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Worship, Prayer and Bible resources

Third Sunday of Epiphany - Year B

Liturgical Colour - White or Gold

Introduction

This week we read of the Wedding Feast at Cana, the first spectacular miracle recorded by John in his Gospel. Spectacular, in that making water into wine is an incredible talent, and yet it was somewhat less than spectacular, because we are told that even the head waiter didn't realise it had happened.

Some people did understand what had taken place, these were people who had the faith to recognise in this miracle a sign pointing to who Jesus was.  They understood that they were in the presence of somebody who could not only turn water into wine, but was destined for something truly special.

Jesus said that his hour had not yet come, little did anyone know what it was that Jesus was preparing for - a much greater triumph, over death itself.

Opening Verses of Scripture  Matthew 18: 18-20

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

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. Amen  Common Worship

God of all mercy your Son proclaimed the good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom to the oppressed: anoint us with your Holy Spirit and set all your people free to praise you in Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Common Worship Shorter Collect

Loving God, through your Son you have called us to repent of our sin, to believe the good news, and to celebrate the coming of your kingdom. Grant that we may hear the call to discipleship and gladly proclaim the gospel to a waiting world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Bible Reading  Genesis 14: 17-20

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Second Reading Revelation 19: 1-10

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." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God." At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me. “Do not do it! I am a fellow-servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”


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." "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time 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 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." This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Post Communion Sentence

Almighty Father, whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world: may your people illumined by your word and sacraments, shine with the radiance of his glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.
 

Commentary

A New Beginning

The miracle of turning the water into wine at Cana is only reported in John’s gospel where he places it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He says that it was the first of the seven signs performed by Jesus and through it He ‘revealed His glory and His disciples put their faith in Him’. It’s because of this revelation of His glory that the episode at Cana, together with the visit of the Magi and Christ’s baptism, came to be associated with Epiphany. In the Middle Ages, the miracle at Cana and the revelation of Christ’s glory there came to be celebrated by itself on the second Sunday after Epiphany. Water and wine are familiar elements to us today in our worship and resonate with the meaning of this story. Indeed in the service of Holy Communion many churches mix water and wine together in the chalice. This practice is not to dilute the wine, but is a symbol of the unity of the human and divine natures in the person of Christ. The miracle takes place on the third day. A relatively short time later there would be another third day. That day would see the ultimate power of God breaking through when heaven and earth intersected in a way that would change the history of the world for eternity. In the same way the transformation of the water into wine at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the transformation which is continually taking place in our own lives, are only a faint foretaste of the ultimate transformation which is still to come.

All of today’s readings speak of a life changing transformational encounter with God. Abraham recognises Melchizedek as a ‘priest of God most high’ and immediately gives him a tenth of everything he owned (including all the possessions he had just reclaimed after defeating Kedorlaomer, the king who had carried off Lot and his family and goods, the action which had precipitated the battle). Melchizedek, in Hebrew malki-sedeq, which can be translated as ‘Sedeq is my king’, or ‘(The God) Melek is righteousness’ is the King of Salem (or Jerusalem as it became known) is a mysterious and enigmatic figure. In Ps 110 v 4 a Davidic king is proclaimed by the Lord as a ‘priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek’. As Jesus is from the house of David, the Davidic Messiah, it follows that He qualifies to be the priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The priesthood of Melchizedek is different and distinct from the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Testament; it is continuous and eternal, it does not need a line of succession in the earthly manner in which the Aaronic priesthood does, ,it’s not based on tribal alignment from the tribe of Judah, not Levi; Jesus would not have qualified as an Aaronic priest, and it is a royal priesthood. As Christians, a priesthood of all believers it is Christ Himself who is our great High Priest and it is Christ Himself who transforms our own lives as we encounter Him day by day. In the reading from John, the disciples witness the changing of water into wine and put their faith in Him. Jesus had revealed His glory and the disciples view of Jesus was changed forever. They would never be the same again. Their lives too had been transformed, just as much as the water when it was transformed into wine. In the reading from Revelation the believers had encountered God in a life changing way, despite persecution, social isolation and hardship.

What is sometimes overlooked in all of these encounters to the revelation of God’s glory and transformation that God brings is the spontaneous response of worship and an expression of faith in the God who is revealed. Indeed, in the Psalms we read that we are created to praise and worship God. The purpose of turning water into wine is not so that any social embarrassment may be averted, but so that God’s glory may be revealed. God did not send His Son Jesus so that He could be at our beck and call to make our lives easier or to do the things we want or expect Him to do, He is here for a much bigger task, to transform and redeem creation itself through the life changing revelation of His Father’s glory to all creation. Perhaps we get an insight into Jesus’ mother’s understanding of this at the wedding in Cana. She reports to her Son that the wine has run out. She does not ask for Jesus to intervene with a specific solution but merely lays the situation before Him and then instructs the servants to, ‘Do whatever He tells you’. We may never understand the full why, when and how the revelation of God’s glory will take place. Perhaps it sometimes happens and we don’t even recognise it for what it is. How often too are we all to willing to drink the fine wine that God through His grace has provided for us in our lives but fail to make the link to our response of thanks, praise and worship. In a world in which many must feel like the puzzled guests at the wedding at Cana in Galilee where the wine had run out and wonder what is happening our role is to help all people make sense of their lives and the world. Part of this is by laying our own situations and concerns before God in prayer and in so doing expose our world to the glory of God, revealed through the transforming presence and love of His Son, so that it can be transformed into His Kingdom on earth. Part too is to understanding our own role in doing whatever He tells us.
Sam Cappleman.

Meditation

Every year on 27 January, the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day. On Holocaust Memorial Day we share the memory of the millions who have been murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur in order to challenge hatred and bigotry in our own society. As he Holocaust Memorial Day web site states, it’s impossible for anyone who was not there to fully imagine what took place during the Holocaust or in subsequent genocides. But Holocaust Memorial Day is not simply about remembering. It is a time when we seek to learn the lessons of the past and to recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own, it’s a steady process which can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented. In the UK we are not at risk of genocide. However, in communities and neighbourhoods hatred exists. Discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion. All are equal in the sight of God, and as Christians we need to reflect and celebrate the equality of all people in God’s creation and be prepared to speak out and take action when we see society fall away from God’s standards and Christ’s transforming power.

Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. Do not remember all the sufferings they have inflicted upon us; remember the fruits we bear, thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humanity, courage, generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

A prayer found on a scrap of paper beside the body of a girl who died at Ravensbruck

Prayers said on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Anne Frank: Reproduced with kind permission of the Anne Frank Educational Trust and the Council of Christians and Jews

Judge eternal, bringer of justice, hear the cry of those who suffer under the lash of heartless political oppression; those who languish in prisons and labour camps, untried or falsely condemned;
those whose bodies are shattered, or whose minds are unhinged by torture or deprivation.
Meet them in their anguish and despair, and kindle in them the light of hope, that they may find rest in your love, healing I your compassion and faith in your mercy.
In the name of him who suffered, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

‘Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes - goodwill among men and peace on earth.’ Albert Einstein, Scientist

‘We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’ Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor

Hymns

  1. As the deer

  2. Give me oil in my lamp

  3. The Kingdom of God

  4. All Praise to our redeeming Lord

  5. To God be the glory

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian,
if it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die.

 

As the beautiful, dew covered rose rises from amongst its thorns, so may my heart be so full of love for you my God, that I may rise above the storms and evils that assail me, and stand fast in trust and freedom of spirit. Amen. Hadewijch of Brabant - 13th Century

Almighty God, your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world. May your people shine with the radiance of his glory, that he may be known, worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Almighty God, you sent your Son to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with authority. Anoint us with the power of your Spirit, that we, too, may bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the broken hearted, and proclaim liberty to the captive; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

God of dawning light, hear our prayers today and give us the strength to put aside all cares and follow you in your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you, scatter the darkness from before your path, and make you ready to meet him when he comes in glory; and the blessing; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

 

Week of Prayer of Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity involves Christian communities across the world and from almost every denomination. The materials used in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are prepared each year jointly by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. It is traditionally celebrated over the eight days of 18-25 January, although other dates are sometimes chosen in the Southern hemisphere. The Week lasts for 8 days (which is why it was originally called an Octave of Prayer), and covers the period from the feast of St Peter to the feast of St Paul.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for your presence among us, strengthening and encouraging us on our way. Make us aware of your presence in us and responsive to your promptings in all that we do. Grant us the wisdom and humility to recognize your presence in our brothers and sisters. Make us truly one, O Lord. Amen

O King of the Friday, whose limbs were stretched on the Cross, O Lord who did suffer
The bruises, the wounds, the loss, we stretch ourselves beneath the shield of thy might,
some fruit from the tree of thy pass fall on us this night! (Ancient Irish Prayer)

God of holy peace, we are accustomed to the darkness of our world, accustomed to tragedy, sorrow, worry. Like the shepherds sitting in the darkness, expecting nothing, we are familiar with dim hope. Yet we brood over our troubled lives and wicked world, wondering when you will come in power to bring peace to all hearts and lands. Break the grip of darkness; let your peace dawn in our hearts! Look with favour upon your people; grant your blessing. Should angels bring clear messages for our lives, let us with wonder accept your news of love as the generous gift it is. Diane Karay in Pocket Prayers for Peace and Justice

Help us, O Lord, never to nurse the grievance that separates us from you and from one another. Grant us grace to forgive those who have wronged us. May we know that no sin is so great that it cannot be confessed; no wound so deep it cannot be healed, and no sinner so lost that grace cannot bring them home. William Booth

Lord Jesus Christ,
you call us together in faith and love.
Breathe again the new life
of your Holy Spirit among us,
that we may hear your Holy Word,
pray in your name,
seek unity among Christians
and share more fully in your way of life.
All glory and honour be yours
with the Father, and the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever. Amen.

O Beauty, so ancient and so new!
Late have I loved you
though you were always with me.
You call to my heart.
You burst through my deafness.
You scatter my blindness.
I draw breath at your fragrance.
My heart pants for you.
My soul hungers for you.
You touch me and I am consumed
at the thought of your peace.
St Augustine, 354-430


Right Being Wrong
Christians often argue about what they believe.
Some believe one doctrine, some another.
One group strives to convince other groups
That it alone possesses the truth.

Yet God alone possesses the truth,
Because God alone is the truth.
On earth we see only glimpses, hints;
Our knowledge of truth is partial.

So the different groups who argue
May all be right and all be wrong;
Right in seeing one part of the truth;
Wrong in claiming the whole.
Celtic Parables

Additional Material

Commentary

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus begins his ministry with an exorcism. In John’s Gospel today we read of Jesus turning water into wine. We know that the Gospel writers didn’t just throw their material together, it is complied very carefully to make a theological point. So why did John begin the ministry of Jesus in his Gospel by showing Jesus provide excess alcohol at a party?
On one level it might even seem frivolous and irresponsible of Jesus, however the shortage of alcohol at a wedding would have been a serious embarrassment and more than just an inconvenience. At a wedding you were supposed to provide plentiful food and wine. Weddings were celebrated for seven days. People came and went, it was a community event and to run short of wine would have been a serious embarrassment for the host parents and the newlyweds. It would have spoiled the occasion for them and the community.
Nevertheless water into wine was nothing like as dramatic as raising Lazarus. Why doesn’t John begin with a better miracle? Part of the answer might be that whilst Jesus is performing a miraculous event, and wouldn’t we all like to be able to do this kind of party trick, yet there is more going on than manufacture of wine. John calls this is a ‘sign’, and in it lies the key to understanding the whole of the Gospel of John. Weddings were poignant, they spoke of God’s coming kingdom
It would be helpful to consider some important phrases used by John.
We must remember that the wedding took place ‘on the third day’. It is impossible to read these few short words without thinking of the great third day event of Jesus death and resurrection. The Gospel of John is full of symbolism and this is just one example. Jesus told Nathanael that he would see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. The fulfilment of that promise begins with the sign of Jesus this week at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, but we are already pointed towards a more significant event. To those who were willing to believe the glory of Jesus is shown. The event points to something and those who are willing to see can perceive beyond the mere physical representation.
Another phrase recorded by John is interesting, Jesus says "My hour has not yet come." This prepares us for the fact that there is a more important event to take place, it is the hour of his glorification—the hour of his death, resurrection, and ascension. It is almost as though John is reminding the reader, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet!’
The words of Mary are important as well. She tells the servants 'Do whatever he tells you.' Mary makes the plea that complete trust can be put in Jesus without disappointment. Mary is confident that Jesus is able to make things right..

Finally we need to remember how the miracle, or sign, took place. Jesus took the stone water jars used for the Jewish purification and demands that they should be full. Jews regarded seven as a perfect or complete number, and six was incomplete. This could be seen as a criticism of Judaism, most clearly a point is being made about the incomplete nature of Judaism without Jesus. The amount of water held by each jar is translated as twenty or thirty gallons. The total amount of water, 120-180 gallons, was huge. Only a small amount of water was needed for purification, so this is a sign of great generosity and of the overwhelming grace through Jesus. Remember that it is John who tells us that Jesus, has come "so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (3:16). There is enough of Jesus generosity to go round for everybody.
Thank God. Charles Royden

 

Different Lectionary Readings Opening Verse of Scripture—Romans12: 9-10
Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good, love one another with brotherly affection.


Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray
God of heaven and earth, whose power is made fully known in your pardoning mercy: ever fill us with your grace, that, entering more fully into your promises, we may come to share in the good things of heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord,  Amen

First Bible Reading Jonah 3:1-5,10
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you."  Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city-a visit required three days. 
On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."  The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 ;
What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Second Reading: Mark 1:14-20 
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" 
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. 
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Post Communion Prayer
Go before us Lord, in all we do with your most gracious favour, and guide us with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name, and finally by your mercy receive everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Commentary: An Unlikely Hero
The books by Tolkein are currently enjoying a massive revival of popularity, largely due to the release of two major films based on his saga The Lord of the Rings. This week’s reading from the Gospel tells of the calling of some of the disciples. The story of how Jesus assembled the men and women who were to follow Him in life and proclaim the Kingdom after His death, is a moving one. The disciples were drawn from very different regions and social levels. This must have been because Jesus knew that through diversity in personality and qualities the work of Heaven could be done on earth. The Lord of the Rings echoes the Gospel, recounting as it does the calling together of a band of disparate types to achieve a great quest. The novels also have much to teach us about heroism and the selfless giving of oneself for others. The little Hobbit, Frodo, is far from being a conventional hero, he is fond of his quiet life and is only too aware of his modest stature and strength. Yet he is called to be the only one who can lead the task of destroying the evil Ring and he shoulders the load. By giving himself to his calling, he becomes heroic. Tolkein’s novels have also got very powerful things to say about the reality of evil and its dangers, yet they contain within them the certainty that good will triumph over the darkest and most desperate of situations. The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley

Meditation: A Challenge!!

Gerard Hughes in his stimulating book, God of Surprises, has interesting and truthful things to say about the unexpectedness of God’s call to us. He argues that God frequently challenges us in totally unexpected ways. More than that, God often surprises us by asking us to do things which we feel we cannot tackle, perhaps the very things that we fear most or would least like to cope with. Yet many people have told me that it is in confronting their fears or weaknesses, that they have grown in their faith and in their humanity. Nothing is beyond us with God’s grace and help. It is God’s will that we should not be prisoners of our fears and sense of inadequacy. I am not of course referring to overcoming genuine phobias, but the smaller fears and inhibitions which if overcome, would help us live more fully as Christians. This is your challenge for this week. Do something new which challenges you. If you are intolerant of “modern music”, perhaps try make yourself listen to what your grandchildren are playing for ten minutes! If you are rather shy and hate making eye contact with strangers, try offering a friendly smile to a person in the Library, for example. Pushing back your personal boundaries not only stops you getting into a rut, but enables you to grow as God’s disciple. For myself, I am going to try and stop evading the truth about the political situation in God’s world, and try listening to Newsnight a couple of times this week. Who knows, I might learn something! The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley

Hymns

  1. To God be the Glory
  2. He’s got the whole world in his hands
  3. All Creatures of our God and King
  4. All my hope on God is founded
  5. Fight the Good Fight

Prayers

O God whose beauty is beyond our imagining, and whose power we cannot comprehend: show us your glory as far as we can grasp it, and shield us from knowing more than we can bear until we may look upon you without fear, through Jesus Christ. Amen (Janet Morley)

Bless us Lord as we try to work out new ways of encouraging others to consider whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent, whatever is praiseworthy. Lord there are so many people who want to stress the lesser things. Help us to praise the things that are precious. Help us to out into words, pictures, actions and so much more deeds that will pull others towards higher aspiration and achievement. (after Peter Comaish)

Let the love of the Father course through our veins. Let the goodness of Christ pulse though our bodies. Let the power of the Spirit flow through our souls. Let the wonder of God resonate through our minds. Glory be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and through all eternity. Amen.