Monday, July 29, 2013

The Outing of Jesus (John 2:4)

Jesus replied, “Mother, what does that have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
John 2:4

Jesus' First Miracle at a Wedding in Cana, by He Qi
The coming out process, if nothing else, is an interesting dance. Sometimes the steps are intricate and follow strictly established norms. Sometimes the steps are improvisational, leaving us stretched and pulled. 
I confess that I have not finessed coming out. At times I’m blunt, “hey, I’m gay” when all that was asked for was some butter. Other times my timing is wrong, “really, you’re gay and you’re just now telling me?” Then there are times when other straight folk proceed to inform me of the plight of gay people. This last example is a hazard of being in a mixed-orientation-marriage (see Nonconfirming Relationships) and, as a result, not giving off the standard gay signals.
Then there are the times when I weigh if the effort is worth it. Subtly and not-so-subtly people change when they find out your queer. We know that every time we come out, we risk rejection. 
Jesus is wrestling with his timing for coming out. For sure he is not coming out as gay. I know there are those who want to turn Jesus into a literal queer Christ. While there is nothing wrong with such explorations, and they do have their place, in all honesty we cannot accurately make that argument based upon the present material available to us. Even if we throw in speculation about the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” homo-social relations which peppered antiquity, cannot be turned, after the fact, into the contemporary understanding of homosexual relations.
However, make no mistake Jesus is being outed by his mother. Jesus has a secret, and by the plot of John's gospel, he has shared his truth of being God’s Word (see Jn. 1:1-18) with only a small group. Jesus knows that once his truth is out people will change how they relate to him. Jesus also knows that in speaking his truth, he risks rejection. 
We can understand Jesus’ reluctance to out himself. The wedding that he is at is not home turf for him. The crowd is mixed with people he knows and strangers that he does not know. This is neither the place nor the time. Jesus weighs the situation and decides the risk is too great. 
His mother, Mary, however, doesn’t have need of a reluctant Jesus. In short order she outs her son! Mary's focus is on something larger than Jesus’ own comfort zone. There is a friend on whom this wedding will bring shame for he is without the provisions to ensure his guests wellbeing. 
Jesus doesn’t seem to care, but Mary does. 
Coming out is a sacred process by which we create ripples which move through the lives of our friends and families. However, being outed is an act of existential terror by which our most intimate self-understanding is ripped from us. Yet, Mary may provide a critical lesson for us: sometimes the circumstances in which we find ourselves are more pressing than our comfort zones. As we weigh the cost, as we weigh safety, as we weigh risks, we must not lose sight of the larger affects our coming out may have, for the distant shore where the ripples finally play out is often unknown to us. Mary was able to grasp the ripple effect of her son. 
May we view our lives through Mary’s eyes and also cast our glances to the far ripples reaching the distant shores. 

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