I SO appreciate your prayers and your carrying on without me. I was NOT happy about being away from you for so long, especially after our bonding experience during the Mentored By Mary series. But as usual, you were amazing in hanging together. I'm thnking that's the Body of Christ doing what it was meant to do. Agreed?
I'm off to Maryland tomorrow to mentor a group of writers I've been with for over ten years. Actually, we're more of a spiritual group now, and I think they teach me every bit as much as I teach them. Sort of like you, actually. Anyway, because I'll be out of town until Sunday, I'll just get you thinking about our new series and we'll begin for real a week from today.
I thought it would be hard to find something as deep and relevant as our time with young Mary -- until I read the Gospel assigned for yesterday in the lectionary I follow, and -- yikes! -- there she was again -- thirty years later in John 2:1-11, at the wedding in Cana. You know the story:
*Jesus and his mom are at the wedding, along with the disciples (we're talking quite the entourage) and the wine runs out. Very embarrassing for the host. Either he didn't plan well or there were a lot of heavy drinkers there.
* Mary apprises Jesus of the situaton and he says, "Not my problem. It's not my time."
* Then Mary does something mysterious. She turns to the stewards and says, "Do whatever he tells you." (My daughter has always chalked that up to Mary being a Jewish mother and laying a guilt trip on her son -- "I didn't go through what I went through to bring you into this world for you to be a couch potato.")
* Whatever her reason, Jesus sees that perhaps it IS his time after all, has the stewards fill six big old honkin' stone water jars with water, and turns the whole thing into the best wine served at this wedding yet.
Biblical scholars have spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out why Jesus dragged his feet, then went ahead with it, et cetera, et cetera. I think for US, the most important part of that story is Mary saying:
"Do whatever he tells you."
It must have seemed ridiculous to the stewards. "It's wine we're out of, dude, not water." I like to think that Mary still had that pondering thing going on. She hadn't been treasuring all that she'd seen in her son for lo these thirty years without having some pretty powerful influence herself. We all need somebody like that in our lives to tell us to:
"Pay attention to Jesus and do whatever he tells you."
Do I dare say that what we're talking about here is a word probably NONE of you wants to hear right now? And that word is:
Of COURSE you don't want to look at that word. You're at a point in your life where you're probably resisting obedience to anyone -- at least the blind, unquestioning kind that was expected of you when you were a kid. YOu SHOULD be resisting obedience to most PEOPLE, except your parents and others in authority (like teachers), and even then resentment can arise as you begin to question the reasoning behind many parental decisions. I know most of you are working through some stuff there and that is so totally normal for your age.
But obedience to GOD is a whole other thing. It has to go on your whole life, and no where in your life is it more difficult to reconcile that than right now, when you're a teenager. So these are the questions I'd be honored to take you through during the next month, during this season of Epiphany.
* How can you know what it is God wants you to obey in the first place?
* How can you be obedient to God without feeling resentment at times?
* How can you express the inevitable doubts and questions and still remain in awe and reverence before God?
* And how can you get to the place where you realize God loves you and is going to work with you through the whole messy process? How can you reconcile "ultimate authority" with "unconditional love?"
We'll approach this much as we did during Advent.
* I'll give you a portion of Scripture to read, each passage from the Gospel of John and having to do with, of course, obedience to God.
* I'll ask you to imagine and ponder in a way that brings the Scripture right on home to you
* I'll suggest a way to pray that will go beyond "thought prayer" and into some other more expressive possibilities.
* I'll Nudge you toward some obedient action.
* And of course I'll ask you to share.
Now, what about that Treasure Chest you started as a result of my post before last?
In our next post we're going to look at a passage where Jesus says, basically, "You people are always looking for signs and wonders, so I'm going to give you some." God doesn't expect us to go on obeying without some reassurance that he's there, that we're doing okay, that this is, well, worth it! That Treasure Chest -- whatever that is for you -- is going to be a place for you to physically store up symbols of those God-moments, when it's clear to you who you're obeying.
I'm pretty jazzed about this, but I want to know if you are too. During this next week, will you comment with your thoughts, your questions, your concerns? More specifically, tell us where you have the most trouble obeying God, doing what Jesus says. That will help me help you with this whole obedience thing in ways that are really relevant for you. And by the way, I have my struggles with obedience too, so we'll be in this together.
I'll be watching the comments, Ladies, and I'll be back with you next Tuesday, January 15.