A Shorter Communion Service for the the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany

 

HYMN - Jesus the very thought of thee  NEH 390 - St Agnes 

1 Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.

2 Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Saviour of mankind!

3 O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

4 But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is
None but his loved ones know.

4 Jesu, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
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;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
Christ the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts. In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.

Lord of grace and truth, we confess our unworthiness
to stand in your presence as your children.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

The Virgin Mary accepted your call to be the mother of Jesus.
Forgive our disobedience to your will.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

The wise men followed the star to find Jesus the King.
Forgive our reluctance to seek you.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

Your Son our Saviour in humility accepted the baptism of John.
Forgive our pride and rejection of your ways.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

At a wedding in Cana Jesus changed water into wine.
Forgive our failure to let your transforming presence change us.
We have sinned:
Forgive and heal us.

May the God of love and power forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

Almighty God, in Christ you make all things new:
transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen


FIRST READING - Genesis 14.17-20

After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High.
He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.

HYMN - Lord of our life, and God of our salvation  NEH404 - Iste Confessor 

1 Lord of our life, and God of our salvation,
Star of our night, and hope of every nation,
Hear and receive thy Church's supplication,
Lord God Almighty.

2 *See round thine ark the hungry billows curling;
See how thy foes their banners are unfurling;
Lord, while their darts envenomed they are hurling,
Thou canst preserve us.

3 Lord, thou canst help when earthly armour faileth,
Lord, thou canst save when deadly sin assaileth;
Christ, o'er thy rock nor death nor hell prevaileth;
Grant us thy peace, Lord.

4 Peace in our hearts, our evil thoughts assuaging;
Peace in thy Church, where brothers are engaging;
Peace, when the world its busy war is waging:
Calm thy foes' raging.

5 Grant us thy help till backward they are driven,
Grant them thy truth, that they may be forgiven;
Grant peace on earth, and, after we have striven,
Peace in thy heaven.

GOSPEL - 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.

SERMON 

Metaphors, what would our language be without them? Every day we use metaphor to explain what we mean - to talk about one thing we talk about another. For example, we say that something is as quick as lightning - and that it's raining cats and dogs. Most metaphors are fairly easy to understand, some however need a lot of unravelling, not only do they explain the sense of what we mean but they might also take it further and develop the point. 

The story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee is full of metaphor, full of shades of meaning, John himself calls it 'a sign' - something that points beyond itself, authenticating the mediator of the sign and heralding things to come. The signs of Jesus that John relates are works of the present that manifest the kingdom that now is but also anticipate the greater things of the kingdom that comes in his death and resurrection. 

The first thing to notice about the wedding in Cana is that it was a feast, a banquet - with all the symbolism that the banquet meant to first century Jews. It was a favourite metaphor for God’s new kingdom, a transformed world of joy and fellowship, a community come together to celebrate its gracious host. But this banquet is flawed, the wine has run out, hospitality has failed, without aid the feast is at an end. So Jesus takes their jars of ritual, the incomplete and insufficient ritual of religion -  there are 6, the number which is itself a metaphor for incompleteness, that is, one short of the perfect number 7 - the water jars themselves standing for the whole ritual system of Judaism - he takes the water in the jars and transforms it into the new wine of the kingdom, the new wine of the Messianic Banquet. 

Jesus used the stuff of religious observance, water for washing the outside, and made it something to nourish and delight the inside. The stuff of law and religion was turned into the stuff of feasting and joy. Sterile religious duty transformed into something life giving and joy giving.

But there is perhaps an even deeper metaphor here – the idea that true religion is found in the very transforming moment itself - the conversion of sorrow or into joy, despair into hope, hatred and indifference into love.

There's a line in the musical "Fiddler on the roof" which goes "it takes a wedding to make us say, let's live another day." Amidst the hunger and the poverty of their lives the Russian Jews in the story find new hope and new strength in the joy of celebration, in the joy of fellowship and renewed community. 

We hunger for fellowship and community, now perhaps more than ever, we understand its value, its essential part in human living. Like many things, we understand their value only when we are deprived of them. 

But metaphor in this story of Cana isn't exhausted yet, for it appears that Jesus is provoked by his mother into performing this first sign of his kingdom. Mary - at least the mother of Jesus, nowhere does John call her Mary, she is always known as ‘the mother of Jesus’ -  she makes a simple statement to her son - ‘They have no wine’.  Jesus’ reply is shocking, ‘Woman, so what.’  At least that’s how it sounds to us, John’s use of the Greek word for woman didn’t carry the impolite overtones it has for us, what his phrase meant that I’ve translated as ‘so what’ is difficult to say, almost certainly it was an Aramaic idiomatic phrase turned into Greek. Literally it translates as ‘What to me and to you.’  And the reason Jesus gives is ‘My hour is not yet come’. And now we get it - with these words we are projected forwards to when his hour does come, when he will again speak to his mother as 'woman', but this time to say of the beloved disciple 'behold your son'. So the writer of the Gospel according to St John finds Mary at this beginning of the road to the cross, and at the end - these are the only two places he finds for her – but they are hers by right. 

At Cana Mary tells her son that the people at the party had no wine - and he met their need with fine wine. After Jesus’ last words to his mother he said ‘I thirst’. So the metaphor reaches into pathos and he who in grace provided, now asks... and his last act of mortality is to drink from another jar, this time by a cross, full of sour wine. 

In telling us of Jesus at the wedding at Cana in Galilee John is inviting us to make connections, to see the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end, to see in the cross the banquet and the wine that will not end, to see in jars - 6, the 7th being beside the Cross - a way of religion that must be transformed, that is transformed by the presence of Jesus. 

But most of all in telling us of Jesus at the wedding at Cana in Galilee John is calling us to believe, and in belief be ourselves transformed by the water become wine, become the blood of Christ shed for us – and shared by us.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried; he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles: this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Mary Hinton

God is our hope and strength: a very present help in trouble.

We pray for our world and the leaders of the nations. May they guide with wisdom, and seek out the ways of justice and peace.

Across the world nations struggle to contain the Covid 19 pandemic. Lord, we commend to you the sick, all who grieve, and the multitude of medical teams and all who support them.

Storm Christoph has brought flooding, snowfall and misery to many in the UK. We pray for those affected, and give thanks, for the work of the emergency services.

We pray for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as they begin their terms of presidential  office in the USA. Their path ahead is not an easy one, may your guidance be with their endeavours.

Lord, have mercy on those killed and injured in explosions, by accident or design, in Madrid and Baghdad this week.

Lord be with the thousands of migrants struggling against extreme weather conditions with inadequate shelter, as they flee violence, poverty and persecution in South America.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

Christ be our light. We pray for our benefice and the church worldwide. In these strange and challenging times, transform our difficulties and disappointments into new opportunities to reach out to you and our neighbours. We give thanks for William and his team who support us and bring worship into our homes with the use of technology.

We pray for all who minister in your church and for other denominations as their leaders support their congregations.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

We pray for our parish communities. Lord, bless our homes and those with whom we share joy and laughter: pain and sorrow. We give thanks for all those key workers and those who assist them, who have maintained during this Pandemic, the vital services which underpin the fabric of our lives. These tasks have not been easy or without risk. Lord help us to be watchful for those in our community who struggle with life.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for all who are sick and for those who care for them in all places of healing. Lord, be with all who feel isolated as a result of being removed from their normal surroundings by illness.

In a moment of quiet we remember those known to us personally.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer.

Lord, hear us as we remember with love and thanksgiving all who have died. May they rest in peace. We ask that you comfort and support all who mourn.

Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

THE PEACE
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, 
and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace 

The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you

HYMN - Just as I am NEH 294 - Saffron Walden

1 Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd'st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.

2 Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings within, and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come.

3 Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.

4 Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve:
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

5 Just as I am (thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down),
Now to be thine, yea thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come.

6 Just as I am, of that free love
The breadth, length, depth and height to prove,
Here for a season then above,
O Lamb of God, I come.

The Preparation of the Table
Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you, 
and of your own do we give you.

Eucharistic Prayer H 
The Lord is here.
His Spirit is with us.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you, Father, Lord of all creation;
in your love you made us for yourself.
When we turned away
you did not reject us,
but came to meet us in your Son.
You embraced us as your children
and welcomed us to sit and eat with you.

In Christ you shared our life
that we might live in him and he in us.
He opened his arms of love upon the cross
and made for all the perfect sacrifice for sin.

On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends
he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;
do this in remembrance of me.
Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his body is the bread of life.

At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.
Father, we do this in remembrance of him:
his blood is shed for all.

As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.
As we eat and drink these holy gifts
make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.

With your whole Church throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body, 
because we all share in one bread.
Jesus, lamb of God: have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins: have mercy on us
Jesus, redeemer of the world: grant us your peace.

As Mary’s body was given for Jesus,
so Jesus’ body is given for us.
Here the Word made flesh
comes to us,
cradled in bread and wine.
[Please come to the table to receive the bread, respecting the necessary distance.]

Post Communion PRAYER
Almighty Father,
whose Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world:
may your people, illumined by your word and sacraments,
shine with the radiance of his glory,
that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed
   to the ends of the earth;
for he is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen

BLESSING
Mysterious God, confounding expectations, 
meeting us where we least expect to find you,
be with us this Epiphany.
Child of the manger, healing our pain,
sharing our weakness,
be with us this Epiphany. 

Source of life
birth of God within our own experience,
be with us this Epiphany.

Be with us in our frailty
be with us on our journey
walk beside us, live within us
lead us to glory, lead us home.

Christ the Son of God perfect in you the image of his glory and gladden your hearts with the good news of his kingdom; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen

HYMN - Jesus shall reign NEH388

1 Jesus shall reign where'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2 People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on his love with sweetest song,
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on his name.

3 Blessings abound where'er he reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blest.

4 Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honours to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the long Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen