Epiphany 3 2021 - “Do whatever he tells you.” Instruction uttered from the lips of Mary
First Reading Genesis 14:17-20
Having proved his military effectiveness in a region controlled by powerful tribal warriors Abram is met by Melchizedek, king and priest of peace. Recognising the moment of powerful mystery, Abram offers worship.
Second Reading Revelation 19:6-10
Through the medium of dream-like vision the Spirit reveals ultimate truth with breath-taking clarity. It is here that God has made peace with us through Jesus and seeks complete union.
Gospel John 2:1-11
Set in historical reality, the wedding at Cana is bursting with strange details. A seemingly “innocent” miracle reveals Jesus as the ultimate joy-bringer, through words laden with a mystery far heavier than those who speak them can imagine.
“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) - Instruction uttered from the lips of our patron saint, the mother of Jesus, recorded for future generations, like us, to act upon.
So, what is our Gospel passage (the account of an event which happened over two thousand years ago, in a land and culture with no concept of visually gathered worship) asking us, living here in Thorpe in 2021 to do? Well, could I suggest that, just like those embarrassed servants desperately running around trying to find a solution, a way out of the challenging situation, such as bringing shame upon a family during their time of celebration, we too need to battle those natural, inner feelings of despair, find the courage and strength to recognize that, with Jesus at the helm, no matter how things appear, we must trust that there is some greater plan at work, moulding us, or to borrow the words from our Diocesan’s strapline, Transforming Lives.
Now, I am not going to stand up here and smugly pretend that it is easy to ignore what is currently happening, and I know it is so tempting to pull up the drawn bridge, when it comes to the many complex effects of this global pandemic, the state of democracy, or the power wheeled by social media giants, given our inherent human desire to protect ourselves and those whom we love. All the same, deep within our hearts, we know that as Christians we are instructed to witness God’s loves to others. So, do we, with all these various restrictions respond and act upon this call to mission? For me, our Gospel this morning has some positive and constructive messages for us and the wider Church to embrace. Firstly, regardless of the way we like to express worship, we feel drawn towards, these verses clearly demonstrate the pivotal role Mary has in God’s desire for salvation through the earthly ministry of his Son. The writers in our Gospel, trust her, for despite the male centred culture of the time, they obviously know this was a person of authority. Yes, Mary was chosen to be the earthly mother of Jesus, but she is also the enteral spiritual mother of each one of us, so whatever missionary task we are asked to undertake, a good scriptural starting block for us is to invoke the intercession of Mary, for as the wine waiters soon discovered, unlike so-call inspirational figures of both then and now, her sole purpose as the mother of our Lord is to deflect people’s adoration, gratitude, emotional hopes and concerns away from herself and directly into the proactive, practical arms of her Son.
All of which lovingly feeds in the secondly, timeless message of hope contained within this text, namely Jesus, never asks us to do something which is beyond our capability. Our waiters are not asked to recite lengthy passages of scripture to prove their worth or commitment before Jesus, rather he invites them to be part of God’s plan, a heavenly ‘sign’ as he uses an everyday item – or lack of it – wine, and asks them to simply perform a straightforward task, pouring water into a jar. However, as this is John Gospel we need to read between the lines, as this in not merely a physical description of what took place at that wedding party, but a deeply spiritual metaphor. For God takes the ordinary mundane of this world and transforms it into something which gives us a glimpse of heaven. This Medieval Church building, for instance, to a causal secular observer, may simply be an interesting example of historical architecture, but you and I know there is more here that a collection of bricks and stones, it’s a living witness of over 1000 years of Christian fellowship, it is the spiritual home for the Risen Christ, made present in the Blessed Sacrament, reserved upon our High Altar, which is why, part of our missionary journey to the wider world involves keeping the grounds in such a way that they reflect the beauty contained within. It is why the Alb’s which the serving team wear, once again may, for some seem unnecessary, but they signify the purity and heavenly glory not of the individual inside them, but the transcendent task and function which they have the honour of undertaking service for the greater salvation of the whole of humanity.
And it is why, once the vaccination programme has been completed and restrictions have been lifted, we as a Church family will hear God calling us to physically return to this our Sacramental home, this Church in honour of Mary, ensuring that this spiritual site remains a viable window upon heaven for the next period to come, God willing another 1000 years.
And finally, there is a deeply moving, liberating testimony, a kind of spiritual awakening, that strips back all the unhealthy top-heavy theology which can repel rather than engage others on an explorative journey of faith. All of which seems ever so fitting – when we stop and think just how much we, as a nation have all come to rely so much upon those workers, many employed on zero-hour contacts, who are involved within the service industry, retail sector and logistics, those unsung heroes who without a fuss have simply gone on with keeping this country ticking over. For it’s marvellous to note that the first sign of Jesus, the very action that caused his disciples to believe in his divine presence, was not carried out by the assistance of educated or religious elite, but by those who waited on tables. Clearly nobody must never believe or be told, that God doesn’t want them to be part of his team of foot soldiers. For as our Gospel instructs us, we begin with prayer, we cherish the heritage of our ancestors, we publicly gather to worship and above all, we are inclusive in our love, involving and value everybody. We all have a part to play – like Mary – in pointing to Jesus today.
Father Gerard Mee, January 2021