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notre dame montreal

Epiphany 2

Year C, White


Introduction

The passage from John's Gospel today is one which causes some consternation. Jesus makes wine, lots of it, more than anybody needed. It is over the top and could easily be criticised as wasteful. Is that what God is like? Well the ministry of Jesus does show us what God is like, he is God in human form, and this incident is one of those extravagant moments when Jesus gives us a glimpse of the nature of God's provision for us.

The miracle tells us much. Perhaps it shows just how different the way things are going to be with Jesus when compared to the Old Testament. The Law was given for the nation of Israel and it was bad news for everybody else. God has shown grace and mercy to individuals like Abraham, but the God the Jews worshipped was a terrifying figure who demanded that innocent animals be sacrificed to atone for the sins of people. It was gruesome stuff and even then it was only these special people, the Jews who enjoyed God's covenant relationship.

So perhaps Jesus needed a really extravagant miracle, to show everybody that things had changed. Now the love of God was to extend to all people, he would go to the gentiles too, and there was enough grace and mercy  to go round, enough for everybody  -  just like the wine.

 

Opening Verse of Scripture



Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new: transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory; 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

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.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

Almighty God, by whose grace alone we are accepted and called to your service, strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.   Methodist Worship

Living God, in Christ you make all things new. Transform the riches of your grace and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  Methodist Worship

First Bible Reading  Isaiah Chapter 62:1-5

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah ; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.

Second Reading 

1 Corinthians 12 1-11
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

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 Prayer

God of glory, you nourish us with your Word who is the bread of life: fill us with your Holy Spirit that through us the light of your glory may shine in all the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Commentary

Two of the three readings for today introduce a cheerful whiff of orange blossom into these gloomy January days. The reading about the wedding at Cana is frequently mentioned in wedding services to remind us that Jesus chose to honour a marriage with His first miracle, thus signifying His approval of the state of matrimony. Cheerful though it is to think of sunshine, orange blossom and confetti at this time of year, we are going to be focussing not on marriage itself today but on the image of marriage as a symbol for God’s love for us, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you”. When we ask, what does God feel about humanity, these people He has created, this world that He has made? These words should shout out at us! For the writer, the making of a marriage was the most positive, optimistic time in human life. Marriage did not mean just the love of one person for another, but the making of new, wider, family relationships, it meant the possibility of babies, new children to carry on the faith and the family line, it meant hope for the future and renewal. Isaiah tells us that God’s love for us is forever as attentive to us, as loving to us, as a new lover. He watches us with joy, with hope. God’s care for us is not dulled by disappointment nor worn out with familiarity, He is forever delighted by us and our potential for goodness. We must strive not to disappoint Him. Joan Crossley

Meditation

When something is new to us, whether it is a shiny toy, a saved-for piece of furniture or new shoes, it is natural to take care of it, to want to keep it safe and protect it against accidents. In our relationships, we are equally careful at the beginning. We have to watch what we say, be careful not to hurt or “put off” the new person. When this first phase is over, trust and intimacy take the place of all this caution. But sometimes familiarity breeds neglect, the loved one is treated with carelessness and their presence taken for granted. If this rings a bell with you, then spend some time this week treasuring one or two of the people you are grateful to have in your life. Similarly, if we are not attentive, we can neglect our relationship with God. We have heard from Isaiah that God delights in us. Shouldn’t we take time to praise God, and rejoice over His presence with us and delight in Him? Joan Crossley


The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

My peace I give to you (John 14.27)

The traditional date for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the octave (8 days) between the feast of the Chair of St Peter at Rome and the feast of the conversion of St Paul. In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the week of prayer, for example around Pentecost (which was suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the church.

In the early 1930’s the idea of working and praying for Christian unity was taken by the Abbe Couturier of Lyon. He accepted the basic idea of Paul Wattson but believed that it needed to be broadened. He insisted: ‘We must pray not that others may be converted to us but that we may all be drawn closer to Christ.’ In 1936 the ‘Octave of Prayer’ was relaunched as “The Week of Universal Prayer of Christians for Christian Unity”. He stressed that it must be the prayer for the ‘Unity Christ wills by the means he wills’.”

But the search for Christian unity is not limited to one week each year. We are therefore encouraged to see this as an invitation to find opportunities throughout the whole year to express the degree of communion which the churches have already received, and to pray together for that full unity which is Christ’s will.

The theme this year …...

The search for peace in the Middle East will be the backdrop for this year's celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, from Jan. 18-25.

"As peace in our world remains elusive and is obstructed at every turn, the search for peace, and the profound hopes which are entwined in that search, form a vital part of the prayer which rises from our hearts to the merciful heart of God in our day," said the international joint committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Commission for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

The theme has been drawn from John 14:27, "My peace I give to you / Ma paix je vous donne."
The Christian churches of the city of Aleppo, Syria, proposed the theme for this year's ecumenical worship services. The celebration is modelled after services regularly used in the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches of Aleppo.

The yearning for peace around the world is certainly palpable. Praying for peace is important because some people have given up hope of ever achieving it. It is difficult because while we continue to pray for peace it's hard to see that we're getting anywhere. Many of us have taken part in these Weeks of Prayer for Christen Unity for the whole of our adult lives and the inevitable questions arises - What good do they do? Where is the unity we have prayed for?

Judging from the evidence of disunity among Christians, even within churches and denominations, we can go on to ask: Does God not hear our prayers? If the answer is “yes!” then maybe we are not listening to what God is asking of us! 

It is true, that in many parts of the Christian church denominations are cooperating and working together in exciting and inspirational ways. Many of these examples of ‘ecumenism’ are practical projects in needy communities while others are ecumenical partnerships where Christians of two, three or four denominations actually worship and work together as one congregation. But examples are few and far between. It has to be admitted that much Christian growing and working together is merely an attempt at self preservation, often being ‘thrown’ together by circumstance, as numbers in local congregations fall and the maintenance of unrealistic buildings becomes a burden

Surely this is not how Jesus meant it to be. St Paul makes quite clear the unity to which Jesus calls us.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4: 3 – 6)   

There are still many conflicts around the world and so, people really struggle. There are those who say 'why bother?' however we must not loose hope but continue praying for peace. We have to keep the search for peace at the forefront of the life of the world wide church.

Christians are urged to pray and work for peace, not only during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but throughout the whole year. As Christians pray for peace we should also pray and work for the unity of the Church. We cannot honestly pray for peace in the world and rest content with all the divisions and dissensions in our own lives as Christians.

As the rainbow is a sign of God’s peace so it is also a sign of the Christian unity for which we pray. It is not uniformity which we seek, but a unity which holds together our diversity, a unity which is made more beautiful by our diverse colours, as the one rainbow holds together the colours of the spectrum in a beautiful whole.
 

 

Hymns

  1. 201 Guide me O thou great Jehovah

  2. 151 For I'm building a people of power

  3. 79 Christ whose glory fills the skies

  4. 624 Take my life and let it be

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

O God of steadfast love, at the wedding in Cana your Son Jesus turned water into wine, delighting all who were there. Transform our hearts by your Spirit, that we may use our varied gifts to show forth the light of your love as one body in Christ. Amen.

Loving, attentive God, who loves us more dearly than a mother watching over her child, we thank you for your constant care for our lives, and that we are precious even in the context of Eternity. Amen

O God, you bear your people ever on your heart and mind. Watch over us in your protecting love, that strengthened by your grace and led by your Soirit, we may not miss your way for us but enter into your glory, made ready for all in Christ our Lord. Amen (Methodist Worship)

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 can look upon you without fear through Jesus Christ. Amen (Janet Morley)
 

Additional Resources

Meditation

O Lord, remember not only men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill-will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering - our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgement, let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness. Ravensbruck Concentration Camp

That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and his desires, without a glow or an inspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to him, 'Thou art my refuge, because thou art my home.' George Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons

Commentary

John 2:1-11

In Psalm 40:8 we are told that God invites us to take pleasure in our work for him. Here, in the gospel reading set for today, from St John’s gospel, we learn that Jesus was enjoying being at a wedding celebration, when he performed his first miracle. It seems quite likely that Jesus had not gone to the party with the intention of performing a miracle, but was virtually forced into it by the actions of Mary, his mother. Clearly she had merely intended getting Jesus to help the people organising the party out of an embarrassing situation, while the miracle which Jesus performed wac a great work – turning about 180 gallons of water into good quality wine is no mean feat!

If this miracle had taken place at a point other than at the start of Jesus’ ministry, then I am pretty certain that we would have heard Judas carping about people simply drinking the wine. No doubt he would have said something to the effect of: ‘What a waste! This wine could have been sold and the money given to the poor!’ (cf John 12: 4-6). Yes, I suppose, the drinking of such good wine after people had drunk plenty already, probably was a waste in that sense. However, the wine served a two-fold process: at one level it gave pleasure to all the wedding guests as they celebrated the marriage of the couple, whilst at a deeper level it made everyone aware of the generosity of God in providing a first class product: no second rate home brew from that source! We could possibly go further and say that through it God was also recognising the importance to him of the marriage ceremony and the vows made.

If we think about our own experiences, then do we give as freely as God gave here? God gave freely and readily more than perhaps was needed. Do we give as generously of our time and talents in the service of God? Or do we begrudge the time which we spend in worship, prayer or helping others? Do we calculate how much we can afford to give to mission funds, or the work of the Church whether it be at home or abroad? If we look at Matthew’s gospel (6:31 – 35) then what we find is that if we put God’s work first, then God will take care of everything else. All it takes is a giant step of trust, and such a step will be a big one because it goes against everything we have been taught. After all, the world we live in is one which emphasises insurance schemes, pension funds, and long term planning for the future. There are not too many of these ideas emphasised in the Bible!

God was able to turn a situation of lack, at the wedding feast, so that it became a situation of high-class plenty. God is also prepared to work in a similar way in our lives, if only we will let him. We shall not become drunk on the wine which God provides, but we may die from a lack of sustenance without it. Peter Littleford

Prayers for Sunday

The Universal Prayer, Probably Clement XI

Lord, I believe in you—increase my faith. I trust in you —strengthen my trust. I love you—let me love you more and more. I am sorry for my sins—deepen my sorrow. I worship you as my first beginning, I long for you as my last end, I praise you as my constant helper, and call on you as my loving protector. Guide me by your wisdom, correct me with your justice, comfort me with your mercy, protect me with your power. I offer you, Lord, my thoughts—to be fixed on you; my words—to have you for their theme; my actions - to reflect my love for you; my sufferings—to be endured for your greater glory. I want to do what you ask of me—in the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it. Lord, enlighten my understanding, strengthen my will, purify my heart, and make me holy. Help me to repent of my past sins and to resist temptation in the future. Help me rise above my human weaknesses and to grow stronger as a Christian. Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am—a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and to love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies. Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed with generosity, apathy by fervour. Help me to forget myself and reach out to others. Make me prudent in planning, courageous in taking risks. Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity. Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer, temperate in food and drink, diligent in my work, firm in my good intentions

Let my conscience be clear, my conduct without fault, my speech blameless, and my life well-ordered. Teach me to realise that this world is passing, that my true future is the happiness of heaven, that life on earth is short, and the life to come eternal. Help me prepare for death with a proper fear of judgement, and a greater trust in your goodness. Lead me safely through death to the endless joy of heaven. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen

The Anima Christi

Soul of Christ sanctify me. Body of Christ save me. Blood of Christ inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ wash me. Passion of Christ strengthen me. O good Jesu hear me. Within thy wounds hide me. Suffer me not to be separated from thee. From the malicious enemy defend me. In the hour of my death call me and bid me come to thee. That with thy saints I may praise thee for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymns for Sunday

  1. Ye servants of God 278,
  2. Who took fish bread
  3. God who created light (Tune: Moscow)
  4. O Thou who camest from above 745
  5. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun 239
  6. Blessed assurance 59 (tune by Palmer)
  7. Give me joy. 492 (Sing Hosanna)
  8. Great is thy faithfulness 200
  9. Guide me O thou great Jehovah 201 (Cwm Rhondda)