Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sermon in Progress - Why Mary?

I just finished a first draft of Sunday's sermon on John 2:1-11. That's a good thing. But I can tell that it's the kind of sermon that I'm going to read tomorrow and not like at all. At least I have a few days to think about it.

Here's what I'm still pondering: why does John include the back-and-forth between Jesus and his mother?

In some ways, it's distracting. This is the 21st century. Few of us speak to our mothers the way Jesus did. But that doesn't mean that Jesus is being rude or insensitive. That's just the way men spoke to women back then. It would be a mistake to make too much of it. But it's hard for a 21st century reader (especially a southerner) to read him saying, "Woman!" without dwelling on it.

Which has me wondering--why does John tell the story this way? How is the story enhanced by Jesus' sharp rebuke of Mary or Mary's refusal to give in to Jesus' dismissal? Why not leave it out? Why not just tell a story of Jesus turning water into wine? What does the vehicle of Mary and Jesus' exchange accomplish that the story otherwise can't get across?

I think Mary sees kingdom possibilities in the moment. I think she sees the wine running out and forces Jesus to do something because she wants this wedding feast to become a stage on which Jesus' kingdom-prefiguring glory can shine through. I think John gives us Mary and Jesus going at it with each other because he wants us to see this story as more than just a miracle of water into wine. He wants us to see that there's something bigger at work here. This is about transformation of lives and not just liquids.

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