Sunday, 17 January 2016

Can't make it to church - 17 January 2016

As I looked up at the study clock this morning the temperature was only slightly higher than the time - the garden was covered in snow and the bird feeder were seeing queues of customers. At last Winter has arrived, but only for a moment it seems, and so on this, the second Sunday of Epiphany where many churches will offer you a cold building and (I hope) a warm welcome - what does it hold for those for whom making it to church has become perhaps just a little difficult?

The Old Testament reading greets us with a promise of rescue and provision - one that is as valid for the people around Isaiah listening to his words. People who having returned from exile in Babylon found themselves living in a difficult place enduring hard times indeed. God had left them to their own devices and calamity had been the result, now as returned people, what hope was there?

The answer is that there was hope in a God who cares for His people and acts for their good, which means sometimes letting them reap the 'benefits' and results of their own acts and attitudes, but always keeps a watching eye on them and is ready to respond when the real needs arise. This was true then - this is true now. Each of us will have seen conflict and tragedy, often through our own choices or the choices of others, but here's some good news: Jesus, the Christ, came into the world to recuse us - to redeem us just as God redeemed and restored His people in Isaiah's time. Don't lose hope - trust God and wait patiently for His deliverance.

The 1 Corinthians passage is one people like to point to as evidence of God's provision and yet many of those self same people spend more time telling us where the Spirit isn't than being joyful at where He is! The reality is that God has equipped the Church to be united, effective and active in the world - the problem is that many of us are more concerned with power as the world know is rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. Sitting in every church building today is the answer to every need of Church and the peoples of this world of us. Sitting on every train, in every home, there are people whom God has called to touch communities and speak His love into the darkest of situation. Perhaps, having read this passage, our response should be like Isaiah's when he responded to God's call on his life: "Here I am, send me!" May that be our prayer today and every day.
 - for this is one of the ways in which the deliverance we read of in our first passage comes about - through the ministry and action of a Spirit-filled and enabled people.

Moving on to the Gospel we come to the first of Jesus' miracles: The Wedding Feast - water into wine. This is the first of the seven miracles that John's Gospel sits around. This is what theological types call a 'Creation' miracle - because it shows Jesus' authority of the natural order of things (like calming storms - but there what we have here is a revisiting of our first passage today, for what we have is a rescue mission; this is an example of God 'having made everything right'. Right for the Bridegroom who would have been subject to scorn because he had failed to provide, Right for the guests who found themselves blessed when the expectation was something of poor quality and perhaps poverty. This is exactly what Jesus is looking to do with, and for, us - through direct action and through the inspiration of His Holy Spirit in those who also come to the rescue. So don't lose heart - don't be bowed down by poverty or ill-health, by family breakdowns and exclusion, look to the recuse mission God has planned for you and live expectantly and hopefully.

All in all - a package of hope and joy. Look to God and trust in Him. Rejoice in the fact that we were all once 'far off' but now, by the power of the Christ's death and resurrection, we are reconciled to Him and are known, treasured and called 'beloved'. He is our Alpha and Omega - our beginning and end: He holds us in the palm of His hand and knows our needs and the needs of all people: Look to Him and see your deliverance. The rescue mission is well in hand.

The Collect
Eternal Lord, our beginning and our end: bring us with the whole creation to your glory, hidden through past ages and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Isaiah 62.1-5
The Lord says, “For the good of Zion I will not keep silent. For Jerusalem’s benefit I will not remain quiet.  I will not keep silent until what I will do for them shines like the sunrise. I will not remain quiet until they are saved and shine like a blazing torch.

Jerusalem, the nations will see that I have made everything right for you. All their kings will see your glory. You will be called by a new name. I myself will give it to you. You will be like a glorious crown in my strong hand. You will be like a royal crown in my powerful hand.

People will not call you Deserted anymore. They will no longer name your land Empty. Instead, you will be called One the Lord Delights In. Your land will be named Married One. That’s because the Lord will take delight in you. And your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so your Builder will marry you. As a groom is happy with his bride, so your God will be full of joy over you.”

1 Corinthians 12.1-11
Brothers and sisters, I want you to know about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You know that at one time you were unbelievers. You were somehow drawn away to worship statues of gods that couldn’t even speak. So I want you to know that no one who is speaking with the help of God’s Spirit says, “May Jesus be cursed.” And without the help of the Holy Spirit no one can say, “Jesus is Lord.”
There are different kinds of gifts. But they are all given to believers by the same Spirit.
There are different ways to serve. But they all come from the same Lord.
There are different ways the Spirit works. But the same God is working in all these ways and in all people.  The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in a special way. That is for the good of all.
To some people the Spirit gives a message of wisdom.
To others the same Spirit gives a message of knowledge.
To others the same Spirit gives faith.
To others that one Spirit gives gifts of healing.
To others he gives the power to do miracles.
To others he gives the ability to prophesy.
To others he gives the ability to tell the spirits apart.
To others he gives the ability to speak in different kinds of languages they had not known before.  And to still others he gives the ability to explain what was said in those languages. All the gifts are produced by one and the same Spirit. He gives gifts to each person, just as he decides.

John 2.1-11
On the third day there was a wedding. It took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. 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.”

“Dear woman, why are you telling me about this?” Jesus replied. “The time for me to show who I really am isn’t here yet.” His mother said to the servants, “Do what he tells you.”
Six stone water jars stood nearby. The Jews used water from that kind of jar for special washings. They did that to make themselves pure and “clean.” Each jar could hold 20 to 30 gallons.
Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the top.  Then he told them, “Now dip some out. Take it to the person in charge of the dinner.”

They did what he said. The person in charge tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He didn’t realize where it had come from. But the servants who had brought the water knew. Then the person in charge called the groom to one side. He said to him, “Everyone brings out the best wine first. They bring out the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink. But you have saved the best until now.”
What Jesus did here in Cana in Galilee was the first of his signs. Jesus showed his glory by doing this sign. And his disciples believed in him.

Post Communion Prayer
God of glory, you nourish us with your Word
who is the bread of life: fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

No comments: