1 Timothy 2:1-7; John 2:1-11

3rd Sunday of Epiphany

St Barbara’s 24.1.2021

Rev Tulo Raistrick

This month we have been thinking about growing in love… for God, for each other, for our community, and today, we think about growing in love for the world.

When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy, as a much travelled and learned man, he would have been aware of world events. He would have known about the civil wars, the conquests, the destruction wrought by the Roman Republic in the previous century, the millions of people who died. Maybe as he travelled around the mediterranean, he still saw the ruins of whole cities raised to the ground. And now in his own century, he experienced an uneasy, precarious peace, one based on the suspect temperaments and egomania of a succession of roman emperors – Tiberius, Caligula and now Nero. No wonder that he urged Timothy to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions” for everyone, and in particular, “for kings and all who are in high positions” so that we may lead “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” Paul knew the importance of political leaders.

There is much in Paul’s world that we can identify with today. Our world may seem at the mercy of temperamental leaders too. We may breathe a sigh of relief that Donald Trump has left office – the world may seem a slightly safer place this week – but leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim-Jong-un of North Korea still remain, and we see the rise of extremism across our world. And our leaders are faced with many challenges. The head of the World Health Organisation spoke this week of the potential for “catastrophic moral failure”, if richer nations fail to share fairly the vaccines with poorer nations. Our leaders need our prayers and they need us to hold them to account. We express our love for the world by praying for those who are in positions of power and by urging them to stand up for justice and mercy.

But they should not be our only focus as we think about the world. One of the many things that I love about our Gospel reading of the wedding of Cana is just how ordinary a scene it is. It is an event that is replicated in countless villages around our world hundreds, thousands of times every year. We don’t know the names of the couple getting married or even their connection to Jesus, but Jesus is there, sharing in their day of happiness. Its a reminder that ordinary people, not just the important, matter to God. That each person matters; that each person is loved.

It is easy at times to treat people we don’t know as categories – the hungry in Africa; asylum seekers; the lonely – rather than as unique individuals, made and loved by God. But when we make the effort to see them for who they are – the mother, full of compassion and love, nursing her starving child, desperately hoping they will live; the family from Syria who have shown incredible perseverance and courage to reach the UK in search of peace; the elderly man with a life-time of stories and wisdom to share, but with no-one to share them with – when we begin to acknowledge their humanity, our own love and compassion begins to grow.

Growing in our love for the world means knocking down the stereotypes and seeing people for who they are, seeing them as God sees them. It also means getting alongside people, working with them, participating with them in the work that God is already doing in their lives. If Jesus was capable of turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana, then presumably he was capable of miraculously filling the large water jars too. But instead, he involves others in the task. He gets the servants to work with him, filling those enormous jars. It is a model throughout his ministry. Jesus rarely healed people without involving them or others in some way. Jesus wants us to work with him; we are now his body here on earth.

Look around. Where can you make a difference, where can you work with him, in responding to need in our world? Is it through financial giving to charities like Tearfund and Christian Aid, making a difference in some of the poorest parts of the world? Is it through getting involved in practical projects, getting involved with Carriers of Hope, for example, as they welcome and care for asylum seekers and refugee families arriving in Coventry; or helping with the Foodbanks? Is it through your work, ensuring justice and equality in the workplace, for your suppliers, your colleagues, for clients, for those you are caring or teaching? Is it by getting involved with churches serving in poorer parts or our city?

In this week of prayer for Christian unity, we’re going to see now an interview I did on Friday with Rev Pam Howells, vicar of St John the Divine, Willenhall, and what they as a church are doing. The full interview lasts 13 minutes and includes video footage of some of their work, including a video showing their summer brunch club where in 5 days they served 2,700 hot meals, and their Christmas club, again with hot meals and a Santa grotto with live reindeer!. We’ll show this at the end of the service if you stay online and it will be available on our website, but here’s an edited version of the interview. I’ve just asked Pam about the positives of Willenhall and now I ask her about some of the challenges the community faces.

Interview with Pam Howells

Hearing of the meals being provided by St John’s there in Willenhall reminds me of the wedding feast of Cana. Just as Jesus was present at Cana, so he is present through his body, the church, in Willenhall. And just as he brought transformation in small but significant ways in Cana, so he is doing the same in Willenhall too.

The wedding feast of Cana points us to the transformation that can take place now. And hearing Pam I hope inspires us all to believe that we too can make a difference, that we can be Christ’s body here on earth.

The wedding feast also points us to an even greater feast to come, the great banquet of heaven where we all gather to meet God face-to-face to worship him and celebrate with him, to celebrate the full coming of his kingdom of justice and grace. We may look around our world and despair at the immensity of need. But Christ shows us that each one of us can make a difference now, and that a day will come when the injustices and inequalities of our world will all be overcome. And that includes our treatment of the environment and the natural world, a theme we will explore more fully in a couple of weeks time.

That hope of a better future helps us to know that we should not despair. Let us grow in love for the world, praying for our leaders, caring for those in need, participating in Christ’s work, in unity with his church around our city and around the world.