This summer at church we’ve been looking (a little) at the gospel of John. And for three of the weeks we hear about the wedding at Cana, or what some call the “Water into Wine” story. Yes, you heard right, three times. Three different couples spoke together, giving us three different insights into the First Miracle. Three perspectives on one event and they all did a rather bang up job. (In case you’re interested the talks can be found online here – Talk 1, Talk 2, Talk 3 )
3 talks on the wedding at Cana. 3 times we talked about a miracle, about a wedding, about a gift. 3 times from three different views and they were three talks which did help to build up the listeners, did encourage, did teach, did speak to our souls and make each one of us rise.
But not one mentioned Mothers.
Three (or more accurately six as each talk was given by 2 people) viewpoints but not one of them saw the significance of the mother in the story.
Not one spoke about how the miracle would never have happened without the intervention of maternal instinct. Not one thought that Mary might know Jesus better than he knew himself. Not one helped us understand that she saw a need before the Son of God did. None of them drew our attention to her authority over not just the servants, but potentially over Jesus himself. (Just think about that for a moment, for a large proportion of his life, Jesus was under the authority of this woman, this often misunderstood, rightly revered, too often overlooked woman.) None of them saw (or if they did, they certainly didn’t share it with us) that she, before anyone else had utter and complete Faith not just in who He was (John and the disciples had already seen a glimpse of that) but in what He could do. Or that her first request, the Mother’s first prayer to her boy, was on behalf of someone else, not herself. That in fact the story is as mush about the Mother as the Son.
All three talks were brilliant, don’t get me wrong, I loved each one and needed to hear them, but for all of them to ignore the Mother’s role…. I wondered whether there might be more to it.
I wondered whether the ultra-focus on the “Father-Heart of God” has pre-programmed us to miss the fact that “The Mother” is the most accurate picture of the nature of God that we have. I wondered whether the Godlike-ness of Mothers has been so suppressed over the centuries so we don’t have to feel so guilty when we treat them like garbage; when we take them for granted; when we ignore them; when we blame them for the action of others (this one is a biggy for lots of us – because our experience has been that our mother has been so competent, so influential, so powerful that how could she not stop that thing from happening – sound familiar? And it turns out that’s how a lot of us treat God too.) Wehn we use our mother’s love in our sibling wars, in the judgement of who might be the best, of who will eventually succeed – guys, she actually knows what you’re doing, and when she’s in the bathroom, she’s actually staying away so she doesn’t have to pick sides.
And we have focussed for so long on how t redeem our image of Fatherhood so as not to see Father God in the same negative way that we might see our earthly fathers, we’ve forgotten to remind ourselves that God is as much (or more?) mother than ever father. And for those who don’t have a negative image of father, all this work to help us get over it often leaves us disengaged and disconnected. “But wait,” I hear you say. “We’re only following the biblical messages about God as Father. There are far more pictures about God being father than about mother.” Indeed. Because the writers wrote pictures they were used to. Jesus himself drew word pictures from his own earthly experience – Shepherds, Fishermen, Farmers. But do you think in a million years that if he had come at another point in history that he wouldn’t have used other pictures. There would have been stories about Cotton Factory workers, Railway stations and Grocers. The ancient writers were from a predominantly patriarchal society – of course the Father was the number one symbol of strength. The fact that Jesus called God “daddy” was bad enough for the religious leaders of the day, imagine if he had called hims mum, they would have killed him on day one. What I’m not saying is that the picture of God as Father is not a legitimate Picture, of course it is. But If the bible were being written today, I’d hope we would recognise the sacrifice, service, competence, hard-work, faithfulness, forgiveness and utter knowledge of our inner selves that is summed up in Mothers. (oh and that’s not the half of it!)
And as for this mother? Yes, she saw the need before He did. Yes, she ignored what He had to say, because 1) she knew best (as all mum’s do) and 2) she knew he could and more importantly would do something. And yes, essentially tells him what to do – and he has no problem with that. Her concern is for the potential embarrassment of others, not her own. Her concern is also perhaps for Him – I can’t imagine Jesus torturing himself with thoughts of “Oh what should/could I have done?”, but his mother, knowing his heart better than anyone else, perhaps feared that he might have had those thoughts – and saved him from them. Her concern is practicalities, not fluffy knickers spirituality. Her concern is to ensure everyone is satisfied and happy – and not to create a fuss or fanfare. Oh yes, there’s a lot we can learn from this Mother. A lot we can learn from God as Mother. And the most important? To simply lie in her arms and be comforted, even after we have ignored, trampled and abandoned Her. For She will always offer that Comfort.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content. – Psalm 131