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Thought for the week - 21 January 2024

‘Where are you going?’ And ‘what are you looking for’ – two questions that we are asked regularly in the Gospels – and after all the signs and pointers of the prophets, the patriarchs, the election of Israel and so much else, suddenly, repeatedly, we are asked this with some urgency. ‘What are you looking for? Why are you here?’ If you are looking for answers, I have none, it isn’t the work of the Church of God to answer questions, but to make us more and more aware of the mystery we come here to understand and to find joy and fulfilment in that searching, because we are looking for God in absolutely the right place. We are looking for Him in each other, in bread and wine and holy scripture, in the waters of Baptism and the oil of new life and the oil to anoint the dying. Love, as they say, is all around us, and we are looking for love which we find because we know love, of each other and of God in this great and beautiful mystery.

We have been looking a lot recently, we looked with the Shepherds, we looked with the Wise Men, we looked with the Angels and we looked at the Baptism of Christ, we are now looking at the Wedding at Cana, when Jesus worked his first sign. To the question, ‘Who has appeared on earth?’ it gives this answer: ‘The Word who turns water into wine, as the grapes drink the rain and their juice is buried in vats, and who did in one instant in this house what he does year by year in the world of nature.’ Who has appeared on earth? What are you looking for? We have found He who not only was before there was time, but He who is time and nature and the creative force of the Universe – a mystery so large that many people over the centuries have broken Him down into their own hobbyhorses and likes and dislikes, using God to back up their arguments, using love to divide.

We celebrated the epiphaneia two weeks ago, but we should come clean, and call it the Theophaneia, the Appearing of God. Epiphany, this searching for God, is not, primarily, about the visit of the Magi to Jesus; it’s about God’s Visit to us, the Solemn Visit in which the Divine King has let the world see him and today we immerse ourselves in Cana, at the Wedding Feast, where water is turned into wine. It’s a nice, cosy, domestic miracle and frankly one that we would all be happy seeing, so it’s an easy, smooth way in to a Theophaneia which leads us to all kinds of wonder and a lifelong searching. It’s a miracle, certainly, and it shows His power over nature and seasons and time and spatiality and the complex continuum of spacetime which in the Cartesian coordinate system, points in which are called x, y, and z. A position in spacetime is called an event (hence the wedding) and requires four numbers to be specified: the three-dimensional location in space, plus the position in time, so this is the locus, the place of the wedding, the fact of physical water, the intervention of Christ and the fact of there suddenly, and unexpectedly, being wine. An event is represented by a set of coordinates x, y, z and thus Spacetime is four dimensional. This is irrelevant to Jesus, who just overrides spatiality because He can and He wants to, so don’t be surprised at the existence of eternal life and don’t think that at Baptism we just pour water over people’s heads! Don’t think that there is any bread or wine being given out from the rivers of Grace that flow from our altar. Appearances can be deceptive when governed by the Word first spoken. What are you looking for? Maybe ‘How are you looking for it’ is more apposite.

But that is not the point, and there is more, and like Columbo, it’s usually the bit at the end that really matters. The detail I want to pick up on is the water jars, and the fact that they are empty. The men who had to fill them up will have thought about them as there were six, holding twenty to thirty gallons each, which is a lot of jars to fill up from, presumably, a well a little walk away, and it must have taken them quite a lot of time and labour. The jars were there because in the Old Covenant, they would be filled with water for guess to perform the ablutions with before entering the wedding hall, to be ritually and physically clean before eating, but they are empty, forgotten about. Before performing a miracle, Jesus has the Old Covenant honoured and the jars filled – God expects us to approach Him and His infinite love making at least some kind of gesture of love and faith in return – which can take many forms, including Baptism, Holy Communion and much else – they are signs of His love and signs of our faith which are a vehicle between us and God, transcending spatiality and time and movement and uniting us with Him. All of this, this church, this day, these empty jars, it’s all about love and bringing us back home. Is there anything else? What are you looking for?


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