17 January 2016
The readings for this week in the Lectionary carry themes of love, caring, marriage, and the gifts that are always given when love is present. The possibilities for exploring how Jesus is revealed in love, and in us when we love, are very exciting.
May our worship lead us deeper into God’s unfailing love, and may it transform us, that little bit more, into generous, self-giving lovers.
Isaiah 62:1-5: Isaiah’s prayer for Jerusalem, and prophecy that God will restore her to be a place that people celebrate – even as bride and groom celebrate each other.
Psalm 36:5-10: A song of celebration for God’s unfailing love and care which includes all humanity and all of creation.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11: No one can acknowledge Jesus as Lord except by the Holy Spirit, who gives gifts to God’s people. These gifts are diverse, though God is one, but all are given for the common good.
John 2:1-11: At a wedding in Cana, they run out of wine, and Jesus’ mother tells the servants to do whatever he tells them, in spite of Jesus saying his time had not yet come. Then Jesus tells them to fill the water jars with water and take some to the host. When he tastes the water, it has become wine.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
God’s love for God’s people, and God’s commitment to care for all of humanity are described and celebrated throughout the Scriptures. Many of the readings for this week draw on the wedding metaphor – the celebration of Jerusalem like a groom who rejoices over his bride; the song of a God who loves unfailingly; the first sign of John’s Gospel, performed at the wedding feast. In the midst of all of these images is the truth that Paul describes in his letter to Corinthians – love always delights to give gifts to its beloved. As has been famously stated: “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” What this week in Epiphany seeks to show us is the complete, unconditional, self-giving love of God revealed in Jesus, but also the warning – the extent of our following Christ in the way of love is revealed by the extent of our giving. No giving, no love!
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
The central culture in the world of human affairs has evolved as one of getting and consuming. Of course, as will have recently been preached around the world, Christmas reveals this clearly and disturbingly. And the cost we have paid has been deeply felt in the last years. However, as Christ revealed in his life and teachings, the ‘culture’ of God’s reign is one of giving, sharing, and preserving. Only by allowing this ‘Christ-culture’ to permeate our lives and world can we ever hope to address the great crises of our time – poverty, human trafficking, dread diseases, terrorism and war, and climate change. Imagine the difference if nations sought ways to give to one another, rather than exploit; if organisations sought to do well only by doing good; and if individuals learned that love for our neighbours is expressed through giving of time, resources, compassion, and energy. While it may seem naive and sentimental to say so, the truth is that many of the world’s problems need the approach of love to address them. We need to learn to love our political, religious, international, and economic rivals. We need to learn to love our co-workers, our collaborators and our supporters. We need to learn to love those for whom we work for justice. And we need to learn to love our planet. This is not a sentimental, fickle, “feeling”, but a commitment to seek the best for the other, to honour their humanity, their God-createdness, and their right to life. The Christlike kind of love is a choice, made daily, to live in ways that contribute to the well-being of others and of our planet in whatever way we can. This is the call this week.
Every week in our churches an offering is received “for the work of God”. The Gospel question that we must face is this: How much of this offering is used to give to those who most need it – to uplift the surrounding community or to make some small contribution toward addressing the world’s crises – and how much is used to benefit only the church which receives it? All too often the message we send as Church is that our giving to God is much like paying taxes – not a gift of love, but a burden to be avoided or at least mitigated, as much as possible. Yet, as we allow the season of Epiphany to reveal to us again the Christ who died for love of us, we cannot help but recognise that our poverty in giving is a reflection of the poverty of our love. This applies not just to churches, or to the financial gifts that are given. It also applies to our families, neighbourhoods and communities, and to the way we hoard our time, our energy, our true selves, and our spiritual gifts. As we learn to live the loving way of Christ, we cannot help but become freer with ourselves, making our resources, abilities and time available to others, and opening ourselves up in such a way that we make ourselves a gift to those with whom we have strong and deep relationships. May the revealed Christ teach us to love truly – practically, sacrificially, generously, extravagantly.
RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Water To Wine
Where Is The Love?
This Is My Father’s World
The Church’s One Foundation
In Christ There Is No East Nor West
Come And Let Us Sweetly Join
Best For Last (New Hymn)
I Stand In Awe (Link to YouTube video)
Unfailing Love (Link to YouTube video)
May The Words Of My Mouth (Link to YouTube video)