A Sermon Preached by Revd Lucy Davis on Sunday 16th January 2022
on John 2: 1-12, as part of St Andrew’s discernment of our vision.
Later this year I will celebrate a significant birthday, one of those ending with a zero. When I was my children’s age, I think I looked at my parents at my age and assumed they were sorted, they were stable, they knew what they were about and what they were there for. As I get older, I realise how wrong I was; this journey through life is one of constantly discovering our identities, exploring who we are with God and what God might have in mind for us next.
The process of unfolding identity and purpose is one that happened in the life of Christ too, and is mirrored in our corporate life as Church. We are not static beings with a static God. Far from it. Our God is the God who hovered over the waters of chaos in Creation; that same Spirit who blows where she wills through the world, bringing life and change. Change and life.
Our lives have changed massively in the last two years since the pandemic began. I know that I am very different from the person who strolled unwittingly into 2020. The change, the personal shifting has been hard, but it’s the same change that brought me here, one of the ways that God has called me to be your Vicar. As a Church we have changed too. We are not the same as the Church family of two years ago, and so our corporate task is to discern our corporate vocation; what are we being called to do now, next, with God, together. Let’s face it, this is not comfortable work. Human beings do not function well with uncertainty and change is hard, perhaps particularly in Churches. But change has already happened; we can’t go back. And the Spirit brings in both change and new life.
Before we look at the Gospel reading and what it speaks into the process we are undertaking, I am going to break the habit of a lifetime and share a joke. Q: How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb? A: Change? What do you mean, change?! The laughter comes because we recognise an uncomfortable truth. So, let’s acknowledge that uncomfortable truth and take it with us to a wedding at Cana in Galilee.
There is such richness in this first sign of John’s Gospel, but I want to ask three questions. What does the story say about who Jesus is? What does it say about who he is becoming? What does it say about his purpose with God? And then we’ll look at how do those things hep us as we discern our future as Church.
What does this story tell us about who Jesus is?
In John’s Gospel, Jesus has been Baptised by John, has gathered a group of friends and followers (the disciples), and then goes to a wedding. It seems a bit of a strange next step, but Jesus is in a liminal time, prepared to start his public ministry, but not yet embarked upon it. Who is Jesus at this point? Unsure himself, maybe, still working it out. ‘My hour has not yet come.’ Jesus is definitely concerned for those around him, concerned for the well being of the wedding couple in a moment of potential shame. But things are not perfect. Jesus is a son with an imperfect relationship with his mother: yes, that ‘Woman’ in his reply to Mary is just as curt in the Greek as it is in English. Their bumpy relationship pops up in occasional incidents throughout the Gospels. Imperfect until it is perfected, along with all our relationships, on the cross.
Here is the question for us: Who are we as St Andrew’s church family? Honestly. What are our core values? What is not yet perfect?
What does this story tell us about who Jesus is becoming?
All the clues are there in this story for those willing to see them. There are parallels between Jesus at the wedding and the Wisdom figure of the Old Testament. There are parallels with the feeding of the 5,000. With the parables of new wine, the new life of the Kingdom. There are parallels to the coming of the bridegroom in Revelation. In this miracle, Jesus’ identity is disclosed. He is revealed afresh as the Messiah. No wonder he was hesitant, no wonder Jesus didn’t feel quite ready.
Here is the question for us: Who do we hope to be as St Andrew’s church family? Who are we becoming? What is there, latent, which God will unfold? Who do we want to be as we emerge from COVID?
What does this story tell us about Jesus’ purpose with God?
Given who Jesus is and who he is becoming in this story, what does it tell us about his purpose in God’s future? Quite simply that Jesus comes to bring in the Kingdom. Abundantly, overflowingly, extravagantly. Given without restraint or measure, but with joy unconfined. Jesus comes to turn the water of our individual and daily lives to the finest wine of God. To bring change. Change and life.
Here is the question for us: What is our purpose as St Andrew’s? What are we here to do?
As a Church, I want us to explore these three questions together over the coming months. Who are we as St Andrew’s Church family – honestly? Who do we hope to become? What is our purpose with God in the here and now?
This is a task for all of us as we emerge from COVID, and there are lots of ways to get involved. Pick up the leaflet ‘Our Vision, God’s Future’ in Church and complete the section on the back, returning it to the box at the back of Church or in the Foyer by 14th March. The same questions are available in an electronic form here. All individual responses are anonymous. We will be taking the same exercise to all the Church’s groups and committees in the next couple of months, and the Mission Action Planning team will then collate and consider our replies as we discern our next steps as Church and where God might be taking us next.
‘The wine did not simply come, the water became it: that is the divine method. We are to take the water of life as we find it and convert it to wine. Through our lives and circumstances, divine purpose is fulfilled. The main business of the Christian life is to go through the world turning water into wine.’ Cosmo Gordon Lang