The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Message for the second Sunday after the Epiphany

Based on 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11  Different kinds of Spiritual Gifts but the same Spirit

And

John 2: 1-11 The miracle of the wedding at Cana

Opening Prayer:  Holy One, open our hearts to your abundant joy and overflowing grace.  Open us to put our trust in your healing love that never runs out.  Open us to follow in your way of amazing renewal.  Amen

At Epiphany, God invites us to live in ways that confront and contradict the values of secular culture.’

Looking again at these words I wrote and that Doug Graham read for us in this morning’s introductions to the readings; it occurs to me that this statement is multi-laden with a number of assumptions.  And, we all know about the dangers of making assumptions, yes? 

Still, in my paid accountable role as your clergyperson here at Knox, I do bring some assumptions to the ministries we share. 

The first assumption I bring is that we are engaged together in the work of being the church in the world. 

Knowing that work to be challenging at least and daunting at best, a second assumption I bring to our shared ministries is this: 

We gather each week for worship seeking nurture, guidance, support,  encouragement. 

We gather too for celebrating and for building up of the body of Christ, this body, here and now.

We also gather in this set apart time to pool our prayers and our gifts or resources-prayers of thanksgiving and praise, of humility and confession, and prayers of concern and hope for God’s new world a’bornin’ in our midst. 

Along with that, we bring and share our gifts for music and for theological reflection, be it during the learning time, the message, or in your own private reflections as they emerge. 

We do all this and more in the name of the Holy One whose Spirit is ever active at work in our midst and in all situations and circumstances. 

Each week, we also revisit some of the foundational stories of our faith to remind us of how God was present to our ancient faith ancestors in their faith struggles.  All of this being grist for the mill of our life in community.

Just so, this morning we heard two among my favourite readings from our Christian texts linked together by one of my favourite hymns from More Voices, “My Love Colours Outside the Lines”. 

‘Does it get any better than this?’ I wonder.

I really like that both of our readings bring us up close and personal with some of the highlights of two quite different communities where the sharing and pooling of resources and hospitality gifts are both given and received.

In the telling of both stories of life in community, challenge is offered, memories are tweaked, and new learning happens. 

This appears to be the case both for those first listeners, the fractious Corinthians and for those early Jewish Christian practitioners living in what was known as the Johannine community of that time.  Here this morning, as we listen, we, too, are offered a similar challenge is offered, memories are tweaked, and new learning happens!

In both of our scripture story contexts this morning, the listening communities are reminded about how they are struggling with their beliefs and their practices and they are challenged to be conscious of the ideal ways of being in relationship as a community.

In both communities we learn that something new is emerging out of what has been tried and true.

This ‘something new’ takes its impetus from the life of Jesus, God’s gift of light to the world. 

Jesus, whose coming heralds also the dawning of God’s vision of Shalom, the emergence of God’s peaceable kingdom-the time when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, where all who show up are valued, welcomed, and included, just as they are.

But first, there’s the hard work of struggle, of letting go that which no longer serves God’s purpose. 

In the case of our reading from John’s gospel this morning, that ‘new thing’ made know is the story of Jesus’ turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

Some of us here, who have had more than enough party over the festive season, might wonder at the story’s placement here in the lectionary cycle. 

Others of us might ponder the story’s purpose as we recall our own experiences of weddings which are not always life giving. You know the ones?  Where wine has flowed freely for far too long and where just such excess has led to much misunderstanding and the breakdown of entire families?

Not so, the wedding at Cana.  Despite the wine flowing abundantly, community is strengthened rather than broken down. 

I like having this story shared at the time in the church year when we are on the lookout for the in-breaking of God’s light in our lives and in the wider world we inhabit.  

For me, this story from John’s gospel feels entirely In keeping with a new calendar year in our secular world, a new season in the church year, and an opportunity to point out where the light of God’s glory is made apparent to us in this story of transformation.  I like it because it makes me think of where I see real, concrete signs of how and where God’s call is moving us, with a whole variety of signs pointing in the direction of that ‘something new’ emerging in our midst!

That ‘something new’ is, for me, as breath-taking, exhilarating, and inspiring as the transformed water found in the six stone jars previously reserved for other purposes in our story of the wedding at Cana.

That ‘something new’ that I see and want to hold up for you, like fine wine, is the emerging energy of our Exploring Faith and Social Justice teams. 

As they share their gifts and as they give and receive hospitality in their partnering with other neighbouring church representatives, are perfect examples of how God’s light is shining through us here and now. 

As well, the focussed energy of these two team’s leaders on other initiatives aimed at responding to climate change, the environmental crisis, and global justice issues are filling up our calendar here at Knox and fast! 

This is not only breath-taking to behold, but they also lift up our deeply held values here at Knox of welcome and of inclusion.

This last week, I have had several experiences of what felt much like water has been turned into wine and they, are for me, worth bearing witness to yet again. 

The first experience took place last week here in worship during the time of announcements.  Learning that we, this community of family, friends, and neighbours, had raised double the funds you were challenged to raise on behalf of our Syrian refugee crisis initiative was breathtaking in its impact! 

The other experience was when we gathered as a learning group of no less than 21 people last Tuesday evening for a short but exhilarating time of laughter and learning in community as the new study, Jesus 24/7 was introduced. 

Was it the time change, the soup, the company of friends and neighbours, the hospitality, or the learning?  Who knows?  It was something wonderful to behold.

Like fine wine, I lift up to you the outpouring of what I see as God’s hospitality as differing theological perspectives and questions about belief are named and struggled with in the context of community. 

These are but two stories I bring to share this day that speak to how the light of God’s love shines brightly here at Knox.

I am aware there a numerous other examples of the abundant nature of God’s generous and life giving hospitality being lived out here at Knox. 

I know that from the numerous conversations that keep bubbling up in our midst each and every day.  However, I will leave that to your proclaiming as God continues to invite us to colour outside the lines by letting our lights shine.

May it be so, amen.