Thought for the DayJune Hardcastle, Licensed Lay Minister

Sunday 16 January 2022
2nd Sunday after Epiphany

June Hardcastle
Licensed Lay Minister

To download this 'Thought For The Day' as a PDF document, visit the Previous Thoughts page.

Old Testament Reading from  Isaiah  (chapter 62  v1-5)

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;  but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder[e] marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

New Testament Reading from  1 Corinthians  (chapter 12  v1-11)

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.  Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’  and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Gospel Reading from  John  (chapter 2  v1-11)

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’  And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.’  His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’  Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’  And they filled them up to the brim.  He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’  So they took it.  When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk.  But you have kept the good wine until now.’  Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory;  and his disciples believed in him.

A Reflection – The Wedding at Cana of Galilee

I knew Nigel’s mother for 47 years before she died.  In all that time, I never heard her give a brief outline of a story.  For example, what could have been said as …

“I was in the town and bumped into Daphne.  We had a bit of a chat and came back together on the bus.”

would have been something like this:

“I caught the 33 bus from the end of the road this morning.  The bus was five minutes late and crowded but someone got up and gave me a seat.  It took much longer than usual because of all the roadworks on Tilehurst Road.  You would be amazed at how dreadful the pavements are in Friar Street.  I am going to write a letter to the council.  Someone will have an accident along there unless something is done.  I went into W.H. Smith and … and … and …”

I am sure you get the picture!

The Lectionary Gospel story for today is rather like that.  What could have been recorded as …

“Jesus went to a wedding.  The wine ran out.  He performed a miracle so there was plenty of wine and everyone said it was the best wine of the celebration.”

But what we do have is the story told in 233 words over 11 verses.  And there are many sermons to be preached from that – many themes which could carry us into different directions.

  • At the outset we are given a time frame:  on the Third Day.  To those of us ‘in the know’ about the whole story of Jesus, there is more than an echo forward in time to the Resurrection.  Much to be said about how this story, the wedding at Cana, links with ‘On the third day He rose again’.
  • Or there is the place name Cana.  It has a meaning of the intertwining of many strands and within that meaning two uses.  The first is reeds and twigs which a bird uses to make its nest.  And the second is acts of trade which combine together to make a flourishing economy.  An interesting possible reflection there on how this – as John puts it, the first of the Signs of who Jesus is – how this miracle reassures us that he prepares a home for us, as the nesting birds prepares for its chicks – and how this miracle assures us that what He does will lead to abundance.
  • Or what about this view it gives us of Mary?  Mary … not much referred to in our Methodist Way of Life and Worship, or in main stream Church of England, except at Christmas … and our vision of her character often limited by her image on Christmas cards:  eyes down, head covered.  Yet here in this story she counters Jesus’s not wanting to be involved with her taking control and summoning the servants.  This is a woman not afraid to speak up, a woman not afraid to take the lead, a woman who is confident.  Much to be explored there!
  • Or what about those stone pots which were for the Rites of Purification?  I could tell you more about those than you would probably want to know!
  • Or there is also the significance of there being six water pots.  Much to say about that, but just to summarise:

After six days God rested and saw that everything was good.  After six days completion.
Moses and Joshua went up to Mount Sinai where the glory of the Lord rested on them for six days.  After six days God called Moses to enter the cloud’s midst for forty days and nights.  There, after six days, he saw the glory of God on the top of the mountain.

The sixth chapter of Joshua is where we read that Joshua and the Israelites were told to march around Jericho once a day for six days, with the priests blowing their trumpets.  And that after six days the people were to march around Jericho again with the priests and trumpets, and then shout, so the city walls would fall down.

In Mark’s recording of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark’s gospel, chapter 9) the story starts with:  after six days – we are immediately alerted to expect a close encounter of the God kind.

So the number six – we know that a close encounter with God, and seeing him at work, is about to happen.

And other reflections … those of you who are preachers will be able to spot those, but I think those are sufficient to show how much there is in this story.

The question now is: what message do I bring to you today from this story at the wedding in Cana of Galilee?

Let us focus on this.  How was this miracle performed?  Jesus told the servants to fill the six stone pots with water.  And it was the water that was changed into wine.

Why, why, why?  Why get the servants to go to the bother of filling up those pots, when surely Jesus could just by a click of his fingers have had them filled with wine.

Jesus uses the most common element of our human life – water.  The most needful but surely the least exciting, the most ordinary substance.

As He is able to change water into the very best wine of the feast, He is able to so work within us,  all of us – for whom He stretched out his arms on blood-soaked planks of wood, that we become the very embodiment of the prophecy of Isaiah – which we heard in the Old Testament reading:

“You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hands,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”

It is as it is written in 2 Corinthians chapter 4:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;  we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed.
For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

Just as that water in earthen vessels became the finest wine of the feast, so the treasure which is us – in these human vessels – will be a splendour by the hand of the Lord.  Do take home your hand out for today.  Keep it where you can keep coming upon it.  Know the truth of it.

One of the enduring hymns of our faith – Love Divine, all loves excelling – has the magnificent last verse:

      Finish, then, Thy new creation
      Pure and spotless let us be.
      Let us see Thy great salvation
      Perfectly restored in Thee.
      Changed from glory into glory
      Till in heaven we take our place,
      Till we cast our crowns before Thee
      Lost in wonder, love and praise.

Have faith that the Lord, who turned water into wine, is changing us – so that, day by day, we are more and more the embodiment of who He has destined us to be.

Don’t look on your imperfections, on your slowness to learn from Him, and your (sometimes) reluctance to follow.

Look only on Him who is able and who never turns aside from anyone who comes to Him.   Amen.

The Collect Prayer

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.