A reflection for the 24th January 2021
3rd Sunday of Epiphany

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Offered for Sunday 24th January 2021


Stephen

Reflections Script

3rd Sunday of Epiphany

January 24th 2021


Of all the faith communities
in the world,
the Christian faith is from a
certain perspective
the most materialistic.

This is because our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ
uses things; things we can
touch and taste and feel;
in order to bring us his blessing.

In baptism it is by water
that we are symbolically cleansed
and acknowledged by Christ,
becoming members of the
body of Christ and the Church.

In our re-enactment of
'The Last Supper' Jesus
uses bread and wine.
It is through them we are reminded
of what he achieved
for us on the cross.
"This my body", he says,
"this is my blood."

In our remembering we become
one with him and he with us.
Christianity also uses material
things from the ring
at a wedding to the
oil of healing placed on the
forehead or the touch of a
Bishop's hand at confirmation.

All these material things
are the outward and visible signs
of inward and spiritual grace.


Let us Pray


Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the vine
and we are the branches;
Help us to grow
towards your light;
feed, nurture, direct and
transform us for the sake
of your church which is
rooted in your divine
love and grace.
Cut away our misguided
attitudes which can act
as barriers' to your
transforming love being
experienced by others.
Gentle Lord; direct us again
to your cross and its
transforming power.
Drench us with
the dew of heaven
that we may bring forth
new fruit and transforming
your Church and the
community in which we live
Amen.


Address


Many familiar stories involve
'Transformation'.

Take Cinderella, for instance.
Her fairy godmother transformed
Cinderella from rags into riches,
so she could attend the
prince's ball.

Her transformation, though,
was purely external:
underneath her new
expensive attire,
Cinderella was still the same poor,
downtrodden girl.
However, the pumpkin in the story
was transformed at a deeper level.
The Pumkin changed internally
as well as externally,
transforming its nature
completely and metamorphosing
into something completely new,
a beautiful and elegant stagecoach.?

In John 2: 1 to 11 where Jesus
turns water into wine this
also involved a transformation;
like the change to the pumpkin
in Cinderella, this transformation
was not simply external;
the water didn't just
look like wine;
it really become wine
and not just any wine
it was 'The Best of Wines!'.

Even though this was
incredibly impressive,
it was not this transformation
that most interested
our Gospel writer John.

He believed Jesus' miracles
were signs pointing to
something important
about Christ.
The miracle of water
into wine John believed
symbolised the transformation
Jesus was going to bring
to the Jewish State,
religion, and people.

A transformation that was
going to involve more than
external change and
a bit of modification.

The changes Christ would
bring were to be revolutionary,
and it was this that
most excited John.

Our miracle occurs at the
watershed between the private life
Jesus shared with his family
and the start of his public ministry.
Jewish weddings were a
major event and the celebrations
went on for many days.
As the mother of Jesus
was involved in issuing
instructions to the servants,
it is likely this was a wedding
of a relative of Mary
and she had arrived at the
celebrations before Jesus
and his disciples.

Their arrival may have caused
the shortage of wine:
guests were expected to bring
some drink with them
and it's possible Jesus
and his disciples failed to do so
due to limited finances.

The water that was transformed
stood in six stone jars.
This water would have been used
by the guests to carry out
the ritual washing required
by their religious regulations
both before and after eating,
scholars believe John intended
us to understand this water as
symbolising the shortcomings
of Jewish legalism.

The number six may also
be of significance,
as it was one short
of the number considered whole
and complete by the Jews and
could signify the author's
belief the people of God
were not yet perfect.

The amount of wine this
miracle produced is immense,
at least 120 gallons,
far more than was needed
to satisfy the guests.

This, together with the steward's
comments about the bridegroom
leaving the best wine till last,
all point to the idea of Jesus
coming to bring something
far better than what had gone before.

So how did Jesus transform
the religious ideas of his day?
Firstly, purification rituals
only cleansed the outside
and not the inside of a person.

Even laws governing moral
behaviour such as the
Ten Commandments could not
alter humanity's sinful
inner nature.

Christ, though, gave his Holy Spirit
to empower us so we might
overcome our weaknesses
and be renewed from within.?

Secondly, the rules and
regulations of a legalistic faith
only brought condemnation, for,
as the Apostle Paul explains
in his letters,
nobody can manage to keep
the Law perfectly.

Indeed, a purpose of the Law
was to show how high God's
standards are so we realise
just how far short
of them we fall.

Christ, however, brought
forgiveness, a slate wiped clean,
so we can come with confidence
to God through his
superabundant grace.

Christianity, is not like the
old way of following rules
and regulations which may
make us appear pretty virtuous
to others, but,
like Cinderella under her
elegant ball gown,
leave us unaltered beneath.

It's possible to do a lot of
worthy things whilst at the
same time knowing little of
God's transforming presence
and even to deceive ourselves
we have somehow earned God's
love by our adherence to
such rules rather than
through his completely
undeserved and unrestricted grace.

This miracle shows that
Jesus offers a new and better way.
We would be foolish to stay with the old.
To do so would be like wedding
guests who opt for a glass of
cloudy water over the finest wine.

It would be as bewildering as
Cinderella refusing the exquisite
stagecoach and demanding
the pumpkin back.

Christ does not want us to stay
with the old.
He wants to transform us
from within.
We should not settle
for anything less.


To Summarise

Miracles in John's Gospel
are viewed as signs which tell us
more about Christ.

Turning water into wine
indicated Jesus was going
to transform the rituals
of faith for something better.

This was because no one
could manage to keep the
Jewish Law fully due to the
shortcomings of human nature,
but Christ enables us to
change from within through
the help of his Holy Spirit.

Also, cleansing rituals
could not wash away sin,
but Christ brought a complete
forgiveness that cleansed
people both inside and out.

Christianity goes much deeper
than the following of rules
and regulations;
it is a transforming
relationship with Christ.


Our Blessing


God of power,
may the boldness of your Spirit
transform us,
may the gentleness of your
Spirit lead us,
may the gifts of your
Spirit equip us to serve
and worship you
now and always as Father
Son and Holy Spirit.

And the blessing of God almighty.....


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