Water into Wine

Jesus, come! for we invite you,

Guest and Master, Friend and Lord;

now, as once at Cana’s wedding,

speak, and let us hear your word:

lead us through our need or doubting,

hope be born and joy restored…Amen

I’ve just quoted the first verse of  the 20TH CENTURY Epiphany hymn by Christopher Idle. I hadn’t come across it before.

The words seem so appropriate for today.

Of course they focus on today’s reading- the wedding at Cana, but the words, ‘lead us through our need or doubting, hope be born and joy restored’ speak to me while we struggle during the 3rd lockdown and the terrible weather and flooding many have been suffering around the country.

The words of the hymn continue:

Jesus, come! transform our pleasures,

guide us into paths unknown;

bring your gifts, command your servants,

let us trust in you alone:

though your hand may work in secret,

all shall see what you have done.

Jesus, come in new creation,

heaven brought near by power divine;

give your unexpected glory

changing water into wine:

rouse the faith of your disciples

come, our first and greatest sign!

Rouse the faith of your disciples – today we are all disciples together and as we reflect on this, Jesus first miracle, I pray our faith will also be roused and encouraged and hope revived.

Today we have All Age worship so I wanted to involve the youngest child and grandparents in the service. So I am recording this for all those who have chosen to stay at home during the lockdown and this very cold weather. The talk should also be available to download.

 Meanwhile…

In church, I am asking the children to help me (socially distanced, of course,) to work out how much water Jesus really changed from water into finest quality wine. One bucketful? Two bucketsful? 10 bucketsful? No that’s the number of buckets needed for 1 water jar! So, 6 water jars is 60 buckets full of water changed into the best wine!

The final verse goes like this:

Jesus, come! surprise our dullness,

make us willing to receive

more than we can yet imagine,

all the best you have to give:

let us find your hidden riches,

taste your love, believe, and live!

Jesus come! Surprise our dullness.

Yes, I think many of us are finding our lives dull at present- staying at home, not able to visit one another, not able to shop til we drop, no live entertainment, no visits to the pub, no dining out, And in this weather, not much opportunity for walks on the moor, in fact stuck in doors to keep safe, but life can be  very dull.

I am sure life was pretty routine for the disciples too before they met Jesus. They hadn’t witnessed any healing miracles by the time they went to the wedding, only Mary at the wedding, knew of Jesus true nature and ability, so I wonder what was going through the disciples’ minds when they heard their rabbi order the 6 water jars to be filled up to the brim – bucketful after bucketful  of water. But by waiting and watching, Jesus revealed his glory to them, transforming what was about to become a very dull party, with nothing to drink… to the most amazing celebration imaginable.

I want to try to transform your thoughts even more.

My ‘dull’ mind was surprised and delighted in church 2 weeks ago whilst listening to Wendy’s PowerPoint presentation on the baptism of Christ – beginning with some facts about water: how many gallons of water are needed under natural conditions  to produce one slice of bread…11 gallons and so on….finally how much water is needed to water the vines in a vineyard (and so on) to produce, under natural conditions 1 gallon of wine…..she told us (and I believe her and the scientific calculation) 1008 gallons.

In the church on a freezing cold morning, I sat there amazed. Maybe I should have danced for joy, or shouted eureka! But that’s how it felt!

Why, you may ask? I’m afraid our minds can be quite dull and often incapable of believing that Nothing is Impossible for God and often theologians try to explain away the impossible, the supernatural, with a more natural, rational explanation.

I’ve heard this in the past: What Jesus was doing was ‘just speeding up the natural process.’

For example, the natural process of healing – like pressing the button on the remote to fast forward the movie – he speeds up the healing process. Similarly with the transformation of water into wine, he’s just speeding up the natural process of rain falling on the vines to produce grapes and then the fermentation process to produce wine.

During Wendy’s talk, I realised the nonsense of this argument – Those water jars contained a lot of water – each 20-30 gallons, but altogether only a maximum of 180 gallons! That’s nothing like 1008 gallons of water required under natural processes to produce just 1 gallon of wine, in fact it is just over a pints worth. 3 glasses of wine? That would have gone completely unnoticed at the wedding. Instead, Jesus transformed the dull, ordinary everyday water into the equivalent of at least 900 bottles of the best wine, demonstrating to the disciples how he is able to transform our dullness, giving us hope, and abundant life, both now,  and as we abide with him for ever.

Jesus, come! surprise our dullness,

make us willing to receive

more than we can yet imagine,

all the best you have to give:

let us find your hidden riches,

taste your love, believe, and live!

Amen

New Year 2021

Today, anticipating the Epiphany on 6th January, we remember the Wisemen bringing their gifts to the child Jesus. They were foreigners and Magi – the intellectual, scientific and religious experts of the day, but they obeyed the summons; admitted that for all their wisdom they needed guidance. They humbled themselves; and they were open to changing their plans. And they brought as gifts the most costly and precious things they had.

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Remembrance Sunday 2020

Psalm 46: A reading for Remembrance and Lockdown 2020

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

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Simon the Pharisee, a woman, and St Luke

I expect that most of us have been to a meal or a party at a friend’s or a relative’s house. We would have been invited with a spoken or a written invitation. When we knocked at the door it would have been opened and we would have been welcomed and our coats taken. We would have been shown in and at some point told where the bathroom or toilet was. When the time came for the meal, if it wasn’t an informal buffet balancing food on our laps, we would have been invited to sit on chairs at a dining table with knives and forks set out before us. And if a neighbour turned up that had not been invited then they would not have been let in.

But if you were going to a meal at a friend’s house in Jesus’ time and country things would
happen somewhat differently. When you arrived you would be greeted with a kiss of welcome, some water would be provided to wash your dirty feet, along with some oil or scent for your head to freshen you up in the hot climate. When the time came for the meal – as it was warm – it would be outside in the courtyard in the shade. And you would not have chairs or cutlery. You would eat reclining, resting on your left arm and using bread in your right hand to scoop up your food. And if there was a famous person present, people who were not invited were perfectly at liberty to drop in to listen to the conversation. That courtyard would have been a bit like a medieval banqueting hall where the important and the plebs were all together.

Remember that background and you may understand our Gospel reading a little bit better – Luke 7:36-50.

At that meal and in that courtyard were two very different people …
[1] Simon the Pharisee was a respectable man and quite proud of himself … he prayed and
read his Bible regularly … he attended synagogue (church) and gave to it and to charities … he was well known and looked up to in the community … he and his family were an example to all.

[2] A Woman, whose name we never learn, appeared to be the exact opposite … she was a
sinner … no one respectable would be seen with her … possibly a prostitute … she was never to be seen at synagogue, though I doubt that she would have been made at all welcome. I wonder which one of these two would fit in easily amongst us? Which would feel welcome or be welcomed?

They were two very different people whose reactions to Jesus were very different …

[1] Simon invited Jesus, but gave him no kiss of welcome, no water to wash his feet. He was
holding back, testing Jesus out … seeing whether Jesus would measure up. And his hesitations about Jesus seemed to be well founded when he allowed that woman to touch him!

[2] The Woman, on the other hand, had seen and heard the love Jesus had for ordinary and
sinful people … not that he accepted their bad lives … he wanted change … but he loved them in spite of it and did not put himself above them. And so she braved the home of the Pharisee, where she knew she would not be welcome, and was overcome as she washed, dried, kissed and anointed Jesus’ feet. It was all very unseemly and embarrassing, but she was beyond caring about what others thought.

It is at this point in the story that we read what I find one of the most ironical verses in the Bible:

“when (Simon) the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man
were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner.’” Luke 7:39. What’s the irony? (Simon) the Pharisee … said to himself …(And) Jesus answered him … What Simon did not gamble on was that Jesus not only knew what kind of woman she was, but also what he was thinking.

Jesus said to Simon: “the one who has been forgiven little loves little”. Simon had not wasted his time being a good person … Jesus was happy about that … but Simon had begun to believe that he could be good enough on his own and he began to look down upon others … Simon was a sinner as well and needed God’s forgiveness just as much as that woman.

2000 years later we know his name. What we do not know is whether he found forgiveness and peace of mind. On the other hand, we do not know that woman’s name, but we do know what Jesus said to her: “Your sins are forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

“If this man were a prophet, he would have known …” 2000 years later, here and now, Jesus knows and sees what is in each of our hearts … what we are proud of … what we are ashamed of or embarrassed by … but none of us need leave this morning without hearing those words of Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Words of Jesus’ love and healing which we carry like St Luke the Physician to share with others.

Almighty God, you called Luke the physician,
whose praise is in the gospel,
to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:
by the grace of the Holy Spirit
and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,
give us your Church the same love and power to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, Amen.

To be a Pilgrim

Gatekeeper Butterfly

We listened to and sang in our hearts, guide me o thou great redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land?…Do you think of yourself as a pilgrim on a journey?

As Christians, I think we should all consider we are pilgrims and our lives a pilgrimage, but there are specific times when we put aside time to travel to a special sacred place and look and listen for signs of God seeking to teach us something new, during the journey as well as at the destination.

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Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them

Christchurch Brentor           Matthew 18:12-22            6th September 2020

Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.  v.20. That is a very well-known promise that we Christians like to claim as a great encouragement. Commentator William Barclay puts it like this: Jesus is just as much present in the little congregation as in the great mass meeting. He is just as much present at the Prayer Meeting or the Bible Study Group with their handful of people as in the crowded arena. He is not the slave of numbers. He is there wherever faithful hearts meet, however few they may be, for he gives all of himself to each individual person.

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Jesus said: ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me’- the example of Saint Damien

As I was meditating on our gospel reading, the words of the great old hymn by Charles Everest kept going through my mind:

Take up thy cross the Saviour said, if thou wouldst my disciple be

Deny thyself, the world forsake, and humbly follow after me.

The words ‘take up thy cross’ come just after Peter has tried to impose his own plans, his own ideas on Jesus and was thoroughly rebuked…..get behind me Satan…..you are setting your mind not on divine things but human things…..Headstrong Peter and the other disciples were sure they knew best and needed to learn to humbly follow and trust God in all circumstances, even if it seems totally counter-intuitive. You’re not in control, or, as Eugene Peterson in the Message paraphrase puts it: Jesus says: You’re not in the driver’s seat, I am- Jesus is! Jesus was calling them, and us too, to a life of self-sacrifice humbly following after him.

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Jesus, Julian of Norwich, St Teresa of Avila & Coronavirus

Feeding The 5000 from www.LumoProject.com

Now when Jesus heard (how John the Baptist had been killed by Herod), he withdrew … in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them … Matthew 14:13f.

Jesus, human being like us, needed space to think and pray and be with his grief for his cousin John. A little later on from this episode and on many other occasions he succeeded in doing just this. But when his plans were thwarted and he was faced with human need he responded with compassion.

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Candlemas 2019

Candle in the darkness

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Candlemas

A sermon by Rev Tony Vigars on 3rd February 2019

A question for you to ponder upon while I speak: What is the connection between my sermon and a two pound coin?

In the north east corner of St Eustachius’ Church in Tavistock you will find what has been called their finest stained glass window. One designed by the Victorian Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones and produced in the workshops of William Morris. Sadly, due to an unforeseen chemical reaction, some of the colours and writing have deteriorated badly over the years.

I was sitting in that chapel for a communion service and whilst waiting for it to begin I took in the window. Huge portraits of ten men proclaim how our Christian faith is rooted upon and grows out of the faith of the Jews. On the bottom row of figures are pictures of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Moses, Daniel and Jeremiah. Above them are arrayed Matthew, Mark, Paul, Luke and John. All of them carry either a writing quill, engraved tablets of stone or a book or two of those things. The New Testament, the window is saying, is founded upon the Old Testament.

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Reflecting God’s Love

How do we share God’s presence with others? It is this difficult question I found myself discussing with friends recently. It is all too easy to place yourself and what you do at the centre of everything – after all surely it was my hard work that meant that the last person came back to church. How wonderful I was! I take a step back, see my pride and decide to become less physically involved. So I pray. But no one comes and I feel the call to do something. So where does this leave us?

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