Friday, 15 January 2016

Wedding at Cana


John 2: 1-12

The miracle of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana is a story that I’m sure we all know. It’s such a well known story that even people who can’t remember much else about the gospel story remember that Jesus turned water into wine.
And the author, John, himself tells us that this is the first of the ‘signs’ that reveal Jesus’ glory to his disciples.

As we move on from Christmas and towards Lent & Easter, we are invited by this story to reflect on who Jesus is, and what he has been born to be and to do for the world.

It certainly seems that Jesus wanted the people at the wedding to celebrate – 6 stone jars of 20-30 gallons each totals 120-180 gallons of wine – somewhere around a thousand bottles of wine!
That’s quite a celebration – given that they’ve already drunk their way through whatever had been provided by the bridegroom.

Jesus shows his disciples his extraordinary God-given ability: who else can change water into wine?
But he also demonstrates his generosity  - there is so much wine!
And Jesus also displays his grace: God’s free gift of unearned love.

The water is there for religious purification, for special washing – it is there so that people can try to get themselves right with God. But Jesus – who is God come to be with us – turns an ordinary thing for a human ritual into an extraordinary sign that God is at work. It is God’s power, not human effort, that makes the difference in this story

As I thought about those stone jars I realised that if they could hold 20-30 gallons they must be at least the size of a person.
I started wondering  - if that’s what difference that power and generosity and grace of Jesus can make to a jar of water, what difference might that power generosity and grace might make to a person?
In other words. What does this story tell us not only about who Jesus is but about what Jesus can do for us?

In a way, John’s gospel already give us that answer – with the next two stories he tells – of the change Jesus brings to Nicodemus and the change he brings to the woman at the well. Both encounter new life in Jesus.
In fact the woman at the well is so changed that the Eastern orthodox church commemorate her as a saint – Saint Photina, which means ‘luminous one’.
Tradition has it that she takes the message of Jesus to all around her so completely that she becomes light for her community.

So what about us?
I’m aware that here you are very involved - with your friends here at St Nicholas – in the lighthouse café.
I’m sure the tea and coffee and cake are excellent – but I’m also sure that what people also find here is a sign of the new life that come in Jesus.
God’s grace is able to change the ‘water’ of the human hospitality you offer into the ‘wine’ of finding something of God’s love, grace, joy and peace in this place.
Perhaps God’s grace in Jesus can mean that as well as running a lighthouse café you can together be a lighthouse – be light for the people around you.

I also see from St Nicholas’ website that an appointment has now been made for a new rector here (although no name has yet been released).
Here too is an opportunity to see what the transformative grace of Jesus can do in the new relationships which will need to be formed.
Can you invite the grace of God to come into your two churches to change any weak, watery relationships into glorious, vigorous wine?

The story of the wedding at Cana shows us something about Jesus’ power, generosity & grace, and it shows us what Jesus can do for us.
I also think that it shows us something of what we are called to do as we follow Jesus.

Jesus responds to a need, very starkly expressed by his mother ‘they have no wine’. There is a danger that the celebrations are all going to grind to a halt. The party needs wine if it is to continue – and Jesus generously provides that wine.
Jesus responds to the need he sees around him.

As followers of Jesus, what are the needs of the people around us to which we need to respond as readily as Jesus does?

The lighthouse café is one way in which you are already trying to hear the needs around and respond to them with generosity and grace.
What else does your community need?

Just this week I visited a very small church – Flavel Church in Dartmouth. It is named after John Flavel, a non-conformist preacher of the 17th century, at a time when such preachers were threatened with imprisonment. Flavel declared that ‘he wished to see every house in Dartmouth a house of prayer’. 
One of the members there this week was telling me that even now there is a need for people in Dartmouth to see that worship is a time to meet God, not just an empty ritual.

For Dartmouth there is a need for the water of some people’s low expectations of worship to become the wine of an experience of meeting the living God.

I hope that as the grace of God in Jesus continues to touch each of you here you will become even more aware of the needs of the world around, and ready to be a source of change, generosity and grace,
In Jesus’ name
Amen.



Friday, 8 January 2016

Epiphany


Epiphany

The trees are down, the decorations put away for another year, the cards are recycled or sitting in a pile waiting to be ‘dealt with’.
So how come the wise men have only just arrived?

Today’s readings are the readings for Epiphany – celebrated on January 6th or the nearest Sunday. We celebrate the arrival of the wise men, but more than that we celebrate God’s glory shining in the world. We may have put the Christmas decorations back in the loft, but we can still celebrate the fact that God is with us, not only at Christmas, but always.

And of course today we have even more reason to celebrate as we welcome Luke & Rebecca into membership to worship and live and work alongside all of you here at Plymtree.


Paul writes in the letter to the Ephesians what this fact of God with us means.
The light of Christ has shone in all the world, to all people – Jew and Gentile. Paul says “the mystery was made known to me by revelation”. God’s love and God’s light shines on us in many different ways. We see the light of God’s love now revealed in the face of Jesus Christ – so that God’s grace can shine on and in the whole world. The word Epiphany means “showing out” and we can celebrate the way in which God’s love shines out and shows out in the face of Christ and in other ways too.

So where do we see God’s light and God’s glory in the story Matthew gospel tells us of the visit of the wise men?

We see it first in the light of the star which guides the wise men. God’s light draws them from their homes in the East to what God is now doing in Bethlehem.

They then find the light of revelation in the scriptures, as Herod calls the chief priests and scribes to tell where this king of the Jews will be born. The scriptures confirm that Bethlehem is the place “for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel”

And finally, led again by the star, they find God’s glory in the light in the face of the Christ-child. Here is the one to be worshipped, here is the one to receive their amazing gifts, here is the one who will be King, Priest & Saviour.

God’s truth, grace and glory is found shining in the star, in scriptures and in the child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ. God’s light is not only found in one place or seen in one way.
As we celebrate epiphany – the light of God’s presence showing out in the world today, we might wonder how Luke will share the light of God’s grace with us.

There is a danger that some people in the church might expect Luke to be like the star in Matthew’s story – the bright and new thing, who has been led here by God and who will lead others to God.
Others will expect Luke to be a wise man, with his Bible college learning, his knowledge of scriptures – the one who will tell everyone else where to go and what to do.
Spme might even think Luke is their saviour: come to bring new life and hope to this church, to be light in the darkness for you.

I’m sure that Luke will bring light into this situation, but not simply as a star, a wise man, or a saviour!

Epiphany is about God’s light, not starlight or human light.
We celebrate epiphany to mark all the ways in which the light of God’s presence shows out in God’s world.

Luke is not here because of what he can do for you and with you all  - but to help you find then things that you can do together in God’s strength, through God’s grace & to God’s glory.

Luke is called to bring God’s light to the people of Plymtree – and to help each one of you to also shine with God’s light, for the sake of the world around.

I want to share these words of Archbishop Oscar Romero: the archbishop in El Salvador who was murdered by the government for trying to help the poorest people of that country.
Oscar Romero said this:

“If some day they take the radio station away from us, if they close down our newspaper, if they don’t let us speak, if they kill all the priests and the bishop too, and you are left, a people without priests, each one of you must be God’s microphone, each one of you must be a messenger, a prophet.
The church will always exist as long as there is one baptized person. And that one baptized person who is left in the world is responsible before the world for holding aloft the banner of the Lord’s truth and of his divine justice.”

The Wise men found the light of God in the star, in scripture and in the Christ-child. Then they were overwhelmed with joy and worshipped God.

Here today, as we celebrate the shining of God’s love in the world, we look for that light in God’s signs among us, in the Scripture we read, and most of all, in Christ. And when we find that light we shine with that light, in and for the world.

May God bless you, Luke, and all God’s people here, and enable you to shine with the love of Jesus. Amen.