Sunday, 24th January: 3rd after Epiphany

Welcome to this week’s service which comes from St Nicolas Church. It is 30 minutes in length. Click the link below to watch and listen to the service. The collect, the Gospel reading and the text of our sermon and the intercessions are below should you wish to follow them or look at them again. The link to this week’s notices is at the bottom.

The Collect: the prayer for today

Almighty God,
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.

The Gospel Reading: John 2: 1-11. The Wedding at Cana

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.”  Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The Sermon: from Rev. Suzanne Johnson

The changing of water into wine is, perhaps, the most famous of Jesus’ miracles; and one of my favourites.

Some of you may remember that I love parties, dancing, singing, fun and laughter, but, strangely, not drinking – although I do remember one new year’s eve party where we drank through the colours of the rainbow. My hangover was multi-coloured too!

Now I’m a priest, people look at me strangely when I go to a party; there’s this atmosphere, somehow, they expect me to “have a downer on fun!”  I love the look on their faces when I’m the first on the dancefloor or tell a risqué joke!  

Jesus, too, loved parties.  He loved to be with people, wherever and whoever they were: Jesus walked and lived with them.  So much so that the religious authorities of the day used this aspect of Jesus’ life as an argument against him.  

So, it’s not surprising that in John’s gospel the first miracle happens at a party – this is almost the first thing John records Jesus doing, apart from meeting some close friends, and, of course, being baptised by His cousin.  Family and friends were part of Jesus’ life. One of the great mysteries surrounding Jesus is ‘what did He do in the first thirty years of His life’?  

We don’t know very much about his early life, but we do know from hints in the gospel stories that he was a carpenter/builder just like his father Joseph, living an ordinary life with ordinary people, in an ordinary village. 

This ordinary life tells us something about the nature of God.  It tells us that God lives with us, walks alongside us, struggles alongside us, laughs with us, grieves with us, loves with us, parities with us, and, of course, dies with us.  Somehow, we expect God to be all miracles, judgement, and all-encompassing love: and of course, She is all of these things.  But we forget that God is our closest friend. And part of this is having fun together.

Jesus, who is God, loved a party.  He would have known the couple in Cana and been happy to be invited to their wedding – together with His family and friends.  Though He was not, as far as we know, an important guest.  Just a regular guest like everyone else in the town.  The party was in full swing and everyone was having a good time -then they ran out of wine!  A disaster of major proportions, not just because of the lack of wine, but because of the shame of not being able to provide for your guests – something we all dread, but particularly important for a Jewish family.

Jesus’ mother, is concerned for her friend’s honour, and she knows something has changed in Jesus’ life: He has found his rightful mission.  

So she finds Jesus and asks him to help.  Something strange happens here, Jesus says “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”  Not exactly helpful.  But Mary knows that Jesus will help, she believes in him, not only that, but she is the only person who has known Jesus all his life.  She has known Him be naughty (remember when he went missing for three days on the journey back from Jerusalem), she has known him to be arrogant (again, in Jerusalem when He said “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”), but most of all she knows he is the Son of God.  And of course, Jesus steps up to the plate. The stewards at the wedding draw off the best possible wine and the party continues full pace. 

Now, at this point you’re probably thinking of some big ‘why’ type questions.  Why, if God is with me in all that happens, do bad things happen to me?  Why doesn’t Jesus change water into wine for me?

The honest answer is that I don’t know!  But I believe, it’s something to do with the fact that God wants us to learn, to grow, to become fully human – that is to fully reflect the life of Jesus.  We’re not puppets controlled by God, but loved beings created for freedom.  

Opening our hearts to God, learning that She is with us in all that we do, is not freeing us from the everyday worries, from terrible decisions, from COVID-19, from despots and disasters.  No, it is to know that we can always lay back in God’s arms, always speak to Him, always turn to Jesus, listen to the Spirit, aspire to know the Father.

It is in this knowing, much like having a beloved husband or wife, a much-loved friend, or a best friend, that we reach true peace with God and with ourselves.  We can only do the best we can, and, despite all the problems we have, know that God is with us even as we doubt, and, perhaps, if we are really, really lucky; one day Jesus will turn our water into wine.


The Intercessions

We begin our prayers today in this, the week of Christian Unity, with a prayer for the unity of all Christians.

Lord, you invite us to abide in you who are the vinedresser who cares for us with love.
You call on us to see the beauty of each branch united to the vine, the beauty of each person.
And yet, too often the differences in others make us afraid.
We withdraw into ourselves.  
Our trust in you and one another is lost.
Come and direct our hearts toward you once again,
That as one family we may praise your name.

The response we use today in our remaining prayers of intercession is:
Direct us Lord
And we will follow
We pray that the Church may be
A vibrant sign of God’s life
In every generation and locality;
That we may find new ways of serving, listening and loving,
With the human face of ordinary people
Lit with the brightness of God.
Direct us Lord
And we will follow

We pray that the world’s attention
May be refocused on what is of lasting value;
That in humility, all in authority
May hear the real needs,
Honour them and act on them.
Direct us Lord
And we will follow
We pray for every household in our neighbourhood
That we may be alerted to the signs of glory around us
In the ordinary, daily miracles
And come to welcome Jesus as Lord.
Direct us Lord
And we will follow
We pray that all who are searching for meaning in life
May realise God’s closeness to them;
That wrong lives may be courageously righted,
And damaged lives and attitudes healed.
Direct us Lord
And we will follow
We pray for all who are sick at this time,
For those at home remembering today Janet and Mark,
For those in hospital and those who care for them.
That they may know your protection, healing and peace.
And for us all, that we may play our part in protecting others.
Direct us Lord
And we will follow

We pray that the dying may know your presence
And be safely led through that last journey
To the peace and joy of eternal life.
We pray that we may all one day experience
The peace and joy of God’s heaven.
Direct us Lord
And we will follow
In all the changing circumstances of life 
That threaten to pull us down,
We pray that we may become increasingly aware
Of God’s amazing love for each of us,
Until our hearts are overflowing
With thankfulness and praise.
That we may with Paul the apostle,
Whose feast day falls tomorrow:
Rejoice in the Lord always, 
and be content In every circumstance.
Merciful Father
Accept these prayers
For the sake of your Son
Our Saviour Jesus Christ.

This Week’s Notices: Click this link to read the notices.