Third Sunday of Epiphany, 20th January 2019

Readings: Isaiah 62.1-5; Psalm 36.5-10; 1 Corinthians 12.1-11; John 2.1-11


This is a really special day in the life of St Mary’s

because today we will baptism Octavian and Phoebe

welcoming them as new members of God’s Church.

I can easily relate with the moment

that their parents, family and friends

find themselves in this morning,

as our own son, Gabriel, was baptised just before Christmas.

If you will indulge me in a moment of personal reflection,

there was such a sense of hopefulness and amazement

for the new life that had entered the world in him,

a huge sense of honour that I should be his father,

and a really strong desire to do the best for him,

in every way possible.

I won’t speak for Grace,

but in getting him baptised I was also thinking ahead

to the life he will, god willing lead,

and the trials and challenges that will come his way.

And I think baptism, and being raised in the church, is such a gift

because Gabriel, and now Octavian and Phoebe,

will grow up knowing a powerful story of transformation.

Let me describe what I mean by that.

There are three great symbols in baptism.

There is oil, there is the light of fire,

and there is of course water.

The gospel story we have heard read this morning,

is that of Jesus first miracle.

Now, he doesn’t know its going to be his miracle,

but his mother does.

They are at a wedding feast in Cana,

a town in his own area of Galilee.

I know that both our baptism families

will likely be having some kind of a party after the service to celebrate

but I doubt they will get anywhere near the scale

of the a typical 1st century Jewish wedding feast,

which could last up to seven days.

Can you imagine the food and alcohol bill?!

It must have been huge.

But what was even more huge

were the consequences of running out of wine

mid-way through the epic week long celebrations.

Totally unthinkable for the groom, who would have been the laughing stock of Galilee,

dishonoured in front of family and friends.

I love the little exchange between Jesus and his mother,

where she comes up him and tells him

the shocking news that the wine has run out.

And Jesus is basically like,

So what mum? What are you looking at me for?

My hour has not yet come.”

I imagine she gives him a very mum look,

and promptly catches the elbow of one of the passing waiters,

and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

You can just see Jesus rolling his eyes a little bit,

and then having a moment with himself and God,

and accepting that, OK, this is happening, now.

Mum says so!

Its a lovely human moment,

for the Son of God.

So Jesus takes six jars,

large jars, several feet tall,

which were used for ritual washing in Hebrew religion.

The fact they were already empty is important

because they symbolise the old,

and he is about fill and refresh the old

with something completely new.

Completely zingy, and zesty and fragrant and fulsome.

He is about to show that God can take what is empty

and fill it with new life,

that God can transform our lives

through water,

into something that will really be a cause for celebration.

So the empty jars are filled,

and before you know it the miracle has happened,

and the best man is saying to the groom,

Mate, this new wine is amazing.

Why didn’t you serve it first?!

Everyone’s too drunk already to appreciate it!”

The groom may not have known how close he came

to being the laughing stock of Cana,

if were not for the first miracle of Jesus of Nazareth,

the Messiah, and the Son of God.

But how does this relate to the sacrament of baptism?

Although today in the Church of England

we tend only to use a little sprinkling of water,

in Jesus day, and still today in many Christian churches,

baptism happened in a pool, a river or the sea.

The person would be lowered bodily under the water,

and as they were raised up again

the had left behind the old self,

of sin and separation from God,

and were understood to have been reborn

raised up into a new life of service to God, to life and love.

It is in effect a ceremonial drowning of the old self,

and a ceremonial resurrection of the new Christ-self.

That’s the image you need to keep in your mind,

at our baptisms today.

In that sense baptism is an awakening,

and a commitment to the life of God within all of us.

As the Psalmist says,

with you is the well of life

and in your light shall we see light.

We meet today as the community of the baptised,

as those who live out a story of transformation.

And that story is always at work inside us,

like an ever flowing well of life.

And here’s the incredible thing:

this powerful story comes into its own

at the worst possible moments.

When we feel all has been lost,

when we feel at our wits end,

and completely defeated by the curve balls of life,

we can access this story,

and remember that through our baptism

we have entered into both the death and the resurrection of Christ,

and so let the power of God’s love

set us free to live a new, eternal life in him.

And so we meet today to welcome

into this our fellowship of the baptised,

two new members of Christ’s church.

Together with the parents and godparents of Octavian and Phoebe

commit to support and uphold them in the way of faith,

so that eventually they too might know

the transforming power of God’s love in their lives.

We come today as empty jars,

jars made of clay no less.

We are hungry for the life of God to fill us.

We are thirsty for the spirit of God wash over us,

and we long for the transformation of God.

That God would take our lives

and make out of them something truly worthy of celebration.

A celebration that will go on not for 7 days,

but for all eternity.