EPIPHANY 2: 14 JANUARY 2001
John 2: 1-11
1 Corinthians 12: 1-11
Isaiah 62: 1-5
Psalm 36: 5-10
In the name of the most generous Christ Jesus, I greet you.
In the name of the bountiful God, we greet you.
In the name of the extravagant Spirit, I greet you.
In the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we greet each other.
God our prodigal Friend, you have called us to live generously in an era of miserliness; when budget cut backs, diminishing services, and increased profits to the greedy, dominate the thinking of our nation. In the sanity of this house of prayer, so infect us with the Spirit of Christ, that we may go against the national trend and live abundantly, to your glory.
When hopes seem dry as bulldust,
old visions on the wane,
look for the wedding feast
where water is changed into wine.
If you cannot keep faithís pace,
despair seems sure to win,
attend the house at Cana,
where water is turned into wine.
When loves appears to shrink
and joy sags frail and wan,
join the amazed disciples
as water becomes new wine.
If the new age seems late,
your patience tired and worn,
follow the young Nazarene
to water that is the best wine.
© B.D. Prewer 1995
CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE
If we have turned our Christianity into dull routines and platitudes without zest and laughter;
Lord have mercy.
If we have resented the enthusiasm of the new convert or the excitement of the idealistic person;
Christ have mercy.
If we have traded the new wine of the Gospel for the old beverage of religious laws, anxiety; and self-belittling;
Lord have mercy.
O dearest Christ, Brother and Saviour, your super-abundant forgiveness is ready ages before we seek it; your love is enfolding us long before we become aware of it. Fill us, we pray, with the peace that the secular world cannot give us, and with the joy that no doubt, failure or fear can steal from us.
Amen! It is Christ who sets us free, therefore we stand free indeed. Thanks be to God!
Loving God, your love is written in the night skies,
your trustworthiness beyond all clouds.
Your justice towers higher than Mt Everest,
your judgements are deeper than ocean depths.
Loving Friend, you care for both people and animals,
so precious is your mothering love.
Therefore the children of earth take shelter
under the warmth of your wings.
They feast on the hospitality of your house,
they drink from the rivers of your happiness.
For in you is the everflowing water of life,
and in your light we find our light.
Please keep loving those who know you,
and give your generous justice to the sincere.
Do not let arrogant feet trample on me,
or wicked hands lead me into trouble;
for evil will fall flat on its face,
weighed down and unable to rise up.
WATER INTO WINE
This first great sign of Jesus, was done at Cana in Galilee, displaying his glory; and his disciples put their trust in him. John 2:11
1. Water into wine. Wow! Unless you know something I donít know, turning water into wine is not a very common miracle. And that must be a great relief to the vine growers of the Barossa and Hunter valleys, and those at Margaret and Pipers rivers.
2. But John records such a miracle. In fact , between 500-600 litres of water became wine. What extravagance! Not just ordinary wine either; it is a great wine that flowed from the touch of Jesus.
3. This story is unusual, odd to the post-modern mind, unlike any other in the New Testament. What is more, John has Jesus commencing his public ministry with it. It is a pivotal moment in the Gospel.
4. Of course, it may not have sounded so odd around the Mediterranean at that time. For the Greeks the god Dionysius turned water into wine. Also the Jewish philosopher Philo wrote of the obscure (Old Testament) priest Melchizedek changing water into wine.
WHY DOES JOHN RECORD THIS STORY?
Important question: Why did John give us this miracle story?
1. The disciples believed. As a result of this miracle they put their trust in Jesus.
. Correction! I used the word "miracle". Actually John does not use that word here (in Greek "thauma") but chooses "sign" (in Greek "semein") Signs have no intrinsic value, no self importance. They point to something that is very important. (When travelling in the outback and we see a sign: Uluru: 950 kmís, we donít stop and camp at the sign as if we have arrived; it points to something much greater.)
2. The "signs" of Jesus point towards the unique power of God breaking in through his words and deeds.
Something new is happening. An old order is being superseded with a new order.
3. Water in stone jars = Jewish law and its appropriate ceremonial is superseded by new wine.
Also the first wine (referred to by the toastmaster)was ordinary, nothing to rave about. The second wine is exciting stuff.
In Christ they encountered something never experienced before. Something that radically altered the old, common stuff of their existence.
IT STILL HAPPENS
Christ still turns water into wine; lives are changed by his Presence: a radical transformation takes place. Todayís Jesus gives startling "signs" that point to the unique power of God at work.
1. In our denomination of the church, we do not tend to talk up this aspect. We exhibit a far greater modesty than some Christian groups.
(Whether this is a healthy or sick modesty in another question)
But be assured it is happening among us and within us. The new wine is here, and it is wonderfully more tasty than the old stuff!
2. Sometimes it happens dramatically, rather like a Northern European springtime, with the ice cracking and the waters flowing, the flowers bursting into life and flocks of birds arriving.
Sometimes it happens slowly and almost imperceptibly, more like
seasonal change in Adelaide, the first wildflowers blossoming in late June and the last finishing in early November.
Either way, springtime has come! Likewise, the new wine is gloriously among us, pointing to the intimate, beautiful power of God in Christ Jesus
A woman , a stranger to me until this moment, comes to me after a service and says: "Heh! Something remarkable happened in that church this morning; my whole life which has been a mess, seems to have been turned upside down and Iím filled with happiness like you wouldnít believe! I want to become a Christian."
A man, who has been among us for a couple of years, rather hesitantly seeks me out and says: "Look, I donít know how it happened. But as I was driving home from church last Sunday, I suddenly realised that I was now a Christian. Thereís been no big zap from the sky or anything; but my whole life has been changed, almost without me noticing it."
AND WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?
Has water been turned into wine in your lives?
The danger of giving examples, as I have just done, is that some of you will be wondering: How did I miss out? Well maybe you have been drinking the new wine for so long that you have forgotten what the old stuff was like. Maybe you have not missed out; merely suffering from a long familiarity.
The longer a minister lives amongst a congregation as friend and pastor, the more that minister comes to know the achievements and heartbreak, the virtues and sins, the vulnerability or the resilience, the confusion or the pain that people experience. My observations lead me to say this : My friends, in your ups and downs the touch of Christ has created some remarkable wine out of what could have become stagnant, polluted water.
Some of you have known tragedies that could have made you sour or angry characters. But you are not.
Some of you have achieved so much that you might have become stuffed up with self importance. But you are not at all like that.
Some of you have been so bruised or injured by other people, that you could have become cynical and hard as nails. But you have not.
Some could have ended up defeated types, afraid of new challenges, knocking the enthusiasm of others.. But it is not so.
Some might easily have collapsed into faithlessness, mocking the very idea of a loving God. But that is not how it is with you.,
My friends, maybe we take each other for granted in this congregation and miss out on the glory of the new wine that flows freely.
Worse, perhaps we take the wine of our personal , individual lives for granted and severely discount the wondrous sign of God in Christ Jesus is constantly at work in us.
I tell it as it is: From common, stone jars, I see with my own eyes the new wine of Christ overflowing in this congregation.
A WORD TO THE THIRSTY
However, that may not include all of you. Perhaps there are some here today who are still drinking stale water rather than Christís new wine. Old fears, old guilt, old pride, old sins, are maybe holding you back.
Have you ever stopped, taken stock and asked the question: "What could I be now if I allowed the hand of Christ to touch my stagnant life and transform it?" Do you to dare to imagine it? Be sure of this: for Christ Jesus, it is never too early or too late for the production of the new wine.
Do not lose the context of joy. The water-into-wine sign, given at Cana in Galilee, happened at a marriage feast. It was a joyful occasion, a time for celebration. The way of Christ is a way of happiness; sometimes like a goblet full and bubbling over, sometimes a quiet and serene joy to be gently savoured, in deep trust and gratitude.
This first great sign of Jesus, was done at Cana in Galilee, displaying his glory; and his disciples put their trust in him
We thank you, loving God, for the abundant, and even extravagant, blessings we enjoy in this land we gladly call our home.
For the clouds of budgerigars on inland plains and the flocks of magpie geese in Kakadu.
For the vineyards and orchards of the Riverland, the mango trees and tomato crops around Bowen, and the bananas of Coffs Harbour.
For the mines of WA, the salmon of Tassie and the tuna of S.A, the flocks of NSW and the treasures of the Barrier Reef.
For large mobs of kangaroos, flocks of emus, and for the kindly dolphins that play around our long coastline.
For the spirituality of the indigenous people of the land, and their belief that all good gifts are meant to be shared.
For the laughter of children in ten thousand playgrounds and the cheering crowds at sports stadiums.
For the multiplicity of cultures and varieties of foods that have enlarged our understanding enriched our common days.
For the presence of churches large and small, where people gather for the Gospel of peace and the Bread of life.
For the Southern Cross in our skies reminding us that Christ has loved this world with a love exceeding all expectation or deserving.
Most generous God, for these gifts and a host more, we give you thanks. We pray for the good grace to treat our land and its creatures with the respect that is born from worship of you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God of wedding parties and new wine, of love and laughter, dancing and singing, we pause to pray for those in your worldwide family who feel left out in the cold.
Bless the many people who must work such long hours that there is no time or energy to laugh or sing.
Bless your children who feel so demeaned and exploited that they view even angels of mercy with suspicion and fear.
Bless the many folk who are caught in vicious circles of evil and can see no way to escape.
Bless your children whose every waking hour is spent in pain, and whose sleep is at the best fitful.
Bless those people who are drawn to Christ and new life, but who fear family, friends or workmates.
Bless your children who once tasted the new wine of Christ but have now slipped away into indifference.
Bless those folk who with much trembling, hand their lives over to you this day. May they find faith and courage for the days to come.
Bless the people of your church, that love may flow in our prayers and our prayers flow into suitable deeds.
In the name of the Christ who makes all things new. Amen!
The sign of the stone jars of cold water, that can be turned into new wine, is a sign of hope for the strong and weak, the old and young, the downcast and the buoyant, and for those with large, or very small, faith.
By the grace of Christ Jesus, go out from this place with more than you brought in.
The blessing of. the one generous God, sustaining., liberating and fulfilling all things, will be with you now and always.