Friday, May 17

God and God's Mom

I used to be a kid. I used to be a kid growing up in the Evangelical Protestant church. We used to hear a story, and it went something like this:

Jesus Changes Water Into Wine-John Chapter 2
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

We would read this story and go, "Whoa. That's the first miracle of Jesus." And we would like it.

When you get into sacramental theology, you see a LOT more here than the first miracle, even though that alone makes it worth the telling. But I'm not going to get into every nuance here. 

When I was growing up, I read the Bible. A lot. And when I was in the New Testament, I would call our protagonist "Jesus." And he is. I would call his mother Mary. And she is. That was all well and good.

When I made my first visit to an Orthodox Christian Liturgy for some purpose more than writing a research paper, they kept talking about "the Theotokos." The woman who is a lifelong friend and eventually became my godmother leaned over to me and rasped, "Theotokos means 'God-bearer.' They mean Mary." Later (much later) on, it occurred to me that to be a God bearer was to walk around containing the Uncontainable; a perambulatory Ark of the Covenant. Imagine. To be full of God. But I'm not going to get into every nuance here. 

Here's the part that flipped my lid: I've been teaching at an Orthodox Classical school this year, and one of my biggest blessings has been our assistant priest's kid. LOVE that KID! He has been growing up fully Orthodox. When he talks about Jesus, he doesn't say "Jesus," he says, "God." One day he was coloring an icon coloring page when he guilelessly looked up and said to me (as if I would know), "What color are God's shoes???" And even though I've been a Christian my WHOLE life, it occurred to me for the first time: God wore shoes. 

One day, he was coloring and chatting, and this kid told me the story of the Wedding at Cana. It went something like this:

"One day, God and God's Mom went to a party. And there wasn't enough wine, so God's Mom wanted him to make some more. God had the guys go get the jugs of water, and God turned the water into wine." 

It blew my "Jesus Loves Me" Protestant brain wide open.


And God's Mom. 

Went to a party. 

God showed up, and made wine.

I cried tears in my eyes a little bit; and THIS is the nuance I want to get into. God came to a party. 

I wish I had the vocabulary that my student does. What if I read the New Testament, every time I saw the word "Jesus," I said (and absorbed, and believed, and let resonate through my being), "God." 

After all, Jesus (ahem, God) said himself:

John 14:8-10
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

If I were able to do this; if I were able to see Jesus through God-O-Vision, what would I learn about the nature of God? God went to a party!!! 

What else did He do when He was here, wearing shoes?

What else is He doing now? 



  1. So my sister and I had a conversation recently. She was upset because her new (Presbyterian) pastor removed a painting of Christ from their sanctuary without telling anyone he was going to do so. And when he was asked, he retorted that it wasn't appropriate because, "no one knows what Jesus looked like". I waited five seconds so that my response didn't explode out of me because my mind was just screaming, "of course someone has known what Jesus looked like - that's the whole point!" This is why we defend the presence of icons in our churches and homes. They WITNESS to us that God truly became a human being...with a particular eye color, and a face that his mother touched and kissed, hands with their own set of fingerprints that reached down and pulled a sinking Peter out of the sea, and feet that wore shoes.
    God bless you, Nyleen. I remember the first time this Truth really hit me in the heart rather than in the head. It shook me to the core. I needed the reminder today.

  2. Thank you!

    The Incarnation is impossible to understand, and hard to believe! May God grant us all grace to trust (and know, and love) Him more!!!

  3. I love that phrase, "...a particular eye color, and a face that his mother touched and kissed..."

  4. Thank you for posting this!

    At our family reunions we have dozens of photo albums that we pass around and remember those family members who have gone on before us. I recently told my mother that going to the Orthodox church is like going to a family reunion every Sunday. :)


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