Church of England Diocese of Bath & Wells Easton-in-Gordano

Third Sunday of Epiphany

24 Jan 2021, midnight
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John 2:1-11 Revelation 19:6-10

Third Sunday of Epiphany

I hope you all like a party; because that’s what features in today’s message! And although we haven’t been able to have our regular parties and celebrations for some time, we all have our memories of parties we’ve been to or organised. One of my memories is of a birthday party for my son. He was still at primary school and of an age when I thought his party should have some more activity in it. Hence the idea of a treasure hunt. I set out to prepare, to identify the clues, and to make the trail as interesting as possible for their age group. I really enjoyed that part! Thankfully, it was a success, the boys all found the clues – in case you wonder: they were in small groups, accompanied by older helpers in case they’d get lost – and reached the final stage with cake and lemonade and anything else that they liked. At the end of May, the weather was pretty good too, so we all had a good time.

In order for a party or any celebration to work, the ‘ingredients’ need to be well prepared and in their proper place. It takes some organisation! So I’m sure we can all empathise with the wedding couple in today’s reading from John’s Gospel when they are threatened with a shortage of wine. It is an interesting story: Jesus and his disciples are there, as is his mother. In those days in rural areas, the whole town would be invited to a wedding and it would have been quite a social disgrace to be the wedding couple ‘who ran out of wine at their wedding’; they wouldn’t be able to live it down! It’s understandable that Mary turns to her son to voice her concern over the matter. Jesus’ reply seems a bit odd, ‘What concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ Mary interprets it in the short term, and tells the servants to do whatever he tells them. But Jesus’ words ‘my hour has not yet come’, more probably refer to the future event of his dying on the cross which is the moment, the hour, when heaven and earth meet as his glory is revealed. Nevertheless, for the immediate relief of human need, Jesus does come to the rescue and performs his first miracle at this wedding, as John writes: ‘on the third day’.

John’s Gospel is written like a treasure hunt. The signs he mentions are the clues to Jesus’ mission and identity. The further we get into the story, the closer we get to the truth. But that’s not all. It’s not ‘just’ a treasure hunt for our entertainment; it’s rather about transformation. The Word become flesh is the creative Word, which changes the fallen human race into the children and people of God, like water into wine. As Jesus says in John chapter 10, he has come ‘that they (you, we) may have life, and have it abundantly.’ Talk about abundance:

The water that Jesus changes into wine is not just a few bottles: it’s a huge quantity: about thirty gallons of it! It’s such a generous amount that it’s probably too much! And of the best quality too, according to the steward who tastes it first.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? The wedding couple who were almost labelled with disgrace, are now to be called those who had a ‘stream of wine’. Talk about being blessed!

It’s a bit like our lives too, once we are touched by Jesus. The effect of Jesus on a person’s life is like this. It’s all transformed: from water to wine, from disgrace to blessing, from emptiness to fulfilment, from death to life. And it won’t even stop there, for we also have an invitation to the ultimate wedding banquet of the Lamb: Revelation 19 is our invitation. It’s got our names on it. We may have to wait for it still, but it’s a party that’s definitely going to happen. So let us rejoice in God’s abundant grace and accept his invitation to his party. Amen.