‘Giving a Nudge’ – 16th January 2022 – 2nd Sunday of Epiphany

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The Readings


1 Corinthians 12.1-11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.


John 2.1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Sermon
By Rev'd Canon Dr Matthew Rhodes of St. John's

So there was this party. And lots of people were invited. And food was eaten and wine was drunk. And lots of people didn’t really know what happened that day. But somehow the story came out. And it proved to be more significant than some people might have imagined. And people remembered the story and the story lived on.

Parties are much in the news this week and today, on the second Sunday of Epiphany we reflect on a wedding party that took place right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The wedding at Cana is a wonderful story and like all Bible stories we can enjoy it just as it stands. It may be helpful as we reflect on this story during the week to imagine ourselves there. Of course this story has many layers to it and it really benefits from close inspection. John’s Gospel is like a treasure hunt. He lays careful and sometimes cryptic clues for us to find and nothing is wasted. John is very selective in his use of miracles. He describes just seven of them, four of which are unique to this Gospel. And the wedding at Cana is the first on both counts. Right at the beginning of the passage, John alerts us to the fact that this is not just any party. It took place on the third day as did the raising of Lazarus and of course the resurrection of Jesus himself.

This party would have been a big event involving the whole community. Mary was there and so were Jesus and his disciples. Perhaps more people turned up than had been expected. But hospitality is a big deal in the Middle East. Any guests are made welcome. This was no BYO event and running out of wine would have meant a huge loss of face. Most people probably didn’t notice but Mary did. She who pondered things in her heart realised what was going on. We need Marys. People who notice. Who are observant.

I wonder how Mary was feeling that day. Perhaps she was feeling a bit irritated that people kept asking her when her son would get married. Perhaps she was fed up with waiting for Jesus to get on with whatever it was he came to do. And it was Mary who gave him the nudge he needed. Pointing out what he probably already knew. They had run out of wine.

Jesus’ initial response seems rather rude. ‘What is that to do with me? My time has not yet come.’ But perhaps he found it hard to ignore his mother. She clearly wasn’t taking no for an answer. Mary ignores Jesus and directs the servants to do as he tells them. Sometimes we need do something similar. Not just notice but act. Give people a nudge. Mary knew her son better than anyone. Perhaps she knew what he was capable of. What his gifts were. And she pushed him to use them. Our first reading from Corinthians identifies different gifts that the Spirit gives to the church. Sometimes we need to help people identify the gifts they have and encourage them to use them.

Jesus, who was the guest, suddenly becomes the host in this story. Not in an overbearing ‘look at me’ sense but in a quiet, caring and serving sense. And it makes me think about how we welcome people in church. As members of the congregation I think we often think of ourselves as guests. It can take a while for us to feel that we belong. That this is our church. And that it’s our job to welcome others and make sure that they have what they need. We tend to think that that is the job of the vicar or the wardens. In a previous church of mine we had welcomers. But one day a new person turned up. They happened to know one of the people who was on the welcome rota but that person was not on duty that day. And the person actually said, ‘It’s a pity I’m not a welcome today otherwise I could have welcomed you.’ Welcoming is the job of all of us. As well as being guests at the Lord’s table we are also called to be hosts. It is the task of each one of us to make others welcome.

And Jesus does that not just by creating a little wine. He provides a ridiculous amount. Between 120 and 180 gallons of the stuff. And this isn’t just any old plonk either. He turns bathwater into Chateau Lafite. On one level it seems like a party trick. Completely over the top. It does not involve healing or meeting people’s immediate needs. And yet this superabundance of delicious wine speaks powerfully of the language of the kingdom. Of God’s abundant hospitality and generosity. It is a sign that Jesus is fulfilling the old covenant as well as doing something very new. Giving a foretaste of the heavenly banquet promised to all of God’s people. We will hear echoes of this story in a number of Jesus’ parable and at the feeding of the five thousand. Echoes too at the Last Supper and in our Eucharist and in the outpouring of Jesus’ life on the cross. Too often as the church we ration our welcome. And the pandemic hasn’t helped that. But the wedding at Cana reminds us to be profligate with the things of God.

As a priest, it is often my privilege to offer up the lives of others in the Eucharist and to celebrate important moments. To baptise, marry and conduct funerals. And much of the time I don’t really know what I’m dealing with. I tend to get the good stuff. The Sunday best. I don’t always hear about the bath water. The struggles. And in that sense I feel a bit like the master of the banquet. He didn’t know where the new wine had come from but he must have felt very thankful as I do.

The master of the banquet didn’t know where the wine had come from but the servants knew. Part of our the job of all of us is to be like those servants. Helping to make miracles happen. Enabling God’s love to transform the bathwater of our world into the wine of the kingdom. In this season of Epiphany we celebrate the manifestation of Christ in the world. The wedding at Cana stands alongside the visit of the magi and the baptism of Jesus as another sign that in Christ, God is doing a new thing. Bringing light and hope to a world in darkness. The wedding at Cana encourages us to be alert, to offer our gifts in God’s service and to play our part in bringing God’s kingdom closer. Amen.

The Prayers
Prepared by Lizzie Ilsley

God of Compassion
We pray for our community, in church and in the parish. We particularly call to mind members of our community who live with dementia, and those who love and care for them; at home and in care homes.
We pray for the dementia action group in the mission partnership of St Mary’s, St Mark’s and St John’s. Guide their conversations and decision making, and bless their work which seeks to help us to recognise that we are all made in your image, no mater what stage of life we are in.

God of Community
We pray for the wider Church, as it continues to navigate and discern its role and voice in our society in this time of pandemic.
We pray for worshipping communities who are working out how to be church at this time of shift.
Help people in positions of responsibility in the Church to work together for the common good, even when there are differences over how this might be achieved. May we always keep Christ at the centre of our purpose, remembering that he welcomed all.

God of Justice
We pray for the world, in particular areas of conflict and ongoing crisis.
We continue to hold in our prayers the people of Afghanistan, as many face starvation as the winter progresses.
We continue to pray for Rohinga refugees in camps in Bangladesh. We pray for agencies supporting them, particularly with the right for access to clean water, health care and education.
We call to mind the communities in Tonga effected by the volcanic eruption and tsunami this weekend. We pray for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods, and pray for those who lead the rebuilding of infrastructure in the coming weeks and months.

God of Love
We pray for all those who are unwell or recovering from illness or accidenct .
We continue to pray for those who have lost people they love as a result of COVID and those who have died recently in this community and beyond.
In remembrance of those who we love but no longer see.
We hold silence for a few moments for our own intentions.