In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Epiphany 4A

A reflection on the readings for Epiphany 4A: Micah 6. 1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31, Matthew 5:1-12 by the Rev. Dr. Sarah Rogers

Not for the first time since I started writing for this blog I am completely confused about the readings…The Church in Wales is using 1 Kings 17. 8-16, 1 Corinthians 1. 18-31, John 2. 1-11. So, the only reading we have in common is 1 Corinthians. I can quite understand why the Church in Wales (as well as the Church of England) have opted for Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, it has been sadly neglected during this season of Epiphany, but the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount also have a lot to offer.

The Beatitudes give us a complete vision of how to live, the eight Beatitudes should be considered together, not simply as individual statements reflecting different categories of people. Rather, they reflect the broad spectrum of followers of Jesus.

The Beatitudes outline Jesus’ mission to Israel. He has come as a herald of good tidings to the poor and oppressed and they receive hope through God. Blessings will be heaped upon those who are poor in spirit, those who grieve, those who care about what is right, those who are meek, those who are compassionate, those who are pure in heart, those who spread peace and those who are persecuted in Jesus’ name. There is no room for those who have an over-inflated opinion of themselves..humility is the order of the day. I think that is reflected in Jesus’ example at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. After-all, it is Mary, his mother that pushes him forward. She expects that simply explaining the situation to her son will lead him to do something about it. When we come to the end of our human resources, and we simply have nothing left to say or do, or give in a situation, so too we can turn to God in prayer and tell him what has happened. On the one hand there is that vision of the doting mother, turning to her son..on the other a vision of us all turning to God in prayer. Jesus doesn’t rebuff his mother quite as forcefully as it seems, the term ‘woman’ in Aramaic (or even in Greek) is not as forceful as it appears in English. Jesus uses the same term when he is dying on the cross.

This is a family wedding, men and women would have been separated at the ceremony and the party afterwards. Mary surprises her son by venturing near him, on the wrong side of the divide, to suggest they need to find some more wine. It would not have necessarily been Jesus’ responsibility, he and Mary we probably not the closest relatives, but Mary probably wanted to save her nearest and dearest any embarrassment…and great embarrassment there would have been had the party run out of wine..!
Jesus isn’t quite ready to come forward yet…he responds in humility ‘my time has not yet come’. I’m not sure how ‘its okay, it is under control, I am the Son of God and can do anything’ would have gone down…Jesus would probably have been laughed out of the room.

Mary, however is determined, she is not put off by Jesus’ response, she reassures the officials that they should do whatever Jesus tells them, and so they follow his instructions and that first great miracle is performed.
The Beatitudes teach us that persistence in faith is absolutely necessary, without persistence we will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. There must be persistence despite persecution, we must persist and persevere for what is right.

Mary knows that pushing her son forward is right, she knows that sooner or later he must be revealed as the Son of God, the Messiah. He might not be quite ready, but sometimes, it is our mothers that know best – even the Son of God relies on his mother to set him on the right road.
I think Mary is the ultimate example of perseverance, what joy and pain she must have gone through throughout the life of her most beloved Son. She bore a tremendous burden and that gives us great hope.

There are many difficulties in this life, as outlined in the beatitudes. We must persevere in faith for our Saviour Jesus Christ’s sake. Perhaps women understand that most of all. Life is not always easy, and it seems that there are always battles to face. We must always remember that we are all one in Christ Jesus, we are all inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. As Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians ‘consider your own call, brothers and sisters.’ We are all called in equality to the kingdom of heaven and we all have our own role to play. God calls us all, no matter how small, weak or insignificant we may be. It may be that Mary stood up and fought for her Son who she believed in, and pushed him forward before his time at the Wedding feast at Cana, but that is our role too. No matter how small or insignificant we are, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount shows that we must stand up for what is right, no matter what we may face, and our reward will be in heaven.

Mary is such a perfect example of faith, let us emulate her as we work to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. We all have a role to play in building the Kingdom of God here on earth, and whatever we do, no matter how small or insignificant it may be if we do it in faith, in hope and in trust then our reward will be great in heaven.

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