Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Water into Wine

Sunday 16 January 2022
Second Sunday after Epiphany

Sung Eucharist
Revd Nicholas Mercer

When I was a child we would always spend a week in Filey as part of our summer holidays

We loved this week away which was filled with great pleasures

The beach, the cobbles, the shrimping and sandcastles made it very memorable indeed

But one of the greatest pleasures was the daily picnic  

It would normally consist of chicken sandwiches, fruit, some crisps and a flask of coffee

It was a great joy

The love and care with which it was prepared, turned something very simple into something very special

Two thousand years ago, a young boy packed a picnic too

It consisted of five loaves and two fishes

However, by the end of the day /through the agency of Jesus Christ/ this simple picnic had been turned into something else

Something miraculous, as it went on to feed five thousand people

The feeding of the five thousand is one of many miracles described in John’s Gospel

And is one of the nine food and drink miracles in the Bible

But this morning, we heard about the very first food miracle in the New Testament,

Again in John’s Gospel

Where we heard, there was a wedding to which Jesus had been invited in Cana of Galilee

However, the host seriously miscalculated the amount of wine needed

And so Jesus stepped in to help them

There were six stone jars which Jesus then asked the stewards to fill with water

The chief steward was then asked to taste the water

Which now had miraculously turned into wine

As the Gospel readings tells us

Jesus did this, the first of his signs in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory”

Food and drink, once again, became something truly exceptional

Although the wedding at Cana is probably the best known of Jesus’ miracles

The story is not just about the reduction in the Father-in- laws bill 

The Gospel writer is trying to tell us something more than just the mere physicality of the event

First and foremost, the story this morning is about change

The change that can be wrought in all our lives through Jesus Christ

What began as water was then transformed into something else –

Something far superior

The change in substance represents the change that can be wrought in all our lives through faith in Jesus Christ

This is not just an extra-ordinary story, it is a living reality

As Christians here in Church today, our faith will have changed the way we have all lived our lives, in some form or other

And when Christ affects our lives in this way, then we too have witnessed the change that was wrought in Cana of Galilee

Secondly, the story reminds us of God’s abundance

The story in the Bible tells us that there were six stone jars each holding twenty or thirty gallons

This is a great deal of water and a great deal of wine

Although it should provide the basis for a great party – this story is not about the abundance of drink

It is about all that God does for us and the inexhaustible supply of his love

We all fall short of what is required of us

However, despite our failings, God’s love is so abundant and generous that, like the wine in the stone jars, it never runs out

But alongside the change that can be wrought through Jesus Christ, this story is about the ordinary

It is about water presented in stone jars –

And a miracle wrought through the hands of ordinary men and women

Just like us

Indeed, it is the action of the ordinary men and women that brings about the transformation

What we are being told in this story is that ordinary men and women, like ourselves,

Can be become instruments of God’s grace

There was a very interesting article in the Guardian over Christmas written by Simon Jenkins

You may have read it

But it was about the plight of the Church in 2022 and beyond

Simon Jenkins pointed out that, for the first time in a millennium, fewer than half of us in this country will call ourselves Christian this year in the National census

Christians will fall below 50% of the population for the first time

Whilst, at the same time, there is a predicted loss of 20% of worshippers after COVID-19

We don’t need a newspaper to point this out

However, one of the potential casualties are the 16,000 parish churches that still form part of the fabric of our national life

A way of life which is familiar to us all is under threat

And applies equally to Bolton Priory as it does to thousands of churches up and down the land

I thought about this article when writing this sermon

However, rather than feeling downcast, I felt a strange sense of optimism instead

At first sight this might seem extra-ordinary or even naive

But the lessons we heard this morning all point in the opposite direction

The Shunammite woman, with a limited amount of oil, is blessed with more than enough for her and those who came after her

And the guests at the wedding feast don’t go short but have as much wine as they can possibly drink

Both stories tell us that God will provide in abundance even when the odds are against us

But, the stories are not just telling us about God’s bounty but what we ourselves are capable of

Because the miraculous happens through human hands

It is human hands which turn something ordinary into something else through the agency of Jesus Christ

And the message to us all here today is that we can do the same at Bolton Priory

Through our human hands and the agency of Jesus Christ we can prepare something for those who come after us

Like the picnic my Mother so lovingly prepared all those years ago, we too can do something lovely

But not only that, we to can achieve the miraculous