Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Wedding and a Signpost.


Sunday, 25th January, 2015.

Gospel reading: John 2:1-11


I love the passages we read in the four Sundays of Epiphany. 

The Jews believed that the place where heaven and earth intersect with each other was the temple but in these Epiphany passages, Jesus’ glory is revealed outside the temple - and, even more startling, none was in Jerusalem; we have a house in Bethlehem, the river Jordan, under a fig tree, and at a village wedding in Cana. 

I was once told that during the war (WW2), the road signs were removed or made deliberately misleading in the hopes that the enemy would get lost if we were invaded. 

We all need help in finding the right way - even if we use sat navs these days. 

John doesn’t use the term ‘miracles’ - he uses ‘signs’ - chosen especially to be like signposts on a journey which will help us to discover who Jesus really is. 

So at the end of our Gospel reading we heard:Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him”. [John 2:11] 

These signs eventually lead us to words near the end of this Gospel: - “that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that through believing we may have life in his name”. [John 20:30-31] 

How does this story help us to begin this journey?  What do we see on this ‘first’ signpost? 

To me, the clue is in the word ‘first’.  It’s the same word John uses for ‘beginning’ in the first words of the Gospel.  It’s the word from which we get ‘archetype’ in English.  So this story is about the ‘basic/primary’ sign John uses to set us off on our journey to discover who Jesus is [the Messiah]. 

What is this primary sign? 

Jesus is in the ‘transformation business’.  

In the custom of the time, the wedding would be a large community affair.  The whole village would be involved. It was the village Nathanael came from.  Jesus mother was there and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited.  

The family on the verge of social disaster.  It was a disgrace not to have enough wine. The family would always live with the shame of it.   

He changed water into wine - and not into any old plonk when the guests had already had too much to drink.  It was the best wine possible. There more than enough of it and the water jars couldn’t have held any more. 

Jesus’ presence still changes lives.  He transforms our lives.  He does it to the full. God doesn’t scrimp on grace.  He transforms lives on the edge of disaster and good lives into even better ones. 

I think that, when we’ve grown up in the church, we sometimes forget this.  Just try to imagine what your own life would be like without the presence of Jesus in it.  

At a deeper level, this sign points us to the heavenly feast prepared for God’s people - often described as a wedding feast with the church as Jesus’ bride.  Communion is sometimes described as being a foretaste of this banquet.  Is this how we think about it? 

The water jars - used for ‘Jewish rites of purification’ - washing feet on arrival and for hand washing before and during eating - are a sign that God is doing something new from within the Jewish system.  Jesus brings cleansing and transformation not only to the Jews but to the rest of the world. 

At a baptism service when the child is given a lighted candle we say: ‘Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’.


So here are some questions for us, today: 

Where are the places WE expect to see Jesus’ glory?

Do we recognise the transformation Jesus continually brings to our own lives.

Is Jesus’ glory revealed to the world through us?


Mildred J Butterworth.

Monday, 19 January 2015

I saw you under the fig tree

“Nathanael asked Jesus, ‘Where did you come to know me?’
 Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree …’”

In the Gospel, Nathaniel is looking for guidance.                                                             

It’s likely that Nathaniel was reading the Scriptures and praying when Jesus called him ‘a true son of Israel’. Now Israel’s other name was Jacob and when Jacob prayed for guidance, he had a dream of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels taking prayers up and bringing guidance down. Jacob said, ‘This is the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ The place where he prayed for guidance was where he met God.

So Nathaniel sought guidance under the fig-tree. Then he met God, in the person of Jesus. So Jesus said to him, ‘You’ll see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ Jesus is Nathaniel’s ‘Jacob’s Ladder’.

Wherever you pray for guidance, you’ll find it in the person of Jesus.    
Here are half a dozen ways in which we might receive guidance. The first 3 are an Anglican standard for our faith – often referred to as The Three Legged Stool: Scripture, tradition and Reason.
·       First SCRIPTURE. Look in the Bible. Look for appropriate helpful passages where the Bible is relevant to what’s worrying you. Ask yourself, ‘What would Jesus do if he were in my shoes?’ The Bible still sheds light on how we should act.
·       Second TRADITION. Read other things that have been written on the subject, or seek advice for ‘experts’ for help and interpretation …
·       Third REASON. Use your own brain – think. Make a list of points for and against the various courses of action and different options you might choose. God seldom guides us to do anything unreasonable.

And here are a further 3 considerations
·       Fourth seek ADVICE. From family, friends, a priest. You don’t have to take it, but talking it over may help you form aa clearer decision for your action.
·       Fifth CONSCIENCE. Individual conscience isn’t an infallible guide. Sometimes we can delude ourselves that our conscience is telling us to do something when it is only wishful thinking. But, if you have a gut feeling that you’ll feel guilty if you took one of the options, you probably ought not to do it.
·       Sixth, turn to PRAYER. It won’t work until you’ve sought guidance from the other five points first. But then, God speaks to us in different ways.

Whatever we do, God can bring good out of it.

Ian Grange

Monday, 12 January 2015

Living our Baptism

We owe this charity to ourselves”

At Christmas the Word was made flesh: God took the remarkable step of identifying with the physical reality of
human life.  Today we hear about another moment of identification, when Jesus in baptism shares in the symbolic moment of spiritual rebirth.

These two events together underline the astonishing extent to which Jesus humbled himself in order to be among us and intercede for us.  In Jewish practice baptism served a number of purposes.  All of these centre on the idea of water acting to cleanse people of sin and corruption.  It is linked to healing, when Naaman was told by Elisha to wash in the Jordan seven times to cure his leprosy we are told that his flesh turned into the flesh of a young child: he was revitalised and made clean (2 Kings 5:14).  For non-Jews wishing to join the faith baptism was a requirement of entry.  Water therefore has a long history in the Bible for healing and restoration, and the moment of transition into a new community of faith. 

The use of water for washing away sin was not always seen as a once in a lifetime event.  It was a means to achieve symbolic release from sin.  This was the basis of John’s baptism before the birth of Jesus.  People came to repent and be cleansed – to be given the opportunity to begin a new life released from the burden of sin.  The Christian rite of baptism contains all these themes and mirrors the way Jesus identified with humanity: in baptism we are invited to claim kinship with God.

This invitation to change is both wonderful and a great responsibility.  Faith grown in maturity and insight has benefitted others in countless ways and stood as a witness to the glory of God.  Yet we also know, especially after the events of last week, that actions taken in the name of faith can be deadly and devastating.  The ideals of faith can be ill directed and where wise guidance is absent the perversion of belief can do untold damage.  This is true of many if not all forms of belief, whether religious, nationalist or secularist. 

In the history of faith there are moments of inspiration which can both encourage and direct us when a few individuals seek to set people of goodwill against one another.  In 1076 AD a Muslim leader, an Emir, had petitioned the Pope to send a bishop to take care of the Christians living in the Emir’s jurisdiction.  The Pope did this and also wrote a letter to the Emir recognising his gracious request despite their theological differences.  In the letter the Pope wrote that “we should do to others what we would wish to be done to ourselves.  You and I owe this charity to ourselves…”.

“You and I owe this charity to ourselves”.

When those whose faith has been perverted seek to set mature and faithful people against one another these words speak to us.  We owe this charity to ourselves, our children and our communities, to resist the temptation to see the madness of a few in the lives of the many.  Our faith, the new life begun in baptism, requires us to ‘do to others what we would wish to be done to ourselves’.  It is not the faith for those who want to label, brand or despise the lives of others.  But it is the way of Christ, the way of the cross and the only way that people and communities are transformed for good.    
Chris Swift

Monday, 5 January 2015

Through the window

One of the things I have always loved about CTK is the fact that you can see into it. There is something very important about this for dealing with own feelings of vulnerability about entering new places – we want to know what it’s like before we commit; we want to be able to see what’s going on before we put our toe in the door; we want to know whether there are people we might be able to relate to. Having glass windows and doors breaks down barriers in a way that I think other churches find difficult at times.

These thoughts, however, were given more focus for me recently when someone spoke about walking past one Sunday morning whilst the service was taking place. He said that although outside looking in he felt included because the bread and the wine being offered extended beyond the church building into the community of which he is a part.

It was a sharp reminder to me of one of the reasons the church exists - to be a focus of God’s presence within a community. Speaking, recently, about the parable of the foolish bridesmaids whose oil ran out before the bridegroom arrived (Matthew 25:1-15), I reflected that not only do we have a responsibility to be build up the reserves of oil of our own faith but that we have an equal responsibility, where we can, as a church community to help keep the channels of faith alive for those whose faith is flickering and have lost their way to their own reserves. This is our calling.

As we begin a new calendar year let us make a church resolution to keep focussed on the light we celebrated at Christmas and allow that light to shine out of our church windows as a guiding beacon to those whose reserves of faith are running low.

Maggie McLean