Saturday, 6 February 2010

Jesus offers us LIFE


1. Jesus is saying that he has come to give us LIFE.

This is a wedding, and it is a party. And in the middle of this party, Jesus turns water into wine. It is so life affirming.

1 Timothy 4:4 says, 'Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer'.

God is not against LIFE.

Jesus wants us to give us life to its fullest. I went to see Avatar the other day. It is in 3D. It is amazing. We can show films in 3D.

But God gave us eyes so that we can see in 3D. He created a 3D universe (well, actually it may have a few more dimensions). He created music, he created laughter, he created food and taste buds, he created jokes and conversation, he created sexuality and marriage and weddings, he created creativity and games, he created wonderful amazing unique human beings. He loves seeing his people party; he loves seeing them LIVE.

The problem is that it has gone wrong. We long for life, but we do not seem to be able to grasp hold of life. And the bible tells us that that is because we have chosen to live for the good things and not for the God who has given us the good things.

We're like children being given presents. We become totally absorbed in the gift and forget the giver.

And so we take the good things that God has made and we abuse them.

Take alcohol. A good gift that can cause so much devastation to individuals, their families and society.

But Jesus came in order to restore our relationship with his Father God.
• He came so that we might be forgiven for the way that we put our pursuit of the good things that God has given us before the God who gave us those good things.
• He came so that we might begin to live again for the God who gives us the good things.
• He came to give us LIFE, real life.

2. It shows us that Jesus can work even when we have run out of wine.

I don't know why the wine ran out at this wedding. It might have been an incompetence; it might have been someone taking a few bottles out the back door; it might have been a supply problem. It doesn't matter.

What does matter is that the wine had run out – and because it has run out the servants are prepared to listen to Jesus.

We are meant to read this story as telling us that the wine of Pharisaic Judaism – with all its rules, regulations, denials, negations and separations – had run out.

And tragically, it seems that in many places the Church in this country is running out of wine

• The number of people offering for stipendiary ministry is going down.
• The money to pay them is going down.
• The latest statistics show that the numbers of people going regularly to church continues to go down

It is affecting us a parish:

As many of you will be aware the PCC have been trying to get a second parish vicar appointed who could, within the team, have responsibility for St Peter’s. The Diocese has told us that for the time being we will not be able to appoint a second vicar to the parish.

It is disappointing - but please don't be hard on the diocesan authorities. They have been told by the wider church that they have a limited number of posts, and while we are looking at our parish, they are looking at the bigger picture.

The tragedy is that for too long the church in this country has been offering people old wine, the old life, when we could be offering the new wine, Jesus Christ himself.

It is very easy to point the finger at others. I am not going to do that. We need to recognise our shared responsibility in this.

As a church we have lost sight of God.
• We offer people an aesthetic experience, which is very nice but does not change lives.
• We preach a universal ‘fatherhood of God and brotherhood of mankind’ message which sounds very comforting but does not change lives.
• We preach a ‘don’t do this; do that’ morality – personal or social – which ends up condemning people and does not change lives.

Kierkegaard said, ‘Jesus turned water into wine. The church has done something much more miraculous. It has turned the new wine of the kingdom into water’.

And we need to recognise that the old wine has run out.

And there are two things we need to do.

1. We need to repent.

We need to repent that we have been living for the good things and not for the God who gave us the good things.

We need to repent that we have been peddling old wine, even though – as God’s people – we have been offered the new wine.

We need to recognise reality, recognise that the old wine has run out, and we need to say sorry to God. 

2. We need to listen to Jesus and ‘to do everything he tells us’.

It all starts when Mary invites Jesus to get involved, and when she tells the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’.

They listen to him and they do what he says.

And they really need to put their trust in him

You can imagine - if it had gone wrong - the Master of Ceremonies tastes his dirty water. He says to them: 'Are you having a laugh? You did it because Jesus told you to do it. What has he got to do with this?’

They would have been the laughing stock of the village.
Capernaum Catering Company would have been out of business.

We need to listen to Jesus – I think we are quite good at emphasising that – but then we need to 'do what he tells us to do'.

I am not so sure we are as good at that.

The faith part means that often we have to step out and take a risk in obedience to Jesus. And yes, if it all goes wrong we look stupid. Paul writes that if the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, ‘Christians of all people are to be pitied the most’. Why? We have built our lives on a lie.

But it does not go wrong for the man or woman who steps out in faith in Jesus, not ultimately wrong.

Things may not work out quite as we expect.
• I think of Moses goes to rescue the people of Israel. He had a clear calling from God, and yet for the first few months after he began speaking to Pharoah, things got much worse for the Israelites.
• I think of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
• I think of many of the first Christians
But when we are obedient to Jesus, when we step out in faith, he promises that 'all things work for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose'. He promises that 'nothing can separate us from his love'.

And some of us need to take that risk and be obedient to his call.

I believe that God is calling some people here to a recognised ministry in the church: whether as a reader or lay pastor or to ordained ministry (paid or non-paid). We have a great staff team but, on their own admission, they are getting older. And in the future, if we cannot look to external appointments, and it is simply too much for one paid vicar, we need to bring forward and grow our own people.

I appreciate that it is costly.
It will be costly for all of us because it involves putting our hands in our pockets so that we support people financially if necessary.

It will be costly for individuals because it involves a rigorous selection procedure and pretty demanding training.

But as a parish - indeed as a community - we will need men and women in recognised ministry roles.

And we need people who will take the risk and get involved in working with our young people.

I had a profound experience when I was playing crazy golf at Spring Harvest a couple of years ago. I won. Actually I didn't; Alison nearly always beats me. But there was a youth group on the course at the time. They came from a church up near Blackburn. There were about 20 of them. I asked who their youth group leader was. They pointed me to a lady who was about 60 years old. You don't need to be a young person to do youth work. You do need to love Jesus, to be obedient to him, to step out in faith, and to love young people in his name - and to have a clean CRB.

We grow in our faith by spending time learning more about Jesus – but only if we then take a step of faith and do what Jesus tells us to do:

As a church we need to be preaching not ourselves, not morality, not a 'everyone's OK' message - but like Mary preaching Jesus. She sees the problem, talks with Jesus and then tells the servants to do what he says.

And as individuals we need to step out in faith: whether it is caring for that elderly neighbour, getting involved with the lego club for autistic children, setting up another parent and toddler group linked to the church, inviting the friend to a PASSION FOR LIFE event, volunteering to be a Street Pastor, doing everything you can to make the difficult marriage work, going against the flow in a work place culture that says it is all about what you can get out of it, a new act of submission, or of forgiveness, or a bit of radical giving.

John Ortberg wrote a book with the brilliant title: ‘If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat’.

Faith stands For All I Trust Him
Faith, for these servants, was spelt RISK

3. A conclusion

In the end, all we can do is repent, listen and be obedient.
It is Jesus who turns the water into wine.
It is Jesus who shows his glory.

At one level not much changes for the servants in this story.

At the beginning of this passage they are working for the Capernaum Catering Company and they have a wedding function. At the end of the passage they are working for the Capernaum Catering Company and they are at the same wedding function.
At the beginning of the passage they are serving wine. At the end of the passage they are serving wine.

But a great deal does change: They were serving £2.65 bottles of Lambrusco and now they are serving £1500 bottles of Chateau Lafite

Jesus is glorified when human beings turn to him, when they listen to him and obey him.
Jesus is glorified when he takes nothing and turns it into something

Of course it is not all down to us. If we offer the new wine we will not necessarily get a massive response, or a big increase in numbers. That is God's gift. People respond in very different ways.
The MC doesn’t see it. It has happened under his nose, but all he can do is see the good thing that Jesus has given 
The disciples see it and they see the one who gave the gift. They put their trust in Jesus.


Jesus offers us this new wine, this new LIFE

Because of him our relationship with God can be restored. There is forgiveness.
Because of him we do not need to live for the good things God has given, but for the God who has given them.

Because of him, the gift of the Holy Spirit is offered to us. He will come and live in us, will shows us Jesus, will grow a love for Jesus in us, will give us a longing to obey Jesus, will guide us and comfort us. He is the foretaste of this new life.


If we repent, listen to Jesus and do what he says, we can be the servants who offer this wine to the people.

Thomas Merton said, "This is what gives God the greatest glory - the achieving of great things through the weakest and most improbable things'.

I look at you and I look at myself. And then I look at God - and I have great hope. There is plenty of room, if we let him, for Jesus to show his glory.

1 comment:

  1. I was sent a copy of a poem by Anna Lewin.

    Cana Revisited

    Can you make wine of this?
    Routine of work, or lack of it:
    Relationships or brokenheartedness;
    Struggle to tease out meaning
    In the dark;
    Can these be changed?
    If ordinary existence
    Is poured out to be used?,
    Could you perform
    Another miracle?

    Perhaps the wonder is, being faithless,
    We turn the wine of our potential to
    Plain water.

    ReplyDelete