Trust: John 2.1-12

Jesus’ first miraculous sign in John is one of my favorite stories in all of the Gospels!  In fact, I love it so much that I plan on blogging about it from several different angles over the next few days.

And to get things started I want to look at this story from Mary’s perspective.  Spoiler alert — Mary’s perspective is defined by one word: trust.


Mary’s Perspective

The story of Jesus turning water into wine has been interesting to me for decades.  When I was younger, I was surprised to learn that Jesus’ first miracle in John involved him creating wine because the religious context I grew up in taught that all alcoholic drinks were to be avoided at all costs.

Later, while in college and seminary, the sociological background of this story began to intrigue me, specifically the elements of honor and shame that are part of this story.  And that’s right where I want to start, with the honor and shame system and how it impacted Mary.

So in the story what we see is that Jesus, his friends, and his mom attend a wedding.  This wedding was in the town of Cana, which is a neighbor city to Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown.  And one of the first details that we learn about this wedding is that the wine was gone.

Why is this detail important?  Why would John include it?  For one main reason, at least in my estimation: the wine running out brought shame on the family organizing the wedding.

Since I didn’t grow up in an honor/shame culture, this part of the story is hard for me to understand.  So maybe an analogy would help…

Imagine that you were invited to a wedding.  When you arrive at the venue, everyone is standing outside because the venue has been double-booked!  Everyone is in their best clothes.  The bride and groom are ready to go.  But the family who booked the venue is embarrassed and frustrated.

These feelings are similar to what the family in this story would feel if they were made aware of the problem of the wine running out.

And who is the person to step in and prevent this shame from coming to fruition?


And who does Mary turn to in this time of need?


Mary trusts Jesus.  Maybe she remembers what she was told about Jesus when she was pregnant (Luke 1.26-38).  Maybe Joseph has passed away, as is commonly believed, and Jesus was her nearest male relative to whom she could turn, which was the societal norm of the day.


Trust in Jesus

Whatever the case, Mary trusted Jesus.  She asked him for help.

And despite Jesus’ strange response, which we’ll talk about in a future blog, Mary tells other people to do whatever Jesus says.

So Mary’s trust doesn’t just stay private, she shares it with others.

Friends, whom or what do we trust?  Many of us would say that we trust Jesus, but our actions sometimes say otherwise.

From our obsession with our stuff, it could be said that we trust our possessions.

From our constant pursuit of more things, it could be said that we trust in our ability to consume.

From our protection of our autonomy, it could be said that we trust ourselves first.

From our focus on our families to the detriment of those in need around us, it could be said that we trust our families.

This list could go on and on.

The truth is that we seem to be willing to trust just about anything and anyone except Jesus.  How do we know this?  Because we aren’t doing a great job of following Jesus.  If we trusted him, we would follow him more closely.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be centered on his mission to make disciples and bring about justice for those most in need.

If we trusted Jesus, we would spend less time judging the sin of others and more time loving them.

If we trusted Jesus, we would be like Mary, letting our trust move from being private to becoming public.

And if we trusted Jesus, we would demonstrate less and less that we trust other things and people more than him.


What do you think about Mary’s trust in John 2.1-12?  And how do you think that we, as followers of Jesus, could demonstrate our trust in him more and more?  Let me know in the comments below.


The Ghost of Church Future: Part Two (Consumerism)

My wife, parents, and I recently watched a stage production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  As I watched it I couldn’t help but imagine what the ghosts of church past (Part OnePart Two, and Part Three), present (Part OnePart Two, and Part Three), and future (Part One) might say to those of us who follow Jesus.  This week we’ll look at what the future holds.


So, as we’ve seen in previous posts in this series, those who live lives authentically marked by faith in Jesus are a declining species.  One response could be to go all in with regard to American culture.  We, as the Church, could attempt to absolutely immerse ourselves into the consumerism around us, attempting to redeem it and use it for the kingdom of God.

I first encountered this idea in Alan Hirsch’s book The Forgotten Ways.  Here’s how he introduced it:

We try to redeem the rhythms and structures of consumerism as Pete Ward suggests in his excellent book on missional ecclesiology.  He advises that, rather than reject or denounce consumerism, we should see it as an oppportunity for the church to rediscover her missional and redemptive nature.  He maintains that in consumerism there is a massive search going on, and that the church cannot miss out on meaningfully communicating from within this context.  He suggests, therefore that the church must radically reorganize around consumerist principles but maintain its missional edge. (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 111-112).

The book from Pete Ward that Hirsch is referring to is called Liquid Church.  While there is much to like about Ward’s ideas in this book, such as the church being a flexible network instead of a rigid structure, the idea of trying to redeem consumerism seems entirely too risky.  I love the way that Hirsch responds to Ward’s idea: “However, my warning is that if we are going to sup with the devil, we had better have a very long spoon, because we are dealing with a deeply entrenched alternative religious system to which Jesus’s disciples need to model an alternative reality” (The Forgotten Ways, 112).

In fact, some of the missional writers, thinkers, and practitioners argue that being a consumer runs counter to what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the first place.  For instance, Hugh Halter, in And: The Gathered and Scattered Church, says this: “A disciple is not a consumer and a consumer is not a disciple!” (emphasis original, 75).  Halter’s argument is that at its base consumerism is just selfishness in a different package; and Jesus explicitly calls people away from only looking out for number one.

So why will going all in with consumerism not work as a model moving forward?

  1. At its core, consumerism is selfish. — Consumerism has been defined as the attempt to acquire as many goods and services as possible at the lowest prices possible.  Vance Packard’s pioneering work on consumerism called Waste Makers highlights the truth that all this selfishness and consumption is ultimately harmful in many ways.  I think it’s pretty clear that we as followers of Jesus should avoid such things!  We’re already tempted to view God like a cosmic vending machine, and going all in with consumerism would make that tendency even worse!
  2. Consumerism will push the church to maintain the professionalization of ministry. — In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul says that we’re all ambassadors of the ministry of reconciliation.  But if we really want to imbibe consumerism then folks are going to demand that those who have the most training and skill at ministry be the ones to do it, ignoring the fact that God has given gifts to all of the church for the common good, not just some of it (1 Corinthians 11-13)!  Again, we’re already having issues in the church with folks sitting on the sidelines; why would we want to make that problem more prominent?
  3. It will simply be too expensive. — In the end, how could the church afford to be an entity totally defined by consumerism?  We’d be competing against Bud Light, the NFL, reality TV, and Hollywood.  We don’t have the resources to compete in that market!  We barely have the resources to maintain our paltry budgets now!  The cost of competing against the big boys of consumerism is simply too high, which makes this idea for addressing America as a mission field completely untenable.

What do you think?  Is it possible for the church to redeem consumerism?  If so, why?  If not, why?  Let me know below.