Skip to main content

one down

Today, during the first snowstorm of the season, I handed in one of my two term papers. For those of you interested in a glimpse into the subject, read on. For the rest of you...go ahead and grab a snack during the next few paragraphs.

My topic was the significance of Jesus' first miracle as recorded in the gospel of John: the infamous turning of water into wine, notably one of the most practical, compassionate, and life-changing miraculous works Jesus did. Okay, I am being facetious, but let me tell you what I read about how people interpret this story. Mostly, theologians hold one of two positions: 1) they decide that it is an unfortunate story, not really a fitting start for the saviour of the world and either dismiss it as relatively unimportant or try to explain how it really wasn't about people getting drunk at a wedding party, or 2) they symbolise and allegorise and analogise the heck out of it, saying the whole thing is all about the Eucharist (communion for you reformers) or Jesus' superiority to the old Jewish law. This lets them neglect the awkward details of the account like the manner in which he speaks to his mother, the incredulous amounts of wine made, and the lack of any real pressing need. In short, it is a bit of a tricky miracle to get your head around.

And that was the point of my paper exactly. As the first sign - Jesus' coming out as Messiah, so to speak - it was appropriate precisely because it was so troublesome, don't you think? You either loved his quirky and challenging remarks or you were irritated by them. You either enjoyed the party he was celebrating or you were scandalised by his extravagance. You were either intrigued by his lack of explanation or you were annoyed by his evasiveness.

Jesus reveals God and his greatness in whatever way he decides, whenever his timing is right, and to whomever he chooses. This can appear to be scandalous (what's up with having to hang out with the dregs of society on a regular basis? and why couldn't he cooperate with the ranking religious guys instead of insulting them? that certainly didn't earn him any brownie points) or it can be alluring (mmmm...free fish and bread, and woohoo, crippled people walking!). He follows no rules but his own, and that can be pretty irritating, especially when we have rules that we think are working pretty well for us. He throws a party when we would rather he withhold his generosity, and his benevolence seems sadly lacking just when we think a good dose would be the appropriate gesture.

Yep, Jesus' first miracle is in the book for a reason. It forces us to decide what we really think about him. Here are the last three sentences of my paper:

Some people were scandalised by Jesus because they found it difficult to picture a divine Saviour in such an unflattering and insignificant role. Others were attracted to him because he sought out the needy and promised them more than they could ever gain on their own merit. The question remains: which side do we find ourselves on?

If I know I am needy, I am more likely to be attracted to Jesus. If I think things are pretty good the way they are, or I have a certain standard that God needs to measure up to in order to impress me, I am probably a bit disappointed and offended by Jesus. My decision.

This is the scene outside my window tonight.

Comments

Shelley said…
good point!

Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

lessons from a theological memoir and a television series about lawyers

It's a hot Wednesday afternoon, so let's talk about false binaries. Basically, a false binary or false dichotomy happens when a person's options are artificially limited to two choices, thereby excluding all other possibilities. Insisting on the limited choice of either A or B leaves no room for middle ground or another, more creative solution. In other words, a false binary assumes the rest of the alphabet (after A and B) does not exist.

Binary thinking is quite prevalent in our society. Either you are for me or against me. Either you are guilty or innocent. Either you are a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal. Either you are a Christian or a pagan. Either you are all in or all out. Admittedly, it is convenient to see things as either black or white, but we live in a multi-coloured world and not everything fits neatly into two categories. This is why insisting there are only two choices when, in fact, other options exist, is labeled as a fallacy in logic an…