Monday, January 14, 2013

Moment of Shifting

New Year's Eve as a kid... The privilege of being up until midnight was something I couldn't afford to miss. Starting at 11:45, I would just stare at the clock... waiting for that magical moment when the old year would pass away and the new year would burst in! My sister and I would bang pots with spoons (for the sake of the noise, rather than protesting anything), shout, run around the house, and make that first minute of the new year the most exciting minute of the whole year! 

A few weeks ago, we said goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013. Personally, I slept right through the actual moment of passing from one year into the next (like I have for the last several years). But even if when I've stayed awake, the moment has slipped by unnoticed many times. It's get old... we do it over and over again, and it loses the excitement, the thrill, the magic. Year after year, we realize that the shifting from one year to the next is not necessarily worth losing sleep over.

In the same way, I think we can approach the eucharist at Christ's table in a lethargic, sleepy stupor... something that was once worth shouting about becomes commonplace.

Being the season of Epiphany, I am trying to dwell on the moments of Jesus' life that might have caused the jubilant banging of pots for those who witnessed them... moments where it might have been clear that the old had gone and the new had come.

One of these is a sort of pedestrian moment of running out of wine at a wedding.  In a moment, scarcity bursts forth in abundance. The stone jars that hold the water are the kind used for ceremonial washing. Stone doesn’t hold contaminants and so it cannot become unclean on its own. But these jars belong to a system of scarcity... each sin has a cost, each crime has a consequence, and each washing only goes so far. One is always aware of falling short, of being in need, of lacking and of needing to be washed again and again. 

But Jesus turns all this shortness, need, and lack into long and tall, full to the brim, abundance of the choicest wine – superior to all others. The old has gone, the new has come!

I'm not sure that, as a mother, Mary celebrated this moment. Instead, it may have been a moment where she suddenly wondered what she had been thinking when she said, "I am the Lord's servant... may it be as you have said." In a small moment, Mary loses her son.

It's likely that Mary is a widow at this point and has been depending heavily upon Jesus to provide for her, care for her, to be her resource and her problem-solver. Something is not right at the wedding and so she goes to Jesus to take care of it. Mary has had special access to Jesus, special claims on him as her son and her caretaker. Mary is Jesus’ mother. 

But in a moment of clanging confusion, she sees that her son is no longer her son, but her Lord. If she wants to continue to be near to Him, it will be as His disciple rather than as His mother. The way He responds to her pleading for help makes it clear... from this moment forward, all of his relationships, all of his obligations are subordinated to his purpose... the coming of his kingdom. She may have been less excited about this shift... she may have preferred to sleep through this moment, rather than having to watch it all shift before her eyes.

The old has gone, the new has come! 

And every time we come to eucharistic table of our Lord, it's a moment of shifting. At his table, we can only approach Christ in as our Lord. We are his disciples. Whatever small things we have thought we have been able to manipulate, control or manage are ripped from our hands as we recognize His Lordship.

And yet, He is our loving host, our Messiah. He can take all of our shortness, all of our need, and all of our lack... all of our scarcity... and He can fill all the empty places up to the brim with the lavish provision of the new kingdom. 

      The old has gone, the new has come!

This is worth banging on pots... worth staying awake for (or waking up early for).  But we can only attend to the moment of shifting if we're watching, waiting, preparing, celebrating. 

May every time we approach His table be a moment of shifting... a moment of passing from the old into the new... a moment of receiving the kingdom... a foretaste of the great wedding feast to come!

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