Sunday 14 January - Epiphany 2 - Evensong - Clephane Hume

25  1-9  John 2  1-11 

This evening’s readings offer a message of real hope.

Though the idea of wine becoming water is not in a literal sense the kind of thing that is intended in relation to wishful thinking!

I have always struggled with the concept of pray, and the money for the minibus will appear, for God is well aware of what we want, long before we petition him. But I suppose it makes people feel that because they are getting a response, it shows and reinforces their faith.

This is the second Sunday of Epiphany. Not in Epiphany. It’s an entire season of becoming conscious of the meaning of the incarnation. A much wider awareness of the implications of the birth of Christ. The baby whose arrival we celebrated has grown up!

The demonstration that Jesus can perform miraculous deeds, with impressive timing, is a clear indication of how our needs are met, when and how required. Even if not always in the ways we expect.

It’s not just about our needs of course. It’s a manifestation of Jesus’ miraculous powers. A visible sign, for the benefit of anyone who has doubts.

This is the revealing of God’s gifts to us. Not harking back to the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought by the magi, but spiritual gifts. And the most precious of all, the gift of his Son.

The reading suggests that he is not particularly comfortable at being asked to do this at such an early stage in his ministry. But we all have to start somewhere and his mother wasn’t brooking any reluctance. Sometimes other people see potential in us that we have not ourselves become aware of.

Turning to Isaiah.

The image about wiping away tears is a very familiar one, from the funeral service liturgy. Albeit from another source. The Lord is going to provide richly for his people – including the reference to well-aged wine.  We can cast out previous gloom and despondency and rejoice in our salvation. The wait is over. All will be well.

As I said already, this is a truly hope filled message.

At this stage of a new year, hope for better things is always in people’s minds. Governments and international bodies are meeting to discuss what they believe to be strategies that will improve matters.

And we know how much such things are needed. The renewed numbers of asylum seekers in the jungle, if indeed they ever left. The heart rending scenes of starving and sick children in theMiddle East– and other places we don’t see.

And the ever erratic patterns of weather. It’s all too easy to sink into gloom and despondency.

But we mustn’t. This is the season of epiphany. Not sadness. We have been reminded of the story of the visit of the magi to pay homage to the Christ child. There is nothing in the earlier, Greek, versions of the gospels, to suggest that the magi were actually three wise men as mentioned in our gospel reading.  So in this year of the centenary of women’s suffrage – how about something different? I leave you to contemplate that, for I make no personal claim.

Wisdom does not all have to come from intellectuals or older people. I recently read a lovely story fromEthiopia, which probably has its counterpart in other places.**

A small boy had difficulty with arithmetic. What’s ten minus seven? asked the teacher. He couldn’t work that out. Two from four?  No better.

Let’s try a different approach. The teacher is being creative.

If one sheep out of ten got through a hole in the wall of the pen, how many would be left?

That’s easy – none! The teacher is puzzled.

(small boy) I’m not good at arithmetic, but I do know about sheep. If one got out through a hole, the others would all follow.

No answer to that! When it came to the things that were important to him – no problem. And a wise answer.

The magi, in the form of kings, brought gifts. We try to modernise gold, frankincense and myrrh, with 21st century equivalents, but then lose the symbolism. The wealth of gold for a king, but the substances used in embalming herald the future that will await the child Jesus.

The Magi went a long way. It can’t have been an easy or comfortable journey – probably quite perilous at times. For our own part, we may travel far and wide, or just embark on short journeys. And make our own discoveries.

Hopefully our little epiphanies, as we experience the manifestation of the presence of God, will lead us onward to greater things during the year and enable us to share the mystery of the grace that is so freely given us.

**

Paraphrased from  Laird E 2013.  The Lure of the Honeybird.  Polygon. Page 41.