The Third Sunday of Epiphany
Readings: Genesis 14.17-20; Psalm 128; Revelation 19.6-10; John 2.1-11 (view all)
In many ways, the last couple of weeks in our ministry area have been a mix of emotions, of joy and sorrow.
I wanted to share with you, though, one of the times of great joy this week, when we had sixty children from Lakeside Primary School come to visit All Saints Cyncoed. They thoroughly enjoyed the time they spent with us, and the church was full of chatter and laugher the whole time.
To help them explore the different parts of the church, I decided to set them a treasure hunt. So, they set out in small groups searching for clues I’d hidden all around encouraging them to look at the pulpit, the altar, the remembrance plaque, the stained-glass windows and lots more.
Well, in his commentary the former Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, describes John’s gospel as being a bit like a treasure hunt. John leaves us clues, what he calls ‘signs’ of Jesus’ identity and power, along the way as we journey through his account of Jesus life, death and resurrection.
He wants us to discover how incredible Jesus is, and to find faith in him, as the final verse of our gospel reading tells us:
Jesus did this, the first of his signs at Cana in Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.John 2.11
So, I wonder, what can this first sign, this first clue, reveal to us about who Jesus is and what it means to follow him today here in this ministry area?
In our gospel reading, we encounter Jesus’ first miracle which is, of all places, at a party – a wedding reception. We Christians sometimes take ourselves very seriously, but it is perhaps worth being reminded that Jesus enjoyed celebrations. He often allowed himself to be entertained at people’s houses, enjoying company with others, and he was even criticised by those who were against him because of the company he kept, and the joyful way of life he and his disciples were leading.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry we discover that through him, God is setting about bringing all people together. Just as Abram and King Melchizedek came together to celebrate in our Old Testament reading. Just as we come together at the Lord’s Table today. And just as our reading from Revelation promises that we will one day all come together at the wedding feast of the lamb.
God is bringing people together, and in the miracle at Cana, we see that through Jesus, he is doing this in a new way.
He takes something old, the Jewish water jars, used for ceremonial purification and a symbol of the ancient traditions and practices of Jewdaism, but he uses them to create something new. Through this miracle, John wants us to understand that Jesus is finally bringing wholeness and unity to God’s people, but in a whole new way.
This is the God of Transformation, who changes water into wine, old into new, weak into strong, brokenness into wholeness, division into unity, and even death into life.
So how can we as God’s people embrace the new things that he is doing in our community, in our society, trusting that through him, anything is possible? How can we live in obedience, trusting that if, as Mary instructs, we ‘do whatever he tells [us]’ we will see our community transformed through God’s strength and our service?
And as we approach the Lord’s table this morning, joining in the great thanksgiving of heaven, will we place our hope in the great wedding banquet that awaits us, along with those we’ve lost recently who are dear to us in this ministry area, and along with all the faithful departed?
One of my favourite stories I once heard a preacher tell was of an elderly lady, who was worried she was reaching the end of her life, and so went to visit her vicar to make arrangements for her funeral. They talked through the hymns and the readings she’d like, and other practical arrangements.
She said to him, ‘Vicar, when I am buried I want you to make sure they bury me with a bible in one hand…’ Perfectly reasonable and very touching, given she had been a person of faith her whole life. But then the lady said something deeply perplexing:
…And in my other hand I want you to bury me with a fork.
The Vicar was stunned and a little bemused, so he asked why, and the woman replied, ‘Well, my favourite times as a church are our shared dinners we often have after the services. My favourite part is always the pudding! And when they come ‘round to collect in the plates and cutlery after main course, if they say “hang on to your fork” I always know that dessert is coming!
‘So’ she told him, ‘when I die I want you to bury me with a fork, because I want everyone to know that the best is yet to come.’
In Jesus we find the God of Transformation, who is always doing a new thing in amongst the old, and with whom the best is always yet to come. What a privilege to come to his table together this morning.
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.