Turning Water into Wine
I’ve just finished reading a book about a woman who brought together a group of 8 women from 8 different countries from around the world to ski to Antartica. The book, Call of the White, tells of the author’s idea to inspire other women by having this group, some of whom had never even seen snow, to ski to the pole.
The book starts with the selection of candidates, tells of their training and the struggles of the 38 day expedition. The journey brought the women together in a way which only such an extreme expedition could. The group were transformed from a disparate group into a team and the individuals from novices to explorers. They also found a new confidence in the completion of a goal which was so challenging. Significant events, difficult situations, challenges we face:
can change us, transform us.
Whatever the crucible, the challenges that we face are. They change us, refine us perhaps, or help us to find new depths and strength that we didn’t know we had. Perhaps we find gifts we didn’t know we had as we are forced to do things which are outside of our comfort zone. When I was a teenager, I signed up to help running day camps across parts of Eastern Canada. As a group of three of us we spent 5 weeks moving from town to town and church to church, working with local volunteers to run a week long vacation bible school. I was a young 16 year old and was probably not what you might describe as world-wise. We travelled to remote parts of Northern Quebec, beyond the end of the roads – so we had to fly there on a bush plane with a guitar in the nose cone because it wouldn’t fit in the luggage hold. We stayed with locals, who couldn’t imagine living in a town of more than the 100 they were used to. The experience was way outside my comfort zone, I remember being seriously stretched, but it was also a time of great development. I found new confidence, I grew in faith and I discovered what it was to trust God to work through me and to give me what I needed to do it.
Jesus, his mother and his disciples were all at a wedding. Jesus isn’t well pleased when Mary points out to him that there is no wine – ‘my hour has not yet come.’
Perhaps an over enthusiastic mother keen to have Jesus get on with his mystery. But also, this isn’t the kind of glory Jesus is looking for. The hour of Jesus’ glory is the moment when he dies on the cross and yet defeats death – and that moment really hasn’t come. Jesus isn’t looking for the glory of throwing a good party. He doesn’t want to be a miracle man – glory is for God, not human endeavours.
That is one of Paul’s concerns in our epistle, reminding us that we all have gifts of the spirit, and that they are not meant for glorifying us, but for offering glory to God. One gift doesn’t out rank another, one member of the church should not be prized above another for the gifts they possess. But Mary trusts Jesus, and tells the servants to do so as well: ‘Do whatever he tells you.’So the familiar story continues, Jesus is compassionate on the bridegroom who would certainly be judged for failing to provide sufficient wine – and he wants everybody to have a good time. These vast jugs are filled with water at Jesus’ instruction, and water from them is presented to the Steward. He is suitably impressed.Of course, this is the first of the signs, and yet it reminds us of one of the last, the last supper where the wine is transformed into the cup of salvation – and the heavenly feast which we take part in each Sunday. A feast sometimes described as the wedding feast celebrating the union between Christ and the Church.
Perhaps Jesus didn’t feel ready to begin the ministry he knew was starting, and that was why he was so harsh with the words he uses with his mother. Yet in John’s Gospel, this is one of the first steps towards the Crucifixion. For the disciples it’s the beginning of a journey with Jesus which would see them being transformed as they enter into an ever closer relationship with Jesus. A relationship which transforms each of us. But then being transformed is scary. That’s why it often takes extraordinary experiences, like skiing to the South Pole, to transform us. It takes being put so far out of our comfort zone to make us trust in others, or even to trust in God to help us. It’s why making the commitment to marry somebody is so often so difficult – because any relationship so close will change us, will transform us, even if it is for the better.
So it is with our own relationship with the risen Christ, who transforms us through that relationship. Who gives us gifts from the Holy Spirit to overcome the challenges we face. Who is compassionate and loves us, who wants to work through us to transform the world.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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