John 2: 1-5, 9, 11 Two days later there was a wedding at Cana-in-Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples were among the guests. The wine gave out, so Jesus’s mother said to him, “They have no wine left.” He answered, “That is no concern of mine. My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The master tasted the water now turned into wine.
So Jesus performed at Cana-in-Galilee the first of the signs which revealed his glory.
August 15, yesterday, is the Saint’s Day for The Virgin Mother. I was planning for a Who’s Who of the Bible reflection for today on Mary. I had much of it planned out and while listening to NPR last night I was reminded that Catholics still don’t allow women to become priests. Women are not allowed to read the Gospel during mass. Women can’t vote in the higher ups of Catholic church, excluding them from decision making processes. Decisions that impact women, children, the environment, societal issues,…everything. Catholic priests still can’t get married, so there isn’t even that background influence of a woman in the house.
We could get into some big conversations about how much harm this might be doing…or not, depending on your viewpoint.
I’m not here to judge. We’re here, together, to learn. That is, in fact, what discipleship is. To study. To question. To learn. I wanted to point out those above facts before I continue because I think they’re important.
Remember, we aren’t here to judge, we are here to study and learn.
For protestants, Mary plays a comparatively limited role. The scriptures don’t say a lot about Mary and much of her history comes from stories that have been passed down, as well as a blend from different sacred texts and sources. You might not know that Mary doesn’t only have a written role in the Bible, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Don’t mentally wander off, I’ll tell you in a moment.
Mary is there with Jesus at his birth and his death, with a few notable times in between that make the Bible. We can assume she was with him quite a bit throughout his life. There is a deep connection between mother and son, in fact while Jewish women light candles for their children, Mary lights the Light in the Son.
She moves through much of his journey, watching and suffering as well. She is fully human and that is very clear in all traditions. She shows us how to suffer the hardships of life and have faith in God.
The Christian traditions celebrate four aspects of Mary.
1. The Assumption. She gains direct entry into heaven at her death (we only know that she died sometime after Christ).
2. She is the Mother of God, but she is not divine.
3. The Immaculate Conception. Her birth is pure; free of “sin”.
4. She is the Virgin Mother. Whether that means she is the Perpetual Virgin or only at the birth is up for debate. There are some arguments that Jesus has brothers and unnamed sisters. Certain truth of this has been lost in translation.
A little history and then some thoughts for you to sort through, question, and explore.
The Virgin Mary is called the “most meritorious Saint of Christianity.” She is not divine and this is a really important point. No where is she divine. But she is considered “superior to all created beings.” All created beings.
It is said that she was sent to the temple from the age of three to twelve and there was fed by angels. It’s not said whether this was physical food or whether she lived on spiritual food alone. Her parents might have been childless until Mary, but gave up Mary to the temple and God. They died before she left the temple under the guardianship of Joseph.
Joseph considered quietly divorcing from Mary, until he was told by an angel that she was blessed and in truth carrying the son of God.
Sometimes, it seems like it is mothers, and women, who have the power to bring us together. They are the ones who set the table and create a space for communion, where there is room for all to gather together despite difference.
It seems fitting that Mary is a bridge between two seemingly at odds religions. Mary holds, in the Quran. the highest position of all women. She is the only woman to have her own chapter. She is mentioned seventy times in the Quran and only nineteen in the Bible. The Quran considers her one of the prophets and says that she was “chosen” as a young woman and the Quran upholds the virgin birth of Jesus who is “the spirit of God”.
Perhaps the communion table needs to grow? Some say that the Church as People of God includes “radical friendships”. Perhaps this is a place where we can find common ground to unite. In fact, many Muslims (women, especially) will come to Church to pray to Mary.
There is so much left to oral traditions and so little known about Mary that it is easy to find a place for this mother figure into one’s own life.
In the first few centuries, Mary is more royal and holds titles of empress and queen. She begins to be a beacon of hope for widowed women. She may be a transitional figure for those who worshipped goddesses to find their way to Christianity.
In the twelfth century, Mary evolves into a kinder, more gentle mother figure. Asking only to receive the same love that she offers. Love. Mary becomes more of a loving mother who becomes a mediator to Jesus and through Jesus, God.
She embodies the hardship of life and deep faith in God.
She becomes the intermediary for many, particularly women. A confident who holds a billion secrets. One might pray to God, but maybe consulting Mary first isn’t a bad idea?
Some argue that only Christ can intercede on our behalf. Some argue that Mary is only an ordinary woman. One might even argue that she is just a woman.
One of the most important things of note is that she prompts Jesus’s first miracle. The one we just read. This is Jesus’s first miracle and prompted by his mother noting: “They have no wine left.”
This small moment could mean everything.
Perhaps one could argue that, from this moment, she is an intermediary to Christ. Psst, “they have no wine.” Then Jesus gives the needed miracle, even though he says he is not ready to reveal his true nature. He does so, because she asks.
Perhaps, she is the one we are most comfortable speaking with. Perhaps because we are human and she is human. Perhaps because she is a mother and it seems a mother always has time for their children. Perhaps because some of us are women and it’s easier to talk to another woman.
One could argue that Mary is joined as fully in the sacrifice of Jesus. She witnesses the journey. She suffers the journey as only a mother can. She is a part of the sacrifice.
One could argue that to honor one’s parents is to worship God. To honor and ask for the support of the Mother of Jesus is to worship God.
One is assured that God has given us plentiful sources of comfort. Perhaps Mary is one of them.
What does Mary have to teach us?
That through the suffering and sacrifice of living, we can find faith in God.
That no matter our relationships here on earth, we have a mother to guide us. A mother who nourishes the spiritual life of Grace in each of us. A mother to nourish us and offer us hope. To emulate the qualities of kindness, faithfulness, and love. She teaches us that strength can be gentle.
She teaches us to be people of God. The Church. She teaches us radical hospitality. She teaches us to be pilgrims on the spiritual journey. She teaches us to be humble, vulnerable, disciples. She teaches us to practice radical friendship.
She teaches us how to experience loss with grace.
She teaches us how to nurture grace and hope in one another.
She teaches us to embody the grace of being fully human, deeply faithful, and perhaps to nurture the Graceful feminine side within every one of us.
Closing Blessing: Oh God, We praise you for calling us to faith and for gathering us into the church. We thank you for your people gathered in this local church and rejoice that you have blessed us as a community of faith.
Together may we live in the Spirit, building one another up in love, sharing in the life and worship of the church and serving the world as Jesus called us to do. Amen.