Feast of Epiphany – Sermon 94
Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
Been to any good weddings lately?
If you’ve been following the soaps this Christmas – you might be thinking that there’s no such thing
The scriptwriters seemed to have written in – every problem imaginable –
Today on this feast of the Epiphany –-we are guests at another wedding – and this one too has big problems– but in this case Jesus was on hand to save the day –
This story is the first of the signs – or miracles – chosen by John – to teach us something about the power and authority of Jesus – how with faith and trust in Jesus – we too can be rescued
Lets look again at what happened – to see what we can discover about Jesus that will change our lives –
Weddings – in Israel – at that time -were long celebrations – often lasting several days – not the 20-40 minute ceremonies we have today –
And – Instead of getting married and going off on honeymoon – by themselves – The couple were expected to stay for the week-long feast – laid on by the groom’s parents – who had to provide – all the food and drink – for the families and guests –
So – for the first week of their married life – the couple were surrounded – by their friends and family – Imagine how they must have felt having their mother in laws – watching their every move
But at this wedding the couple had an even bigger problem – the wine was running out –
For the Groom and his family – this was not just a social nightmare – if there was no wine to offer – it would taken as a very serious insult to their invited guests – and a very bad start to the marriage –
To the Jews – wine – symbolized joy –and when the wine runs out – the party stops – so no doubt there was a lot of anxiety behind the scenes – the happy couple wondering what everyone was going to say – when the wine finally ran dry –
I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the very nervous bride – who went to see the rector for some reassurance – a few days before her wedding day – He calmed her fears by encouraging her to focus on three things in the service –
first he said – you need to focus on the aisle – because the service begins as you walk down it – next – you need to focus on the altar – because you will be led up to it – for the wedding prayers – and third – the hymn – because during that we shall go over and sign the register –
The girl went home relieved – and feeling much happier – but imagine how the groom felt – on their wedding day – when he heard his bride coming down the aisle – towards him muttering under her breath – “Aisle – Altar – Hymn” – “Aisle – Altar – Hymn” – “Aisle – Altar – Hymn”
When we admit – there is a problem – then we have a chance to do something about it – and search for someone to help us find a solution –
Mary knew there was a problem – and embarrassing or not – she took the problem to Jesus –
Point 2 Bring the problem to Jesus
The family may not have shown a lot of wisdom – in planning the arrangements – but they did – invite Jesus – to the wedding – and His very presence – opened up the possibility of a miracle.
When – Jesus was told the wine had run out – His response towards Mary seemed – cold and hard –
“That’s no concern of mine – my Hour has not yet come” –
But His reply was no brush off – He wanted to remind her – that she no longer had first call on His life – His heavenly Father not His earthly mother – was now managing His time and actions
When we ask God to do certain things in our lives – It can sometimes seem to us – that the windows of heaven are shut fast – that we’ve been given a negative response – but we too have to remember – who is in charge – we have to accept that God is under no obligation to do things our way – or in our time – He commands us – we don’t command Him.
But there is one prayer that Jesus will always answer with a “yes” as soon as it is offered – the prayer for forgiveness – Jesus died on the cross – so that our sins – can be forgiven and we can be reconciled back with God – so we can start again in our relationship with Him and the Father –
Because of the life and death of Jesus – we will always be offered a fresh start –
Inviting Jesus – to our party makes it possible for things to happen – but they will only happen when Jesus – is given complete control –
Many people invite Jesus in as a guest – or even a lodger – but not as the head of the household
Like Mary – we need to come to realise – that Jesus knows better than we do – what we really need – and that – when we put Him in the driving seat – the task ahead will never be as great as the power behind –
Point 3 Do whatever He tells you
Mary tells the servants to – “do whatever He tells you” –
The family had 6 large stone water-jars – the water in them – was used to symbolically wash hands and feet – as part of the Jewish purification ceremony – which was performed – several times during the feast –
The washing – did nothing to clean them physically or spiritually – It was merely a ceremonial rite – required by Jewish law.
Our ceremonies are of no use to God – unless they are accompanied by a response inside as well as out – when we come to church – God wants us to listen to – and obey God’s Spirit as He speaks to us – put into practice the things – we hear and learn – so that our presence and prayers will be a joy to Him – and serve to strengthen our relationship with Him –
Jesus chose the water pots – because they represented the ritual of the Old Covenant – and had become meaningless – now that He is here –
The miracle starts – when – like the servants – we are prepared to listen and act – on His word –
The servants – filled the stone jars – to the brim – Each held up to 30 gallons of water, that’s 180 gallons – much more than would ever be consumed at a wedding –
With Jesus there will always be more than enough – to meet our needs –
When Jesus tells us to do something – He’s not looking for a half-hearted response – He wants our full commitment – to Him and the work He has given us –
He could have changed the water into wine – without the help of the servants – but He chose to use them – as He chooses to use us –
After the servants had filled the jars – He tells them to draw off the water now changed to wine – and take it to the master of the banquet for him to taste.
And when he tasted it – it was – better than anything he had ever tasted before.
He hailed the bridegroom and said “Everyone else serves the best wines first … but you have saved the best wines till now&rdq
There will be times when the wine runs out in our lives – when we will feel things are out of control – and we feel vulnerable and helpless –
Inviting Jesus in – and doing whatever He asks of us – will change all that – with Him alongside there will always be enough grace to meet our needs –
Mary’s initial request was fulfilled – not in her timing or in her way – but the result was far more than she could ever have expected –
Like Mary we have to faithfully trust in Jesus to meet our needs –
Conclusion Commit yourself to Him
Marriage signals a new beginning – a new life – of love and commitment together for the bride and bridegroom –
This wedding miracle – would not have occurred – without Jesus’ presence – Mary’s prayer – or the willingness of the servants to do whatever He commanded them to do.
But – the real reason – for the miracle was not to change the water into wine – but “to reveal His glory – and lead His disciples to believe in Him”
As Isaiah reminds us – this season of Epiphany is about – the coming of a new light into the darkness of this world – a light given through the presence and power of Jesus Christ
“You will see it – and be radiant with joy – and your heart will thrill with gladness”
Whenever Jesus comes into someone’s life – there is a transformation – a new quality of life -a new Joy – which is like turning water into wine
There may be no such thing as a perfect wedding but there is such a thing as perfect ending – and that’s what Jesus promises – if we respond to His call –
So – are you ready to commit yourselves to Jesus?
The new wine is being poured – out – now – are you prepared to receive it – are you willing to come forward – with the bridegroom – and say “I will”
Prayer to Finish
for the Glory of God the Father