Good Morning everyone and welcome to this week’s online service. As we gather together today I wonder what sort of week you have had and I wonder how you are feeling? There have been some significant events this week, with the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States of America and closer to home, many remembered the life of Tom Steele and all that he had contributed to Totley, in his funeral.
However you are feeling I pray that this time of worship will be a chance to connect with the Creator God, who loves you dearly and a chance to connect with one another with the Coffee and Chat on Zoom at 11am
(the details are in the newsletter or email myself on firstname.lastname@example.org for the details).
We begin with a prayer.
thank you that you meet us where we are,
in the middle and muddle of our daily tasks.
Help us to hear your call,
to recognise your voice,
and to respond to your invitation
to be with you now.
(c) Copyright 2002-2021, ROOTS for Churches Ltd. All rights reserved. Print ISSN: 2040-4832 and 1477-0555; Online ISSN: 2635-2818.
We begin our worship praising God for the amazing things he has done and continues to do.
Take some time to tell God what is on your heart and Take some space to listen to the one made and loves you.
When you are ready the next song reminds us that God is with us in with Every Step.
Collect – The prayer for today
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The readings for today are obviously linked by a theme of marriage – but also of timing and hope.
The wedding at Cana in Galilee only appears in the Fourth Gospel. It is the first miracle of Jesus to appear in the book, and is often called the first of the signs within it – events that show Jesus to be something more than just another man. The writer deliberately chooses the word sign, as opposed to the dynamis, or ‘powerful force’, used in the other gospels to describe miracles in order to highlight that this isn’t the sole purpose, but it is a means to an end. It validates Jesus’ claim of a unique relationship to God, of his status as Messiah, the promised one of God.
So far in the narrative, up to our reading, John gives us we have had the scene setting of the first 18 verses of chapter one, followed by John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus, and then by the first disciples, hearing who Jesus is reported to be, the Jewish Messiah, deciding to follow him in rapid succession.
Following all this, and in keeping with the very normal setting the disciples are called from, in chapter 2 we come to the scene of a wedding. Wedding customs in first century Palestine for Jewish people were, probably quite obviously, different to today – especially where today is the period of COVID restrictions we’re currently living under.
There would normally be three elements or phases to a wedding. Firstly, a contract would be signed by the parents of the bride, the parents of the bridegroom and the bridegroom himself. Additionally the bridegroom would pay a dowry, or a down payment, to the bride or her parents. That process began the betrothal period, like our engagement period today. This was the period Mary and Joseph were in, and caused anxiety, when Mary was found to be pregnant. (Matt. 1:18; Luke 2:5).
The next phase would be the bridegroom, accompanied by his male friends, parading to the bride’s house, the house of her father, creating a procession in the streets. The bride would be ready with her maidens, and would join the parade to end up bridegroom’s home. This was the actual wedding and is the basis of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13).
The third phase would be the marriage supper. And this is where we find ourselves in our reading today. We’re told that Jesus and the disciples at the time – Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel plus one other (cf: John 1:35-51) – and Jesus’ mother were all invited to the same wedding feast. Some have also suggested a fairly close relationship with the families being wed as Jesus’ mother is somehow alerted that the wedding party have run out of wine.
At this point Jesus’ mother asks him to intervene, or at least implies and expects him to. Is it the weight of her expectation – she knows what she has been told about her child, and has no doubt heard the proclamation of John that he is the Messiah, the promised saviour of the Jews. He also has already begun to build a following. Her expectation leads her to ask, and in doing so receives quite a startling response. “Woman, why do you involve me?”.
This expression is used in the OT several times (Judg. 11:12; 18:24; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:23; 2 Kings 3:13; 2 Chro. 35:21), and a couple in the NT (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28) details in the notes – it translates from the Hebrew and the Greek. It is intended to intimate a distance between two people or parties. Literally it can be rendered as “What to me and to you?”. What is there between us is the sense when used by Jephthah to speak to Ammon, or the demons speaking to Jesus. To use a modern Polish idiom: Not my circus, not my monkeys.
Jesus tells his mother that this is not His time – it is not the moment when he will be publicly revealed as the Messiah. Whilst his mother raised Him, he is working to the timing and intent of God alone. And yet. Duly informed, Mary instructs the servants to follow Jesus instructions, resulting in a transformative miracle, producing the “best wine yet” at the wedding.
Bound up in all this narrative is the hope of Mary, having heard the words of the angel 30 years ago, the hope of the disciples in choosing to follow this one for whom, up until this point, they had no real evidence to prove the claims made of him. The expectation is there, the perceived immediate need is there, and yet Jesus reminds Mary that he is aligned to the timing and purpose of the Father. And yet, he also unexpectedly and inexplicably meets the need and validates his identification as the Son of God.
The events described by Jesus in Revelation 19:7-10 describe the third phase of the wedding feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. The first two phases have already happened. The first phase, the betrothal is already complete for those that know Christ – completed by that grace and mercy transaction when coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The metaphor extends when, in that the has been paid by the bridegroom’s parent (God the Father) because of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the bride’s, the Church’s behalf.
The Church is betrothed to Christ much the same way as the wise virgin in the parable. We’re encouraged to be expectant and wait for the return of Jesus, the bridegroom (2 Tim. 4:8). The second phase therefore us the return of Christ, Jesus comes to His bride and takes the Church to heaven, to the Father’s house. The Marriage Supper follows – the third and final step and is a glorious celebration of all who are in Christ Jesus, clothed in a righteousness not deserved or our own, but made possible and available to us because of what Christ has done.
Why do I draw these parallels? What good does it do us today? We have a hope of our own. Not to see the Messiah revealed, but to see him face-to-face, rather than through the eyes of faith. We don’t know the time, or place – but we have that certain knowledge that he will return, and we will partake in the wedding feast. We may struggle to see that next steps in the plans of God, as seemingly Mary did, but we know the destination.
That being said, God is also interested in the smallest and everyday things. The fact of wine running out at a wedding in Galilee is hardly a cosmic event that demands divine attention. And yet. Jesus intervenes for the good of those around him, revealing his divine credentials to the few in the know. Even as we work out our own life path and events, the struggles and the highs, the pain and the joy, God is as interested in those things as the eternal plan of salvation, and the mechanics of the universe.
In the reading today, washing water was transformed. Metaphorically the Jewish ceremonial way to God, washing physically and spiritually – is being turned by Jesus into something new. The “best wine”. That is what God has planned for those who have faith in Christ. That “best wine” itself symbolizing the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Oure readings today remind us that In the incarnation and the work of Jesus Christ is a great argument of the willingness of God to interact with us, to have us saved, even when we are unwilling to accept it. It reflects His goodness, and our gracelessness, His infinite condescension and our folly. He enables us to come to Him despite ourselves without guilt or blame – ultimately to be presented spotless, and to worship him.
How does our certain hope colour our lives?
What small ways has God worked in your life this week?
How much are we looking forward to heaven, to the wedding feast of the Lamb, when our present process fo sanctification will be complete?
What comfort do we feel at God’s constant reaching to us and working on, in and through us?
God of the past and of the future,
we bring to you in prayer those people and places on our hearts today:
We remember the parts of the world
where people are being killed, oppressed and displaced.
We pray especially for the people of Tigray in Ethiopia,
for the people of Dafur in the Sudan,
for the Uighur peoples in China.
May those in power leave behind violence and follow your call to peace.
Lord Jesus, you called fisherman as they worked,
so we pray for fisherman today as they struggle to make a living.
We pray for all those who work to bring food to our table
as they struggle with the complexities of legislation and the challenges of extreme weather.
And may those who exploit or abuse leave behind cruelty and follow your call to compassion.
We pray for all young people caught up in and trapped by gang violence,
for those who have been stabbed or shot and for their families,
for those who live in fear of being attacked,
for those who have been imprisoned, who have committed murder – and for their families,
for all those who carry weapons.
Help them to leave behind despair and to follow your call to hope.
We pray for the people of America as Joe Biden begins his term as President,
and for Kamala Harris and all those entrusted with the responsibility
of re-shaping and re-uniting the states that make up that vast nation,
so divided by race and politics and so ravaged by Covid.
Help them to leave behind ambition and to follow your call to serve.
We pray for one another,
for our church families, our communities, and our loved ones,
for those who feel overwhelmed by the challenges of each day,
for those adapting to new ways of living,
for those who are ill,
for those close to death,
for those who are grieving.
Help us all to leave behind all that separates us from you and from one another
and to follow your call to trust and to love –
in Jesus’ name.
Copyright 2002-2021, ROOTS for Churches Ltd. All rights reserved. Print ISSN: 2040- 4832 and 1477- 0555; Online ISSN: 2635-2818.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Final Prayer and Blessing
thank you that you meet us where we are,
in the middle and muddle of our daily lives.
Help us to hear your call,
to recognise your voice,
and to respond to your invitation
to follow you whatever we might be doing.
Copyright 2002-2021, ROOTS for Churches Ltd. All rights reserved. Print ISSN: 2040-4832 and 1477-0555; Online ISSN: 2635-2818.
And the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
All: In the name of Christ. Amen.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”