be eliminated. Throughout the show, my guess kept evolving, switching from one chef to another and to another and back again with each little plot twist. How differently the episode would have seemed to me if I knew from the beginning how it would end! I’m told that Alfred Hitchcock filmed many different takes of the famous shower scene from Psycho because he didn’t want the audience to guess from the shadow of the killer who the murderer was. The truth being revealed in its due time makes for good drama and for good gospel.

Whether he was toying with his mother or genuinely unsure, Jesus appears hesitant about letting his identity out of the bag before the timing is right: “My hour has not yet come.” But that didn’t stop his mother from forcing his hand: “Do whatever he tells you.” Sometimes a mother knows best. She had seen him grow up. She had known since before he was born what he had come to accomplish. And she knew that this was the moment for her son to take center stage.

Yet Jesus still resists. As John tells this story, he writes, “When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew)…” By this miracle’s conclusion, only Jesus, his mother and disciples, and some anonymous servants knew what had really happened. Perhaps the time had come for him to perform his first public sign, but Jesus kept the miracle mostly under wraps. The truth to which this first sign pointed—Jesus’ identity as the Son of God—could only be disclosed in degrees.

Sometimes we’re not ready for the whole story even though it’s time for us to know it. It’s never right to hold back the kingdom of God…except when we’re not ready to receive it. This story from John reminds me that God’s timing is synchronized with human timing. We might want the answers sooner, but God holds them back until we’re ready. We might wish to delay a reality as long as possible, but God springs it on us when the timing is right. Perhaps a different way to say that is that God’s timing simply is and that our job is to figure out “why now” or “why not now.” Either way, our call to faith is a call to recognize that God’s truths are given to us at just the right time—sometimes we’re ready and other times we’re supposed to get ready.

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