Tag: Epiphany 2C

New Wine

Lay Sermon, Epiphany 2C, St Petriwaterintowine
17 January, 2016.

New Wine

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.”

“Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour 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.[b]

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 10 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.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Audio Message Lay Read by Jacqui Will 17/01/2016

PRAYER: Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may know you better.

Doctor Anthony Campolo is a Baptist minister, psychologist, writer and Christian thinker. He tells a story about being truly alive…

Campolo says….
“Several years ago I taught a course at the university of Pennsylvania entitled, ”Existentialism and Sociologism”. One semester, on the first day of class, I pointed to an unsuspecting student and startled him when I asked, “How long have you lived?” The student was taken back by the question and answered, “Well, I’m twenty two years old.”

“No! No! No!” I said. “What you’ve told me is how long your heart has been pumping blood. My question was, how long have you lived?”

The student looked puzzled and couldn’t quite grasp what I was talking about. I then told him this story of something special that happened to me when I was in year 9 and our class went on a trip to New York city…

We were taken up to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City, and, like most boys my age, I was more interested in chasing girls and crawling around the observation area. But suddenly I caught myself! I walked to the railing and peered over the edge of the building. The magnificence of the skyscrapers of New York lay before me and I stood there, stunned into reverence. In one mystical moment, I absorbed the city. I gazed at it with such intensity that if I were to live for a million years that moment would still be part of my consciousness. I was so fully alive at that moment that I sensed is had become part of my everlasting now”.

Then I looked at the student, I again posed the question, “How long have you lived?”

My student answered pensively, “When you put it that way, Doc, maybe I have lived a couple of minutes. I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Most of my life has been the meaningless passage of time between all too few moments of genuine aliveness.”

Enter Jesus. He’s at a wedding. He is going to do something that will bring the place and planet alive. It the first of seven signs in John’s gospel of God’s new kingdom.

We have heard it before. Jesus is going to change water into wine. “Big deal”, we might say! What’s that got to do with me? We might even ask why John even bothers recording this particular event. Even more; why is it enough for the new disciples upon witnessing this event to “believe”. John tells us they do: “….and his disciples believed in him”.

After this event, which John calls a “sign”, the people around Jesus are ‘in’. They have caught themselves and taken a peek over the edge of their lives and their understanding and they are alive like they have never been before. They ‘get’ the sign, and they like the boy at the Empire State Building “catch themselves” in the moment. They are “stunned into awe” as the young boy was. Up until now they had been drinking the cheap copy wine – but now they have drunk the new wine.

Dr Campolo’s student said that his life seemed like “the meaningless passage of time between all too few moments of genuine aliveness”. Is this true for many of us as we go about our daily life? Maybe sometimes it is and other times it is not. Sometimes we know the presence of Jesus and know we are very much alive in him. At other times, his presence seems a long way away and we feel a certain barrenness to spiritual life.

Why can my life seem like “the meaningless passage of time between all too few moments of genuine aliveness” as that student said?

There are probably a lot or reasons why this can be our experience. But whatever the reasons for our spiritual dryness, in this first sign of Jesus’ goodness we are invited to catch ourselves and peer over the edge of our understanding, our faith, our behaviour, and our whole life and grasp the new wine that gives new life.

This event is really all about those big water jars. It is all about those 6 big stone jars and what Jesus does with the water in those jars.

Those jars were there for a reason. In any Jewish house and at any Jewish celebration, water was used to make sure all the numerous rituals for washing cutlery, plates, cups, arms, legs, heads were kept to the letter. Those jars and the water they contained were an instrument of God’s law and were used for keeping the Law.

Any one of us who might happen to stand outside a Islamic mosque would see this ritual washing and keeping of the Law in action today. Muslim men will wash their head, arms, legs, feet and even other parts right out there in the after fountain or pool provided before entering the Mosque to pray. A person makes one’s self clean before being in the presence of God….so some believe.

Those 6 large clay jars were all about this kind of washing. They meant endless ritual purification to win God’s favour and blessing in your life. They equalled a life of activity and effort to find God, keep him happy and stay out of trouble; a self-serving life in the end, a prison of law keeping and insecurity about how God feels about us.

Jesus flooded those jars with a new thing. That was the first sign of more to come. Jesus transformed that water and all it meant in people’s lives with a new wine – a new joy. He turned that water’s law keeping purpose into the wine of celebration of the new feast of life by faith in him. The time for ritual cleansing had passed; the time for celebration and a new way of being in God’s favour and blessing had begun.

God said to that wedding couple, Mary and the disciples and those servants who saw the miracle, no more need for performance to win my approval. There is no need to try and wash yourself clean before coming into my presence because I have already washed you clean whiter than snow in your baptism and ever since!

In other words, in this sign Jesus gives he says, “I approve of you. You are partnered to my beloved Son, the Bridegroom. I’m here with you, celebrating, saving you from shame, joining with you in celebration. The banquet of joy is yours”.

The other thing about this sign is the vast amount of grace involved. Jesus turns about 500 litres of water into the same amount of good wine! God’s generosity is over-the top and enough to last a very long time.

We live in this sign. We live in the new wine of Grace where the Creator and Sustainer of all life re-creates and sustains us all in his over-the-top generosity.

So, as a dearly loved person in Christ my life is not about the meaningless passage of time between alive moments. My life is not about fearing God in the sense of being unsure of his intentions or approval. He has shown me he is sure about me – he loves me! As a result my life is not at all about appeasing him or gaining his approval by endless unsure acts of good behaviour. He pours the news wine of forgiveness and life into us and with that comes hope and joy.

He is alive. He is grace. He is forgiveness. He is acceptance. He is the new and best wine. Our lives are alive in God’s forgiveness, approval, calling, power, strength and victory. We face the world with an aliveness that can only come from the God of the universe who loves me forever. Of this I can be sure. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, tells St Paul (Romans 8).

Just as God said he would do, he has married us and marriage is for life as far as God is concerned. ”As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will delight in you his bride” (Isaiah 62:5).

As we all make a start together in this new year there is a challenge for us who live in the new wine of the Spirit of Christ. Jesus also says that the new wine of the Spirit needs new containers to hold it– new wineskins in which the new wine can live and develop properly. He says that this new wine of the Spirit requires new containers in order for the new wine and the container that hold it lasts and ages well (Matthew 9:17).

How is your relationship with Jesus? In sync? Interdependent? In touch? A relationship of daily trust; listening, speaking?

However you are at the moment, the good news is that the sign continues. Jesus keeps on pouring! He is the sort of host who will never let your glass run dry. He is the host that never holds out on giving the best stuff to his guests. He’s not stingy or self-concerned about keeping what’s his. He pours out the best wine of forgiveness, reconciliation, love and joy all the time in his meal where he gives himself to his people for the good of all.

If you’re feeling a little brittle, old, dry, closed, guilty, angry, tired, powerless, then take the new wine today. If you have been closed to what the Spirit is doing in you, then repent and seek his new wine today. If you have fallen into judging people, keeping what’s yours, being all uptight and too concerned with your honour and standing among others, let the Spirit give you new standing and honour with the Lord of all lords today – the most important guest at every meal and the third party in any relationship.

Drink in the new wine of Christ this morning and live in sync with the Spirit everyday, relying on the Spirit’s power and grace to keep you new, open, selfless and filled with all his good gifts.

May we, body, mind and spirit
live in thanks throughout our days
then the heavenly joy inherit
where we sing our endless praise.

Amen

Marriage: Seeing what Jesus is making of you

Sermon, Epiphany 2C, Sunday January 20th, 2013.married couple train tracks

St Petri

 Isaiah 62:5

5 As a young man marries a young woman,

so will your Builder marry you;

as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

so will your God rejoice over you.

John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

 4 “Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 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 10 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.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him.

The very first sign that Jesus gave to people about the reality of God’s kingdom breaking into their lives is given at a wedding – in the little town of Cana.

This is not surprising. When you look through the Bible at the many references to weddings and marriage that the biblical writers use to describe and proclaim the good news of God’s love for human beings, it is easy to see that marriage is an especially good way to speak of the Kingdom breaking in on us. Weddings are joyful. So is the gospel. Wedding celebrate life and relationships. So does the gospel. So we as Jesus’ “Bride”, the church, celebrate the same when we share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone.

In the New Testament we hear that our life in Christ is a never-ending wedding feast. We are “married” by faith, to the Bridegroom. We are God’s church, God’s community, called The Bride, for whom he died and rose and lives. Men are called to be like Jesus for their wives – giving up their own lives in loving kindness and service to their wives, says Paul…..

Even just by being at this wedding and doing this sign of God’s presence breaking into people’s lives Jesus strongly affirms the gift of marriage.

Marriage is a hot topic and an ever present challenge to many people in our time. Generally speaking we are not doing too well with marriage. We all know the difficulties in our own families and in our own lives, not to mention that statistics of failed marriages.

It is no surprise that those married can often fall into bed, exausted at the end of a long day and proclaim with St Paul that “Marriage is a great mystery!” It is glorious and God ordained and it is hard.

This sign at the Cana wedding is one significant indication, along with the many in Scripture, that marriage is a very great gift of God for human beings. Some would say, according to God, that this relationship is above all other human relationships.

But not everyone believes this or lives like this in our day. Marriage is in decline in the West. It has been for forty years or more. Among many people there is a deep pessimism about marriage. “They were doing alright until they got married”, I have heard said more than once.

This pessimism and fear of marriage comes from a big shift in how we approach marriage.

Generally speaking, it used to be that the purpose of marriage was to create a framework for life-long devotion and love between and man and a woman – a solemn bond designed to help the two people put away their own desires and interests for the sake of the relationship and one’s whole family and indeed, the whole community in which people lived.

In these times, marriage has become something else. Instead of finding meaning as a person through self-denial, giving up one’s own freedoms for sake of the other, and binding oneself deliberately to the responsibilities of marriage and family, marriage now is more about emotional and sexual fulfilment for the purpose of self-fulfilment or finding one’s self.

Generally, put briefly: people marry not to fulfil a calling or responsibilities to God, to family and community but for themselves. Marriage used to be entered into for the good of the other and the common good of all. Now it is more a private arrangement for the satisfaction of individuals.

The problem with the newer view is that it puts a crushing burden of expectation on marriage. As a result those considering marriage are often caught between both unrealistic expectations and longing for marriage at the same time terrible fears about marriage.

Today people are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfils all our needs, at the same time as needing very little or nothing from us. We are searching for a low maintenance person to meet all my needs. This search has been called the search for the “Me-Marriage”.

The truth is that this is just not possible! To expect your partner to be everything you need her to be without you having to change and compromise is impossible. To expect him to provide everything you need and fulfil all your hopes and dreams without you having to give something and be something is impossible.

Men, you will never find the perfect babe who accepts you just the way you are so you do not have to change a thing. Women, you will never find a man who can provide all you want and need in life without any investment on your part.

Simply put, we are asking too much of our marriage partner these days.

On the other hand, a lot of people want too little out of marriage. They are deeply scared of marriage. A lot of people are so frightened about marriage that they do just about anything to make sure a relationship cannot happen. They become picky, picky, picky! “I want someone who will accept me just as I am, but I know that there are plenty of things within me that need to change, and anyone who gets too close will see this and out of love will want to change me!” So, I will avoid relationships getting too close.

The problem with wanting too little out of marriage is that you end up with a stone-walled heart. You heart will never be broken, but your heart will never beat either….

Just like Jesus, the Bridegroom, and we, the Bride, the church are incompatible until Jesus gives his life for us and serves us and forgiveness us and makes us acceptable and beautiful to God in the process, so no two people are totally compatible. No two people can meet each other’s needs totally. Why?

1. They are broken imperfect people who have a natural self-centredness. We all are imperfect, rough at the edges, full of life experiences that have hurt and damaged us when we meet our partner.

2. When you commit to marriage (usually when you get engaged) you immediately change. So, we never really know who we marry. The person you meet is now different. Something has changed already.

3. And then, you can’t really know your partner of the future until you get there. Even if you choose to live together before you get married, you can’t really know the person you marry until you marry and until you get to the     future together.

So marriage really is ”learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married (Meaning of Marriage, T. Keller, p 38). The way to re-think and re-calibrate our heart to marriage so that we are not wanting too much or too little from our partner is what Jesus did to bring us into union with him.

This first sign at a wedding is the beginning of all he has done to bring us into union with him. He gave himself for us like he gave this water and turned it into wine for the people present. He poured his life out like a drink offering to God for the sake of the community he loves. He died to his own interests and needs (Romans 15:1-3) and instead, served us with self-giving compassion and kindness bringing us into a relationship with our heavenly Father so intimate that we speak to the God of all creation and power with his name, “Papa”.

The good news of Jesus and the gift of marriage from God explain each other.  As a Christian you can see marriage how it is meant to be. Your experience of marriage will unveil the depth of Jesus’ love and hope and will drive you to rely on him more for your marriage. Your awareness and understanding of the gospel will help you experience a deeper love and commitment to you marriage partner.

Friends, we who believe in this Jesus who attended and blessed weddings, and still does, do not have to make a choice between being personally fulfilled in our marriage relationship or sacrificing ourselves to the point that we have no personal fulfilment in our relationships. He tells us that we can enjoy mutual fulfilment through mutual sacrifice.

We don’t have load up our partners with totally unrealistic and therefore, crushing expectations but simply apply ourselves to learning to love the gift that he/she is from God.

We do not have to be scared of marriage, as we if we are doomed to fail or that we will not be good enough at it. The reality is that you are not good enough at it and you will not be good enough at it, but with the wine-maker, Jesus, his Word in your heart and life, he will be good enough for you both as you apply his pattern of self-sacrificing love and the joy that comes from it in the long term. By seeking him and his good wine of forgiveness, hope, joy, wisdom and inner strength, you will experience the transforming love of God for you and your marriage partner – your companion for life.

As a young man marries a young woman,

so will your Builder marry you;

as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

so will your God rejoice over you.