2nd Sunday After Epiphany

Let us pray.

Fill us up, O Lord,

That the water of our lives

Might overflow with the wine of your love

For us, and for the world.

Amen.

……………………

I gotta tell y’all:

Jesus’s first miracle is weird.

As Anglicans, we have always placed an outsized importance on it.

It features in that exquisite opening prayer offered at weddings,

“Which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence,

And first miracle that he wrought,

In Cana of Galilee.”

But it’s weird, right?

As I was serving as author-in-residence

For the daily devotional website d365 this week,

I really struggled with what to say about this miracle –

Especially on a site intended for teens!

What could I say to teenagers

About God’s abundance

Expressed through the miraculous creation of wine out of water

That would be appropriate for them?

But that’s not the only element of Christ’s first miracle

According to John at least, he’s the only one who tells us this story,

That’s a bit odd.

Consider:

Jesus, his mom, and his disciples,

Whom he has just called,

It just happened,

Are at a wedding.

Whose wedding?

We don’t know, it’s not important.

Why is it Jesus’s mom’s job

To make sure they have enough wine?

Why is Mary making this her problem?

And Jesus actually declines to perform the miracle at first!

He agrees: this isn’t his (or Mary’s) problem.

But nevertheless, Mary persisted,

And Jesus, like most of us, ends up taking his mom’s advice.

He looks around and sees large jars standing nearby.

Now, the purpose of these jars is to hold water

To be used for the Jewish rites of purification,

But what I didn’t notice until reading it again this week,

Is that the jars were empty

At the time Jesus noticed them.

Jesus didn’t look around and find water that was to hand;

Jesus called for jars that were empty

To be filled.

He invited human beings,

Human beings who might not often be noticed,

Ie. servants,

Into participation in this first miracle.

And then, Jesus tells them to take the water from the jars

Out to the steward,

So that he could see the results.

There’s no hand-waving or magic words.

Jesus doesn’t even use spit,

Like he so often does,

Or lay his hands on anything.

He tells them to go out,

And in faith,

They do.

…………………

It is a great sadness to many Christians, I think,

That it appears we no longer live in an age of miracles.

While some, including me,

Would dispute the assertion that no miracles occur

In this modern age,

They certainly seem to be thinner on the ground

Than they were in Bible days.

And so I think there is a great deal of comfort to draw

From this story of Jesus’s first,

And strangest,

Miracle.

From Jesus’s reluctance to perform it

Perhaps we can learn that miracles

Are not his preferred way to work.

From Mary’s insistence

Perhaps we can learn that

Love, and relationship,

Are the ingredients that make miracles possible.

And I think there’s something to be learned from those empty stone jars as well.

Jesus doesn’t choose just any water for this miracle.

He chooses water

To be used for the rites of purification,

Rites that he decries in other gospels.

Seriously! He tells the Pharisees to quit worrying

About the ritual washing of hands

And focus on making sure that their deeds are actuallypure.

But here, he embraces those rites.

He makes use of water that prepares hearts and minds,

And honestly, bodies

For worship

To show forth his abundance.

And he makes use of people, too.

It’s not that Jesus couldn’t make the necessary wine

Without these servants’ help,

It’s that so often

In the Gospels,

Jesus chooses not to act alone.

Jesus chooses to build a community of disciples around him.

Jesus chooses to ask those who come to him

If they wish to be healed.

Jesus chooses to ask these servants

To bring him the supplies he will use

To manifest his glory.

And it seems to me that Jesus still chooses

To make miracles

Through that which is brought to him

By human beings.

My friends: it is our turn to act.

We are the ones

Whom Jesus is calling

To bring forth the water.

That water can look like the donations we offer

To the food bank every month.

That water can look like supporting our Green, Growing Sundays

By inviting children and youth you know to participate,

And by serving as an adult mentor.

It can look like opening our building to our neighbours.

It can look like serving on the cemetery team.

There are a lot of different ways to bring forth the water

Jesus will turn into wine,

But they all involve effort.

And time.

And while I can’t speak for everyone,

I think many of us would say that we’re a bit pressed for time,

And a bit exhausted by the idea of effort.

It’s tempting to ask Jesus

To not only turn the water into wine

But to get the water himself.

I wish I could tell you it worked that way, guys,

I really do.

But the biblical witness is that it doesn’t.

If we want to receive the Spirit’s gifts,

If we want to see the miracle,

Then we have got to show up.

Our efforts may appear paltry,

As water does to wine,

But it’s not about how good our offering is.

God will transform it into that which is needed,

For the sake of his kingdom.

We still have to offer it, though.

It is Jesus’s time.

He is ready to perform the miracle.

All that remains in the water.

Will we provide it?

Will we make possible

God’s mighty power

To serve the banquet?

May it be so.

Amen.

 

Baptism of Our Lord (1st Sunday After Epiphany)

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus,

At your baptism you demonstrated there was nowhere you would not go

To show your faithfulness to us.

Grant that all who have been baptized in your name

May remain faithful to you.

Amen.

……………..

Over the holidays I went to see the movie Aquaman.

It is a supremely dumb film,

But it’s a lot of fun,

So if you go in with the right expectations,

It’ll be a good time.

As you might expect,

It’s a movie about the sea,

And the creatures that live therein.

Early on, a teacher tells Aquaman’s grade school class

That we have better maps of the surface of Mars

Than we do of the ocean floor.

That’s true, by the way, NASA confirms it,

And the main characters in the movie are kingdoms and tribes of beings

Who live undetected by people like us,

Whom they call surface-dwellers.

The ocean is an unknown place,

Filled with hidden dangers,

Perhaps not the fish monsters put forward by blockbuster movies,

But dangers all the same.

In Jesus’s time,

The ocean was thought to be a symbol of chaos,

And the abode of evil spirits.

I mentioned last summer that in the Enuma Elish,

A Babylonian creation story,

Creation itself is conquest of Tiamat, the goddess of chaos

And the sea,

And the Psalmist uses these images

As he sings of God’s victory over the great sea creature Leviathan.

The depths of the ocean are unknown,

And frightening to us even now,

How much more so to our ancestors

Who had told and retold these ancient stories

Of the monsters hiding in the deep?

And so today we celebrate the feast

Of the Baptism of Our Lord.

The Baptism of Our Lord is something of a surprising feast.

The story of Jesus’s baptism is told in all four gospels,

Even those gospels that do not tell the story of his birth.

It’s Jesus’s first public act as an adult.

It’s remarkable that these gospels,

Who so rarely agree on the order in which events

In Jesus’s life happen,

Sometimes even where or how they happened

Agree on this.

And yet it makes no sense theologically.

Because the baptism that John was offering

Was for the remission of sin.

The book of Acts makes clear the distinction between Christian baptism

Commanded by Jesus

After his resurrection

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

And the baptism of John,

Which is a ritual washing away of sin.

But the Scriptures are also clear

That Jesus,

Our Saviour,

Did not sin.

Jesus did not need his sins to be washed away in baptism

As we do,

Because he was without sin.

So why was he baptized?

There are many reasons, I think,

But one of them, surely, was because of water.

Jesus begins his ministry

By being submerged in water.

He has entered the home of the evil spirits.

He has completed God’s victory over Leviathan,

By entering Leviathan’s abode.

Scott Sharman, a priest in this diocese,

Posted an Eastern Orthodox icon depicting Jesus’s baptism this week.

“See how the monsters hiding in the deep

Scramble to flee as his body touches the water,”

He says.

The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus

Is a continuation of the sign of the Incarnation

Began at Christmas:

That there is nowhere God will not go

For the love of his Creation.

All those places of our lives

That we keep hidden,

The places where evil loves to dwell,

The secret corners of our mind that torment us

With worry, fear, anger, despair

Those places are not closed off to God,

And God will conquer them too,

For our sake.

No matter what monsters of the deep

Threaten our peace of mind,

God is there.

No matter what unknown futures

Send us into spasms of worry,

God is there.

No matter how often we feel crushed by the pressure of the waters around us,

God is there.

We who are baptized

Can journey through the deepest waters

Because our God went there first.

And so today we come to baptize Malik.

In so doing,

His parents and godparents,

And all of us, really,

Will make some pretty big promises.

Promises that sometimes feel too overwhelming to keep.

At our rehearsal,

I mentioned to the family that when we promise to

“Respect the dignity of every human being,”

It really does mean EVERY human being,

Not just those who respect our dignity in return.

That’s a hard promise.

We promise to proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ,

Which means we can’t prioritize our own wealth or safety

Over that of our neighbours.

That’s a hard promise.

We make these promises

Not because we are confident in our own ability to keep them,

24/7/365

All the days of our lives,

But because we are confident

That the Lord who is faithful

Who came among us as one of us

Because he did not choose to be God without us

Who went down unto the abode of evil and chaos itself

To show us the safe way through

Will not let the rivers overwhelm us.

Whatever waters are rising in your life,

Know that the God who has stretched to fill the deepest depths,

Beyond what we even still know,

Thousands of years later,

Will never forsake you or abandon you.

We who have been sealed in baptism

And marked as Christ’s own forever

Can be confident

That even in the deepest waters

We will fear no evil

For God is with us.

Amen.