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Water into wine

Here is tomorrow’s Gospel reading…. its one of my favourite biblical passages.

Gospel Reading  John 2: 1-11

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.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time 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 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.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

 

I’ve written a little homily around the gospel reading and I will  post some of it, missing out the more topical references which I’ll keep for the parish at which I am a guest preacher in the morning. The rural dean cometh…..

I will start with a joke:

There was a young man who was besotten with two very pretty and eligible young ladies and he couldn’t make up his mind which one to propose to.  One was called Maria and one was called Christine. So he went into a church (probably of the more Anglo-catholic tradition) and knelt to pray, offering his dilemma to God and asking for a sign. Who should he marry….. Maria or Christine?

Through bleary eyes full of tears at such a struggle, he saw ahead of him a statue, a vision of a woman with a child in her arms. At the bottom of the statue it read “ Ave Maria”.

We all look for signs, for direction in our lives.  You as a church community are looking now for signs about your future. Who will come? What should you be doing in the meantime. What sort of person should you be seeking? How can you best use these interregnum months?

Sign posts are all around us in our daily lives. They tell us something important, something we need to take note of.

In the NT reading today from John’s gospel, we read about Jesus performing a miracle – his first miracle as recorded in John – a miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana.

At the end of the account we read:

“ This deed at Canaan in Galilee is the first of the signs by which Jesus revealed his Glory and led the disciples to believe in him”.

Jesus reveals His glory – God’s glory – not in a dazzling great light which cannot be looked at directly but in the simple act of caring- ensuring there is enough wine available for a wedding breakfast.

This wasn’t to be the only time he performs as Acts has it  “ mighty works, wonders and signs “ which reveal God’s glory shining through Jesus” .

 

Here was a breakthrough – ordinary people could directly experience God’s power and grace – his healing love – his light,  in Jesus and the signs he worked.

In his miracles Jesus was revealing – showing forth- the wonder of God’s saving love. Whether through  loaves and fishes so people were fed or healing those who were ill in body, mind or spirit. The almost unknowable God of the Old Testament was now being directly met in the person of Jesus.

At Cana he takes charge of what could have been a very embarrassing situation for the steward of the feast. He starts with what they have – water. With the minimum of fuss and no attention seeking he carries out the miracle. 6 jars are filled with water and he turns the water into wine. He demonstrates his power to transform and change. We read that his disciples  believed;deep down this miracle enabled them to see that Jesus  was acting in the power of God to change lives and situations.

Where can we look today for signs of God’s glory? Of God changing lives?  Of God transforming situations?

How can we talk with any integrity about God’s glory and his love  in a word full of injustice, where natural disasters claim thousands of lives. Where is God’s glory and his light to be seen where- to use traditional language of theology  – sin  seems to block its shining?

 This is where we draw on faith and hope.

I believe that God is intimately involved in the activity of humankind in this world – in the life of every individual which is and has been on earth.

The Good News is that God overcame human darkness and sin when Jesus broke into human darkness on the first Easter Day – bringing the ever present possibility of healing, new life out of every situation of darkness. I believe the promise of his glory is always there in every seemingly hopeless situation.

Through the eyes of faith, we can see God’s glory not necessarily in spectacular healings or in great crowds in evangelistic missions – but perhaps most importantly in every day stories of kindness, laughter, healing and courage and perseverance.

 

In the Gospel reading , God revealed his glory – his life changing presence – at a seemingly ordinary event like a wedding.  And it is in our homes, in our communities in the places where we work and worship that we may look for the signs of his glory.

I wonder what it would be like if Jesus walked through the door of this church now?

We believe his spirit is with us of course. The Lord is here: His spirit is with us we exclaim in our service of Holy Communion.

But if we actually saw the Jesus who walked this earth  now, walking through that door, what would he say to you and me?

What would he want to say about this church building, what would he say about the future of  your  parish?

Rather than attempt to answer that question, I’m going to finish with some words from the Jesuit priest and writer Gerard Hughes. They make me think. Hopefully they will do the same for you. The passage talks of Jesus coming to someone’s home and the effect he has on them. It describes what happens when he goes to a local church.

Gerard Hughes recommends that we use the following scenes for prayerful reflection.

(They are found in his book: ‘Oh God Why? A journey through Lent for bruised pilgrims’  1993 BRF. ISBN 0 7459 2525 1.)

“So imagine a ring at the doorbell one evening and on answering you discover the visitor is the risen Lord himself.  How do you react, what do you do and say? Presumably you welcome him in, summon everyone in the house, and find yourself saying to the Lord of all creation ‘Do make yourself at home and stay as long as you like. Everything is yours.’

Now take a fortnight’s leap ahead in your imagination. Jesus has accepted your invitation and is still with you. How are things at home now?

You remember that disturbing passage in the Gospel where Jesus says, ‘I have not come to bring peace, but the sword, to set daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law, son against father.

Maybe there’s been a bit of friction over family meals in the last two weeks, some members leaving the table, possibly the front door never to return.

You invited Jesus to make himself at home, so he’s begun inviting friends to your house. You remember what people said of his friends in the Gospel, how he dined with sinners.

What kind of people do you now see coming to your house, what are the neighbours saying, and what’s happening to the local property values? Then you decide that you must not keep Jesus all to yourself, so you arrange for him to give a talk at the local church.

You remember that scene in the Gospel where he addresses the Pharisees and chief priests and assures them that criminals and prostitutes will get in to the kingdom of God before they do. He gives the same message to a gathering of men and women in the parish and there’s uproar, the parish losing its principal benefactors.

You return home with Jesus, your saviour, who has now become your problem. What are you to do? You cannot throw out the Lord of all creation. So you find a suitable cupboard, clear it out, decorate it, sparing no expense, get a good strong lock on it – and put Jesus inside. Outside you can have a lamp and flowers, and each time you pass, bow reverently, so you now have Jesus and he does not interfere any more.”

Gerard Hughes says that the Scriptures – and especially  Lenten readings – are full of warnings against what he calls ‘split spirituality’, or what we sometimes call ‘compartmentalizing our faith’ – and we all do it – like God is to be tamed and rendered harmless. How wrong, he asks, can we be?!

Take a leap of two years ahead in your imaginations. How would you like this church to be both in terms of what happens inside and in your connections with the world beyond its doors. What signs do you see of Jesus already transforming things here, what signs do you see  of his life giving power and love nudging you to be brave and explore new ventures and ways of being Christ’s body here in this place.

And so, as his disciples did all those years ago, may we begin to hear him teaching us now – gently, lovingly – that this adventure of living and being church is risky and can have a cost.

May we be open to the transforming power of his love in our lives as he moves us on to a deeper understanding of what he’s about and what he wants us to be about.

Amen.

* With thanks to the web-site of Rev Dr I.Davies at St Barnabas, Waunarlwydd

Swansea.

http://www.stbarnabaschurch.org.uk.

Its a super website and well worth a visit. The last few thoughts are based on one of his sermons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 21, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks Paxy; I haven’t looked at your blog for such a long time and burdened with the daunting task of giving a talk to some people, including a Bp.!!!!!! you have furnished me with all the inspiration I could posssibly need. I really do believe in Divine providence.

    One or two comments on the homily though……
    What the hell was alll that water doing in someone’s house?
    Why did JC perform the miracle even though he told mum he wasn’t ready to do something about the ensuing problem of the running out of wine?
    and; why did he adress his mum in such a rude fashion. “Woman, you know not what you ask”.

    I imagine JC could be a bit tempermental at times. If you remember he also addresses her as ‘woman’ to John, from his cross of execution. I would imagine he wasn’t feeling too good that day either. Or, maybe, just like me, he didn’t like weddings !!!

    Gerard Hughes always seems to be able to put his venerable finger right where the plaster’s needed. I once worked with a bloke who, to all intent and purpose, was not a believer, but he often said to me that if Jesus Christ walked up the High Street and into church we (us churchy folk) would ask him to leave the building.
    He’s got a point.
    I think JC would find it very hard to fit our idea of him. And, perhaps more poinigiently, I should say, I think he would find it very hard to fit into the person the Church has made Him.

    Anyway, that aside, I was surprised to see that your little kingdom of cures is right on the A1 !!!!! never knew that. I’ve had several trips recently to that emporium of all things Swedish in MK, and hey presto the Ayotollah and I go by the end of your road. I think you should have a sign right on the A1 saying; “Relax, Your’e In Paxy Country….. Blog Off”

    That said, I must go, I’m having my new tartan beretta fitted today and I haven’t even got the underlay down yet.

    Blessings Wingy.

    Comment by Wingy | January 26, 2012 | Reply


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