Sunday 16th January 2022

Welcome & Intimations
Welcome to our service of worship. This week we reflect upon the Bible story of the ‘Wedding at Cana’, while in our hymns we seek the presence of the Spirit of God.

Call to worship (from Psalm 36: 5, 6, 10))
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your judgements are like the great deep;

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your salvation to the upright of heart!

HYMN 153 Great is Thy faithfulness

Prayer c/w Lord’s Prayer:

Let us pray:

God, let us not be silent,
but raise up in us a spirit of praise;
let us raise up our voices in thanksgiving;
let us raise up our hearts in joy,
for you have created us
and called us to walk with you.

We thank You, our heavenly Father
because, by Your Holy power,
You have given us life itself.
You have received into your presence
all who have sought after You,
calling them by name
and leading them into life eternal.

Lord Jesus,
just like Your twelve disciples
You have called us to follow.
You have called us to praise our heavenly Father,
to feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
visit the prisoner, and give drink to the thirsty.
Empower us to do these things
as an act of praise and thanksgiving to You.

We confess, our heavenly Father,
that we have neglected to walk the path
that you have called us to follow.
We have depended only on our own strength,
our own knowledge, our own wisdom.
We have concluded that we can do all things
and do them in our own name.
We confess that we have not leaned upon You,
we have not walked in Your light,
nor called upon Your wisdom.
We have rejected Christ,
not in our words but in our actions.
Have mercy upon us.

Have mercy on us, dear Lord.
Forgive our neglect and confusion of heart.
Cleanse us through the blood of Christ
spilled for us on Golgotha’s mount.
Forgive us O Lord.
Restore and renew us
in Your great mercy.
Here us now,
as we say together
the words of Christ,
the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

Scriptures:

Isaiah 62:1-5
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
    and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn,
    and her salvation like a burning torch.
The nations shall see your vindication,
    and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
    that the mouth of the Lord will give.
You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,
   and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
You shall no more be termed Forsaken,
    and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;
but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land Married;
for the Lord delights in you,
    and your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a young woman,
    so shall your builder marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
    so shall your God rejoice over you.

John 2: 1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

HYMN 625 Oh thou who camest from above

(from Rochester Cathedral)

Reflection:

Do you believe in second chances? Today’s Gospel reading tells us the well-known story of the wedding at Cana; it’s one that is so familiar that, perhaps, we miss something of its uniqueness. It is a special event and is relevant to us, here today, in what may be a time of deep sadness. It is relevant because it offers us the antidote to sadness … joy.

It is special, too, in that it is the first miracle recorded in the Gospel of John. With so much material that he could have drawn upon we must wonder why he chose to begin with this one. That he had lots of other stories is told to us almost at the end of his book, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The reason that I think that John chose to begin with this one is because it is a story of second chances. In other words, it presents the central element of the good news in the form of an everyday story that people could readily understand. God gives us all a second chance.

This miracle, John writes, is recorded so that we, his readers, may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Then he writes that from there we may have life in Jesus’ name.

What is it about this miracle that will enable us to have faith in Jesus? Firstly, it is an incredibly miracle; Jesus transforms not a glass or a skin of water into wine but six stone jars. This speaks of the compassion of Jesus as He is seen saving the couple and their family from social disgrace and embarrassment; running out of wine at a wedding was not a minor social inconvenience. Secondly, it speaks also of the New Covenant that brings us into the presence of God. This is the New Covenant that Jesus later speaks of as being sealed in His blood, and which we recall when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. The wine representing the blood of Jesus poured out reveals, too, the Love of God. Thirdly, the miracle develops the disciples’ confidence in Jesus. In other words that they could have faith in him.

When Jesus changed water into wine, he didn’t make some cheap supermarket own-label stuff – he made the best, as witnessed by the chief steward, “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.” There is also an extravagant generosity on show. Have you ever paused to consider how much wine Jesus created? The answer is around six-hundred bottles! That this volume of wine was produced was also no accident, rather it is rich in symbolism. For example, the prophet Amos wrote: “The time is surely coming says the Lord when the mountains shall drip with sweet wine and the hills shall flow with it; when my people shall plant vineyards and drink their wine.” An abundance of wine symbolized the arrival of God’s new age. When Jesus performed this miracle at Cana, He was proclaiming that the Kingdom of God had arrived.

This miracle was also geared to develop faith. John says this plainly, writing that this was the first display of the glory that belonged to Jesus, and that through it the disciples “believed”. This is important. Many self-proclaimed Messiahs had come and gone. If you watch ‘The Life of Brian’ John Cleese’ character says to Brian, “you are the Messiah. I should know, I’ve followed a few of them.” The disciples would have been looking, hoping, for some sign that would conclusively show that Jesus was the one they had waited for, and not another charlatan or misguided fool. This miracle decided it for them, and now they took Jesus at his word. God acted in Jesus, and the wedding family got a second chance. Likewise, God acts today to give us a second chance.

Second chances, isn’t that what the Gospel is all about? Our God is the God of the second chances. God wants us, like the disciples of Jesus, to have faith in Him. It is only when we choose to have faith in God, looking beyond the trappings of religion, that we are lifted from sadness to the joy of the wedding feast. The choice, like that of the servants at the wedding feast is ours. Do we want a second chance? Amen.

HYMN 543 Longing for light

Prayer:

Let us pray:

Lord, we pray for the Church,
Your body and witnesses to the Gospel.
To us You have committed the work of reconciling people to You.
Grant us grace to live as salt and light in the world
that we may witnesses for You in
our communities, our families, our circles of friends.

Give us strength to commit ourselves to prayer,
that Your kingdom may come in our community, nation and world.
We pray that Your church will stand firmly on Your word.
We pray that all Your people would have
The wisdom and grace to proclaim Your truth.

We pray for the political leaders of our nation and world
that they may have wisdom and a longing to serve the people.

We pray for those in our land who struggle,
the sick, the homeless, the lonely, and those on low incomes.

We give thanks for the support systems that we have in place,
for those who work in the NHS and social care provision.

Comfort those who grieve from the loss of loved ones,
the failing of relationships, and loss of purpose.

May we all have the assurance of Your presence.
We give thanks because You exceed all that we ask.
May You be glorified in Your church and in our life.
Amen.

HYMN 804 You shall go out with joy

(from Gaither Music TV)

Benediction:

May the love of God, which enables us to love all,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, which unites us in one body,
make us eager to obey the will of God until we meet again.
Through Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord.
Amen.

Sung Amen

Acknowledgements:
Bible Quotations taken from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

English translations of The Lord’s Prayer, © 1998, English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), and used by permission. www.englishtexts.org

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