Rev Olwen Woolcock

24th January 2021 Third Sunday of Epiphany – The Wedding at Cana

24th January 2021 Third Sunday of Epiphany – The Wedding at Cana

24th January 2021 Third Sunday of Epiphany  – The Wedding at Cana

Feature image: ‘The Wedding at Cana’ by Inigo Hicks   

Video of Service

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Order of Service

Good morning everybody. A warm welcome to our service this morning. In the church calendar we are in the season of Epiphany. This season is about the revelation of Jesus to the world. We proclaim Him as the King of the Nations and the Light of the World. Today we focus on the moment when Jesus’ authority and power is revealed in his first miracle during the wedding at Cana.

We are following a morning prayer liturgy today. You may like to follow and join in with the liturgy on the blog below while listening to the service on the video.   

Morning Prayer for the Epiphany Season

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Your light springs up for the righteous
and all the peoples have seen your glory.

Blessed are you, Sovereign God,
king of the nations,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
your name is proclaimed in all the world.
As the Sun of Righteousness dawns in our hearts
anoint our lips with the seal of your Spirit
that we may witness to your gospel
and sing your praise in all the earth.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Hymn:  Let all the world in every corner sing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfXldoDnvq4
(opens in a new browser page)

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;
let us pray with one heart and mind.

[Silence is kept.]

As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever.
Amen.

Invitation to confession
The grace of God has dawned upon the world
through our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who sacrificed himself for us to purify a people as his own.
Let us confess our sins.

Lord Jesus, you are mighty God and Prince of peace:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you are Son of God and Son of Mary:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you are Word made flesh
and splendour of the Father:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Our sins are forgiven.
May the God of love and power
Forgive and free you from your sins
Heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
And raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Psalm 128 (sung version)

Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever.
Amen.

Reading: Revelation 19: 6-10

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen*, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.”
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

* [ In verse 8: Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.]

HYMN: Lord Jesus Christ

Gospel Reading: 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, 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.
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.

SERMON
The Wedding at Cana.

John Chapter 2 v.11:

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The underlying question to St. John’s gospel is – who is Jesus?

Who is this man, this Jesus, who’s appeared on the scene? What is he? John lays a trail of clues through his gospel – and the story of the wedding feast at Cana is the first significant clue.

This is the first public act of Jesus, turning the water into wine at a local wedding. It sits in John’s gospel as an epiphany moment, a moment of revelation – a moment which invites us to look, to recognise, to understand. 

Jesus and his family and his new disciples are invited to a local wedding.  Anyone who has organised a wedding knows that there are lots of difficult issues and points of possible conflict, who’s going to be invited, where will they sit, who’s paying for what, what are the expectations of the other family. Weddings are a hospitality minefield. And at this particular wedding there’s a crisis brewing because they are running out of wine.

We once went to a cross-cultural wedding where on the wedding day all the assumptions of the bride’s parents about who was coming to the reception got turned upside down by the arrival en masse of the groom’s very large and exuberant West Indian family, some expected and some not. The bride’s family were left trying to make sure there was enough food to go around and hoping that no one was offended, wanting to be hospitable but a bit thrown by it all. You can imagine that there was an element of tension in the air.

And there is tension around at this wedding at Cana, if there isn’t enough wine, the groom is shamed, it may strain relationships between the families or be seen as an omen of bad luck for the newlyweds. All of this is picked up by Jesus’ mother and it lies behind her comment – they have no wine.

But what also lies behind Mary’s comment is her inner knowledge that Jesus could do something about it. Jesus’ mother knows within herself something of the power and possibility that is in Jesus – as yet unseen, unexpressed.  

And so, we watch – looking for clues – to see what will happen next – and it’s in this slightly fraught domestic setting that Jesus is revealed. An ordinary occasion, a family wedding, not a matter of life or death – but after the prompting of his mother, Jesus chooses to intervene. He instructs the servants to fill the water jars used for rites of purification – they hold 20-30 gallons each – and take some to the master of ceremonies. His surprised response to the groom is ‘but you have kept the good wine until now…’

The clue that John gives us is the changing of the water into wine. This is the sign – but how do we interpret it? What’s the answer on this occasion to the question – who is Jesus?

The answer is not that Jesus is a miracle worker, a man who can change water into wine as though it were some kind of magic trick, like the alchemists of old who tried to turn base metals into gold. 

Rather – the interpretation of the sign and the answer to the question, who is Jesus? – is that Jesus is the one who transforms. The transformation that takes place in lives and situations when Jesus is present. The water was changed into wine and a fizzle of a wedding was turned into a never to be forgotten, high as a kite celebration.

A dearth was changed into an abundance, a lack was transformed into more than enough, overflowing. Water, colourless and tasteless is changed into rich red wine – fruity, silky, flavours bouncing off the tongue, heady and intoxicating.  

This is what John wants us to understand and what you and me and the society that we live in needs to hear. That Jesus will transform people’s lives and experience. Where there is pointlessness, emptiness and loss there will be grace upon grace, abundance and richness. Through Jesus bitterness can be turned to forgiveness, despair and no hope gives way to hope and possibility. No belief in oneself becomes calling and purpose, sickness becomes health. This is the transformation that Jesus coming among us has made to the narrative of life itself.  

We are being invited to discover that Jesus is the one who turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane into the exciting, the everyday into the extra special, the nothing into something. The little, that which is running out – into God’s plenty and overflowing abundance – in this instance 180 gallons of fine wine.

And John tells us that all this happened on the third day – the clues are there again – because it is on the third day that Jesus through his death on a cross will transform death to life – and will transform the demands of the old Judaic law, the Torah, on a people – into God’s overflowing grace for all people.  His action is not a conjuring trick – it is a glimpse of his ‘hour that has not yet come’.

Jesus changes the water into wine and through this sign reveals his glory because it is the very nature of Jesus to transform. The lives of the disciples, who had just met Jesus and went off to the wedding with him – would be transformed. As would the lives of the lepers he touched, the sick, the possessed, the tax collectors, prostitutes, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Zaccheus, the woman at the well, the widow of Nain, Jairus whose daughter was ill, the Syro- Phoenician woman, St. Paul, Luke the gospel writer, Lydia who dyed purple cloth, St Augustine, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Joan of Arc, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, Mother Theresa and you and me.

In the midst of this difficult time this is a truth about Jesus to remember – that he is still transforming lives day on day. The pandemic can not defeat the truth of who Jesus is and what Jesus brings to those who put their faith and trust in him.

That goes for us too. Living our limited lives and aware of the devastation and trouble this virus is causing to so many, it is easy to get bogged down and feel bleak. Last week we spoke of the need to look after ourselves and tend our wellbeing.  Yet whatever is going on outside of us, within us we can know that change. The miracle of the water turned into wine. In our prayer and in our turning again to Jesus – we can discover that Jesus transforms anxiety and worry and despair into hope and vision and motivation.   

So let us pray.

Lord Jesus – we can all feel like we are running out of wine – out of resources – for the situation at hand.  Provide for us we pray, give us a sense of your overflowing blessing toward us, renew our faith, give us hope.

RESPONSORY
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is King.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
Tell out his salvation from day to day.
Let the whole earth tremble before him.
Declare his glory among the nations
and his wonders among all peoples.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.

THE PEACE
Christ is our peace.
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.
The old has passed away: behold, everything has become new.

The peace of the Lord be with you

Let us hold one another in the peace of Christ in a moment of prayer.

HYMN:  King of glory king of peace

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

God our creator and provider
we bring you our thanks and praise.
Everything we have and all that we are
flow from your goodness.
Jesus, worker of miracles,
we bring you our thanks and praise.
When our faith or our imagination fail us
you have the power to bless and multiply and transform.
Spirit of life and joy,
we bring you our thanks and praise.
You draw us into community and friendship.
You invite and provoke and inspire.
Three-in-one God,
We bring you ourselves.
Knowing that our lives and our fears and our desires
are an open book before you.
Trusting in your unconditional welcome
We confess that sometimes
it’s not until we get to the end of our own resources,
that we turn to you.
Where we see only what ourselves and others lack,
Surprise us with your generous abundance.
Into our emptiness, pour your grace.
Fill us to overflowing.
And that this time of crisis empire our Governments as they make difficult decisions on our behalf. Show us the best way we can love, honour and serve others using the gifts we have be given by Your transforming love.
We lift to You our families, friends, and neighbours – those we have met, and those we have not yet met.

Those who are lonely, anxious, afraid, those trying to adapt to living an uncertain life in lockdown . Those grappling with pressures of work or no work, home schooling , shortages of money and food and ill health.
We pray especially for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
We lift up to You the work of NHS. A precious resource which has transformed the health of our nation over the last 73 years. We ask you to renew and strengthen those staff who are physically and mentally drained.

May we always start, continue and end each day with God, giving thanks for His presence here among us, in our gifts, and in our lives – and let us thus serve God and those around us, our lives being given to us by Him and transformed by Him.
In the name of God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

THE COLLECT
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 LORD’S PRAYER
Believing the promises of God,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.   Amen


BLESSING
Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory
and gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom;
and the blessing …

HYMN: Christ Triumphant ever reigning

May Christ, who sends us to the nations,
give us the power of his Spirit.
Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.


Joseph Rheinberger: Cantilene (uit Sonate 11)

2 thoughts on “24th January 2021 Third Sunday of Epiphany – The Wedding at Cana

  1. Chris & Sara Barrett

    Thank you Olwen, Christine and Caroline, very much appreciated the service from the wonderful illustration of the Wedding at Cana to the organ piece at the end!

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