The Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany
Sunday 24th of January 2021
Genesis 14.17-20; Revelation 19.6-10; John 2.1-11
There are occasions when the lectionary in England parts company with the lecture in the United States and this is one of those occasions. As a result, we are not going to use the readings published on the website of the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University this week.
The Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany: Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence : renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power...
There are certain experiences that we have in life that have such an impact upon us that we never forget them. The story that we read last Sunday of how the boy, Samuel, heard the voice of God calling in the night is one such story. I would encourage you to take some time recalling experiences that you have had. You will know that they are events of significance because your memory of them will be vivid like a movie scene. Go back to your own memories and relive them. What might they be saying to you today? What do they tell you about God? Is this different from what you normally think of God?
Mine takes place on a train between Southampton and Birmingham on a summer's day back in 1985. I had not long returned from Africa and was preparing to begin my training for ordination and I had agreed to attend a service at Lichfield Cathedral that would be commissioning some friends of mine to work in a mission school in Zimbabwe.
The train to Birmingham had not started in Southampton and it was already pretty full when it pulled in at my platform. I made my way right down the carriage and saw that there were two seats up ahead, one on each side of the aisle. On the right side were a small group of well-dressed middle-aged women engaged in quiet conversation, while on the left side a party had clearly begun. In the split second in which I had to make my decision I noted that the women were sitting in the shade while the party was in bright sunshine. I even guessed that the women might be church folk.
I chose the party. I have often wondered why? You may have decided that I was a young man, prone to temptation. I have sometimes wondered if that were the case but I don't think so. At least not on this occasion. I think that the party conveyed a joyous conviviality, a vibrancy, that I wanted to be a part of.
I was made welcome immediately and soon learned that my hosts were a party of trade unionists from the old Transport and General Workers Union who had been at their annual conference in Bournemouth and were heading back to Glasgow. They were two family groups who had decided to make a holiday of the occasion and the holiday was still going on. They were very interested in me, asked all kinds of questions about my experiences in Zambia and my plans for ordination and asked if I knew a certain Church of Scotland missionary. I had heard of her but had not met her.
And they had lots of fun trying to get me drunk! I have learned over the years that this is a popular pastime. Get the minister or priest drunk! A few years ago I attended a celebratory dinner for an Italian football team sitting next to the local priest where the young men had a similar idea. It wasn't that I don't enjoy a drink. It's just that I thought that I ought to arrive at Lichfield Cathedral in a reasonably sober state and so kept my drinking under control.
It was a lovely time and I never regretted choosing that side of the aisle. Almost immediately the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee with the gift that Jesus made of about a hundred and fifty gallons of the very best wine came to mind and I could not help but feel that Jesus would have known exactly the effect that his gift would have had on the wedding and that he loved a party too. Maybe I should have encouraged the well-dressed women on the other side of the aisle to join in but I was only a young chap.
There are plenty of times in the bible where heaven is likened to a party, and a wedding feast at that. A party in which the wine will flow, just as it did in Cana, and maybe we will all learn what it means, as Ambrose of Milan put it, to know the sober intoxication of the Spirit (Laeti bibamus sobriam profusionem Spiritum. On Sunday I would like to explore those words of Ambrose a little more. I don't know about you but I am looking forward to a party after our endurance of the pandemic is over and I would like to invite Jesus to come to it.
Possibly with a hundred and fifty gallons of wine. The very best wine!
Morning prayer takes place on weekdays at 9.15am unless otherwise stated. You can join in through Zoom using the meeting ID 845-168-9869 & the password is Epiphany21. The password will be changed in February.
Every Thursday afternoon at 4 pm a group of us are meeting to learn how to read the bible prayerfully using an ancient practice developed first by the Benedictines called Lectio Divina, or Holy Reading. We are currently working our way through the Gospel of St John. It is never too late to join in. All you need is a version of St John, whichever you choose. You can join in through Zoom using the meeting ID 845-168-9869 & the password is Epiphany21.
There is no meeting this Thursday January 21st
January 24th 11.00am Holy Communion ZOOM service Log in ID 845-168-9869 passcode Epiphany21)
January 31st 11.00am Holy Communion ZOOM service (log in details confirmed later)