Psalm 36:5-10, Isaiah 62:1-5, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11
I have always been a bit surprised, shall we say, by the story about Jesus changing water into wine. His first miracle and at the insistence of his Mum.
You can imagine Jesus’s reluctance to do this. He wasn’t quite ready, but his Mum was insisting – wanting – as so many mothers do – to show how clever her son was. And it was a sort of private miracle as only the servants – and later the disciples - knew about it. Really rather strange – why not a healing or a raising from the dead for the first miracle? Something big and flashy. But this was never Jesus’s way.
Let’s look at it in a slightly different fashion. It was Jesus being what he is always best at - changing something quietly and without fuss and helping people out when they need it. We get a better idea of the true Jesus when we look at it this way. Not a bad way to start, quietly, semi privately, but with authority and confidence.
And on a deeper level, this story is a demonstration of the power of Jesus to change things, sometimes quite fundamentally. It is an analogy of the incredible power that Jesus has to change people. Changing water into wine yes, but also changing lives, turning ordinary human beings into something really special, changing their lives for the better.
Now, despite the fact that I and some of you might wish otherwise, there is not much actual nutritional value in wine! But the symbolism of changing the water into wine, can be interpreted as changing the ordinary into the best. The transformation of life that each and every one of us are aware of when we accept that we do indeed believe this Gospel and are followers of Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday I was at the other church I am associated with, St Magnus the Martyr in the City. The preacher was Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council. His text was the Baptism of Jesus and he spoke about how baptism transforms us all, how it changes us and offers us a way forward into a life which is filled with hope and joy and excitement. But then he opened his sermon up into something more of a call for a new year’s faith reboot for Christians. He spoke about the need for us all from time to time to look at where we are in our spiritual life. Archbishop Josiah asked us to look at ourselves – are we praying enough, are we reading scripture enough, are we looking out for our fellow Christian and non-Christian brothers and sisters and are we sure we are doing what God wants us to do? I was very struck by what he had to say and I certainly know that I need to pray a lot more and my regular scripture reading and study can be a bit haphazard. Time for a reboot and review of where I am spiritually – something we might all do now as we are still quite early in the new year and we have this period of relative quiet during Epiphany and the run up to Lent.
The point is that, having been transformed, much as the water into wine, from being just ordinary people to being the people of God, we have a duty to live out that transformation and, to do that, we need the spiritual food of prayer and Bible reading. We need to live the Christian life.
And I thought about Archbishop Josiah’s message as I looked at the Corinthians passage for today, where we see Paul talking about the gifts of the Spirit and the different gifts God gives to us as Christians. Some are called to do one thing and others another. We are all called to do something. The acceptance of our Lord into our hearts and the vows made at Baptism and confirmation mean we have a commission to work for God in whatever way we can, however small, however unseen or behind the scenes.
Moving on, so why did Jesus allow the first recorded miracle to take place at a wedding in an obscure little village among friends and their guests? In Christianity the relationship between Christ and the church is often referred to in the terms of a marriage – a close relationship between our God and his people. I think of the old Victorian hymn:
The Churches one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord
She is his new creation by water and the Word.
From Heaven he came and sought her,
To be his holy bride.
With his own life he bought her
And for her life he died.
And a wedding in a small village, where the hosts could not even afford enough wine? He was always with and in partnership with those who could not afford the best. He loved to be among the less well off, the disadvantaged and the ordinary. And he always wants to be with us at the important milestones in our lives. He never sought fame or fortune, that was simply not his role.
So yes, the first miracle at a normal, ordinary, but significant, human activity. Yes, among the unnamed and yes quietly and quite privately and yes to please his Mum, the blessed Virgin Mary. And yes, to predict and show in a quiet way the enormous transformative power he has. It all makes perfect sense. What a wonderful God we adore!