16th January 2022
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.
5 Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, *
and your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep; *
you save both man and beast, O Lord.
7 How priceless is your love, O God! *
your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast upon the abundance of your house; *
you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the well of life, *
and in your light we see light.
10 Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you, *
and your favour to those who are true of heart.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
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.
Today’s gospel is one of my favourite stories as it about enjoying life and creating an abundance out of very little. It is on a par with the feeding of the 5000. And with the two, you have the Eucharist – a story which does not explicitly appear in John’s gospel.
The first reading from Isaiah begins with the voice of the prophet shouting out; not keeping silent. Sometimes we are reluctant to shout out either loud enough or often enough for those in need of salvation? For the people of Afghanistan? For those children in the UK who don’t have beds to sleep in? For people whose wages are so low, they have to rely on food banks? For those struggling with mental ill health because of the pandemic?
In Isaiah’s case there is a back story. Jerusalem had sinned, had erred and strayed from God and had suffered the consequences. Having learnt from their mistakes, the time had now come for the restoration of Jerusalem, a returning to their union with God. The people had been physically exiled but now they were returning to their God, to their land, to their roots.
We in the 21st century have strayed from God’s ways, have become separated from the land and are seeing around us the effects of that rift. As we accept that our lifestyles are the prime cause of the climate crisis, and our greed the prime cause of world wide injustices, so we are able to repent, to make reparations and to seek restoration and reconciliation – with God, with the land and with each other. Isaiah uses the concept of marriage to describe the strength and joy that comes from the renewed relationship between and God and the people. It is a relationship that abounds with delight.
The writer of psalm 36 echoes the same sentiments, extolling the strength and the abundance that come from a relationship built of love and faithfulness. Here is an abundance of good living that delights both humans and beasts. It is a relationship that grows through the gift of light – or as we might say, wisdom.
Last Sunday we recalled the baptism of Jesus and the moment at which he was filled with the Holy Spirit, a gift that came from above. Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in Corinth reminds them of the gifts they have received through the Holy Spirit: gifts of wisdom and discernment, of healing and miracles, of prophesy and discernment. The gifts of the Spirit are a sign of their union with God; those who speak or live in way that separates them from that relationship, cannot speak well of Jesus and vice versa. It is the gifts of the Spirit that will enable us to live lives that restore the world.
Finally to the Gospel. This story of transformation and abundance, and it is also a story about the celebration of restoration. We are not given any details about the bride and groom, although in a later passage we will hear John referring to Jesus as the bridegroom. The idea of marriage is often used in the Bible as a metaphor for the relationship between God and people. So we might imagine that this wedding celebrates the restoration of the relationship between God and humanity, manifested in the union between Jesus and the community of those who love him. It is a celebration that ends up overflowing with wine: each stone jar is filled with upwards of 100 litres of the best wine!
Notice the role Jesus’s mother plays. It is she who points out to Jesus what is needed, and it is she who prompts the servants to play their part. As followers of Jesus we are not automatons, but have differing gifts that we expected to use. And for some of us they may be the gift of observation, of discerning what is needed, of prompting or inspiring others to action. The good news is about action and transformation. Here a new use is found for the water jars; their former use may have been for cleansing rituals (maybe outdated rituals) but now they have been upcycled as wine vats. There had been a tradition of serving the best wine first, but now there is a new one: saving the best till last! This wedding reveals the glory of Jesus. It is a wedding that is not going to be forgotten: indeed it is a union which continues to be celebrated every time we share the Eucharist.