January 12, 2010

The Joy of Not Being in Charge

by Ragan Sutterfield
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10;
1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11

Norman Wirzba, in his book Living the Sabbath, follows the medieval rabbi Rashi in saying that the divine work was not completed in six days, but in seven, and that what remained to be created on the seventh day was menuha: “the rest, tranquility, serenity, and peace of God.” Wirzba writes that God’s rest “when understood within a menuha context, is not simply a cessation from activity but rather the lifting up and celebration of everything. Here we see God…like a parent frolicking with a child and in his joy and play demonstrating and abiding commitment to protect, sustain, encourage, and love into health and maturity the potential latent within the child.” It is this sort of menuha delight and care that is proclaimed in the lectionary this week.

First we have Isaiah, announcing that “The nations shall see your vindication”; “you shall be called a new name”; “you shall be a crown in the hand of your God”; “You shall no more be termed Forsaken”; “but you shall be shall be called My Delight Is in Her.” There is no “we hope” or “we pray” here—the promise is firm “you shall.”

This sense of God’s love and delight, His joy and celebration also comes through in the portion of Psalm 36 appointed where God is praised for saving “both man and beast” and inviting his people to feast upon the abundance of [His] house” and “drink from the river of [His] delights.” God is here seen not only as one who delights but also as one who provides delight to His people.

We see a hint of this delight again as Paul tells the Corinthians that, “To each are given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” God’s spirit is working in us and through us to manifest His truth and presence in the world. What can be more delightful than that?

And then we have perhaps the greatest delight of all as Jesus extends a celebration that had run out of alcohol with more to drink—extending the delight of the kingdom with good wine and a longer party.

So what is it that gives us this delight? If we are to pull a common answer from this week’s readings it is not only the goodness and abundance of God’s gifts, but also, in this season of celebrating the Kingship of Christ, the joy of not being in charge. Why we always want to be in charge is a bit of a mystery to me (albeit a mystery I participate in). There is great joy in not being in charge and in allowing the king to do good and for us to participate in that. Perhaps we like to be in charge because we don’t like the direction that others might take us in, we don’t trust that they have our best interest in mind, but with God we can set those worries aside. With Him we should worry more about ourselves not taking ourselves in the direction we should go or in not having our own best interests in mind. If we only give up trying to make ourselves happy or to take control, there is a banquet table of delights we could never imagine ready for us to come to and sit down.

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