Well, we’ve recently introduced Ellie to the Lion King. Such a great Disney movie that I remember seeing with my Grandmother and my sister when we went to visit her one summer in California. I remember how good it felt to sit in a freezing cold theater at midday in the desert where she lives only to leave and be warmed by both the hot air and the lingering images of Simba winning back his seat as King of the animal kingdom. Its a warm memory as I prepare to go see them both again next weekend! I have really missed them both.
Andy and I have found ourselves quoting lines from the Lion King here and there. Lets be honest…I don’t think there was a child of the 80s who didn’t have that movie memorized. We both love the moment when Rafiki, the monkey priest, realizes that Simba is alive and he heads off to find him. In a thick Afrikaner accent he yells: “It is time!”
This line came to mind this weekend when reading about Jesus first miracle, turning water into wine. It struck me how Mary might have been more pivotal in this moment than I’ve ever given her credit for. I wonder if she was encouraging Jesus, telling him before he’d possibly grasped it himself, that he was ready to embody the kingdom.
“Embodiment” is my new favorite word these days. I think because I’ve spent far too much time in my own head. I’ve finally entered a season where my head and heart feel at least loosely connected…and let me tell you, its lovely! I feel more like a whole person, and in that way its making me feel like a more fruitful person too.
Several years ago I found myself over-taxed with evening commitments. I had two church activities each week outside of Sunday services and was about to take on a third and realized I’d have to neglect some aspects of rest and/or physical fitness if I was going to hold all these balls in the air. It took about one week for me to realize I’d have to give up an evening bible study in order to stay connected to the other activities I felt committed to. The choice was logical if not a bit of a bummer. I really enjoyed our time with friends at the Duke house. But Andy agreed that he would continue going to those studies on his own while I took that evening to go to the university gym with a friend who I’d not spent much time with over the last couple of years (due to a literal lack of available time!).
Folks, those evenings were so much FUN! We would hit the elliptical and talk about any number of things. I’d been so steeped in a search for God’s presence through a really difficult season that I was literally oozing Jesus out of every pore of me. I couldn’t get enough of the fact that He not only promised to meet me but was also actually meeting me in the details of my life and helping me get through them in one way or another. I couldn’t help but share that with my friend who has a similar temperament as I do. Tiffany is as lacking in tolerance for frustration as I am and so she and I would talk throughout about how we were approaching different snags in life. Sometimes after our workouts we’d crack open a bible and see what there was to be said in there. I don’t think it was anything earth shattering. Mostly we just laughed and yelled “Bullsh**!” to the air as we considered what Jesus would say today about the viruses in her petri dishes at her lab and the poverty in the neighborhoods I was trying to work in. It was all just a lot of fun. (Tiff, if you’re reading…I really miss you!)
Looking back on that time is so funny to me. I had to quit a bible study to work out with my friend and I think I got more spirituality out of the workout than I would have at the study. To be fair, I needed a history of bible studies to talk intelligently about how God works. I don’t want to throw the Bible study baby out with the bath water. I do think we can become spiritually or intellectually bloated if we are not careful. There comes a time when we have to integrate what we’ve learned with our lives or we’ll get too fat to move. Which would be sad, as we were created to move…and move freely.
Which brings me back to Mary and Jesus at the wedding. I wonder if Jesus took a minute to get oriented to his ministry. He’d just been baptized and he clearly knew his mission to reconcile people to God (see verse 4 in John 2.) But maybe he needed a little help with his next step in the process. Maybe he needed Mary to say: “You’re ready. Show them what the kingdom of God is like. Give them some wine.”
I love that Mary didn’t have to say anything back to Jesus when he responded to her. He’d realize in due time what he needed to do and she knew that he’d make the next right step. By my reading, she appears to shrug off his response and instead tells the caterers: “Do whatever he tells you.”
Which could be the greatest line to a follower of God I’ve ever heard. “Do whatever He tells you.”
God is not silent. He’s patient, and he’ll wait for us to decide if we want to partner with him, but he is not silent. Better still, he is not unaware of the fact that between this moment and our final breaths we might just run out of wine and find ourselves in a bit of a pickle, wondering what to do next.
So we do whatever he tells us. We read the scriptures if we can’t sense his voice. We remember anew that we’re witnesses to a paradoxical kingdom where the good wine is saved for last. And we realize like Jesus that there’s no time and place like our present situation to reflect what he, and Mary for that matter, are trying to say:
It is time.
“When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” John 2:10-11