A Service for at Home on Sunday 16th January. We thank the person who has prepared this service.
Let us praise God, all of us who serve him; let us praise his name now and for ever!
Let us praise him from sunrise to sunset; for his glory is above the heavens themselves.
Hymn – Now thank we all our God (Singing the Faith 81)
Prayers of approach:
Creator God, we worship you; from nothing you made all that is, and in love you brought life into being.
Saviour God, we worship you; to fulfil your loving purposes you came into your creation, offering us salvation from sin and new life through Jesus.
Inspiring God, we worship you; through your Holy Spirit you continue to be present among us, revealing your glory and showing us your way.
And even with your glory so evident and your will so clear, we turn away from you. We bring to mind those ways in which we have failed you – those times when we have put ourselves at the centre instead of you – and we are very sorry……. Loving Father, forgive us….
God says, ‘my beloved children, you are forgiven; turn from your old ways and follow me, and I will give you rest and new life.’ Thanks be to God!
Reading – The first sign (John 2.1-11)
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’ ‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from eighty to a hundred and twenty litres. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’
What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
In Hedge End we have just begun to explore the Holy Habit of Biblical Teaching. We have two central questions to consider. The first is ‘What is the Bible for?’ Paul answers it by saying ‘All scripture … is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Tim.3.16) – in other words, in the bible we will find God’s instructions for living in accordance with his will. But that leads into a second question, ‘How should we read the Bible to find them?’ After all, it has such a vast range of different elements – stories and laws, poems and prophecies, and much more. Do we read quickly, to get an overview, or verse-by-verse analytically to draw out all the meaning? If we are looking for God’s instructions, do we skip over the stories? If we want to enjoy the stories (especially the familiar ones), do we leave out the grim prophecies?
But then, perhaps we should be looking behind the words – looking to find God himself in the Bible. After all, it is not just a historical text from the past; it is the one continuing source of God’s revelation to us of who he is. So maybe we should read with that in mind all the time, looking for what God has to say to us now about who he is.
And today’s reading is a good place to start. The story of the Wedding at Cana is almost too well known, both as a straightforward story and as an ‘acted parable’ with ‘meanings’ which tell us a lot about the purpose and direction of the ministry of Jesus. It can be taken as symbolic of the overwhelming generosity of God – more and better wine than anyone could possibly drink! It can be a hint of the ‘great banquet’ provided in God’s eternal kingdom. At a more mundane level, it shows God’s compassion in the most ordinary of situations, as that Jesus rescues a family friend from potential disgrace.
But the way John writes the story points us to a deeper significance. He does not call this a ‘miracle’, but a ‘sign’ – by which he means an event or action which shows us something about Jesus himself. What happens is important in itself – but for people who are trying to find out who Jesus really is, the event ‘reveals his glory’ by showing that in Jesus we see God himself at work. In a similar way to the Feeding of the Five Thousand or the Stilling of the Storm, here Jesus shows that he has power over the natural world – the power of God the Creator himself.
That is why the disciples ‘believed in him’. Theirs was not the superficial faith of those dazzled by the miracle itself (we read of plenty of those among the crowds), but the growing conviction that in this man (whom Andrew had already identified as the Messiah from hearing him speak – John 1.41) God’s revelation of himself had moved from the words of scripture to the living Word.
And just as they found who Jesus truly was by understanding the meaning of his ‘signs’, so can we. As we read and re-read this story – indeed, as we read the whole of the Bible – let us ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see in Jesus ‘God in Man made manifest’ (to use the words of our next hymn), so that we too may believe in him, listen to his teaching, and follow his way by living according to his example.
Hymn – Songs of thankfulness and praise (tune Salzburg – HP 727)
Prayers of intercession:
In the ministry and works of Jesus, the disciples saw God at work; let us pray for people who today are reflecting the love of God in their work throughout the world, asking that their example may inspire others:
We pray for places where there is warfare and civil strife; we pray for peacemakers, that they may help to build bridges of understanding to bring opponents together and provide communities with hope.
We pray for countries impoverished by corruption and greed; we pray for men and women of integrity who stand up against what is wrong and demonstrate in their own lives the way of truth.
We pray for the world still in thrall to Covid 19; we pray for scientists working on vaccines and treatments, that they may be supported and encouraged in spite of false news and conspiracy theories; we pray for health service staff, exhausted by the demands on them yet still battling on, that they may feel upheld by the love of others.
We pray for our community; we pray for all those who continue to support and encourage their neighbours, that no-one may feel lonely or unloved.
We pray for our church; we pray that as we respond to the changing situation around us, we may continue to offer the love of God to all who need it.
We pray for ourselves; we pray that we may recognise and seize opportunities offered to us to reflect God’s glory, so that his kingdom may grow in our lives and in the lives of those whom we meet.
We ask all these prayers in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray –
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be honoured;
may your kingdom come in this world just as it is in heaven.
Give us today what we need to live.
Forgive us our offences, as we forgive those who offend against us;
do not let us be tempted, and keep us safe from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are your, now and for ever. Amen
Song – One shall tell another (Songs of Fellowship 439)
Let us go out into the world in the power of God’s Spirit,
aware of God’s presence all around us,
and listening for his word to us,
so that we may live and work to his praise and glory.
And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Spirit,
be with us now and for ever. Amen