In our Gospel reading of John 2: 1-11 – Jesus performs his first miracle by turning water into wine. It was a sign of his divine sonship. We might understand that Jesus and his family were invited to a wedding because they knew those who were getting married. Jesus’ mother probably was helping out when she found out from the servants that the wine had run out. Being the mother of Jesus, she witnessed the miracle of birth of John the Baptist, the miracle of her Son being born not from Joseph, but by heavenly divine, so also thought that Jesus would somehow find a way to solve the problem of running out of wine. This was a major social faux pas. “To fail in providing adequately for the guests would involve social disgrace. In the closely knit communities of Jesus’ day such an error would never be forgotten, and would haunt the newly married couple all their lives.” Mary had a special relationship with her son and out of respect told the servants to do whatever Jesus asked them to do. We know from the story that Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water. The servants under the direction of Jesus were in a unique place of blessing for this miracle. Jesus wanted the cooperation of men in this miracle. He could have filled the pots Himself, or just as easily created the liquid in the pots. But He knew that if the servants shared in the work, then they also shared in the blessing. The servants were especially blessed because they obeyed without question. We note that the wine produced was of superior quality, and that this was a blessing to the wedding patrons as well as a blessing to us, as His blessings are always better than those we receive from an earthly standpoint. The old ways are challenged by the coming of Jesus. Jesus did not come to tidy up the old system or put a bandage on the Law of Moses. Jesus provides new wine that vastly surpasses anything that contemporary Judaism could afford, and renders obsolete the stone jars of purification. The Messiah, God’s greatest blessing, had arrived. Jesus came with a new way and a new system. Jesus came to change people, offering radical change, pouring out abundant grace. (Procured from several Internet sources) Aw.
2021 Advent Resource: “The Way of Love: Practices for Jesus Centered Life” is an intentional commitment to a set of practices. It’s a commitment to follow Jesus: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. This curriculum provides a pattern for understanding how we can live the Way of Love as individuals, as families and friends, as community, and out in the world. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love/
A special gift of the Anglican tradition to the Christian world is the annual festival of Scripture lessons and Christmas carols, both for Advent and Christmas, which originated in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, UK. Many congregations across Canada will be using various versions of these original services but it is also important that we gain some perspective of the origins. This set of festivals is one of the many benefits of ecumenical and inter-church sharing.
I am grateful that—even in almost two years of COVID-19—the blessings of anticipation and celebration of Christ’s coming remain the same.
I would like to end by sharing with you a quote from the Primate’s Christmas message, Advent yearning for God’s kingdom to come, however, is met with the paradox of the birth of Christ. He comes not in power but in the vulnerability and weakness of a baby. His coming is not in triumph but hidden amongst the stories of Elizabeth and Mary and Joseph, ordinary people of faith in God.
2021 Advent Resource: “The Way of Love: Practices for Jesus Centered Life” is an intentional commitment to a set of practices. It’s a commitment to follow Jesus: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. This curriculum provides a pattern for understanding how we can live the Way of Love as individuals, as families and friends, as community, and out in the world.
TURN: Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus. As Jesus was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. – Mark 2:14.
For Reflection and Discernment:
• What practices help you to turn again and again to Jesus Christ and the Way of Love?
• How will (or do) you incorporate these practices into your rhythm of life?
• Who will be your companion as you turn toward Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Ever living God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Remembering: On this day, and all days, our greatest act of remembrance to those who faced the horrors of war is to seek the ways of peace in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Peace is ours to cherish, to demand, to live and to create every day. We can create it in simple ways. We can reach out to our neighbours; make people who are unfamiliar, familiar. We can try to better understand one another. We can take the ideas we understand the least, or the perspectives we find the most difficult to adopt, and we can approach those perspectives in an open and respectful way. We may not always agree but when we disagree, it is with a family member, not the enemy.
Today in our worship service, let us continue to commit ourselves in prayer and deeds to work for reconciliation between the nations and all people that everyone may live together in freedom, justice and peace.”
Our passage from Mark 13:2 though tells us that “all will be thrown down.” However, the gospel is an appropriate exemplification that humanity and all of creation can rebuild relationships of love, peace and hope in the name of Jesus Christ. We look forward to that day when the kingdom of this world will be ordered by God’s peaceable reign. I would like to conclude with the Hymn, For the Healing of the Nations – C.P. 576 v. 1.
For the healing of the nations, Lord, we pray with one accord, for a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords.To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word.
Prayer: “Almighty God, our minds and hearts are with those who gather to witness Canada’s Soldiers who have given their lives for freedom and peace. Hear our prayer as we gratefully and enthusiastically join in the wave of remembrance sweeping across our nation.
In unity with all Canadians, of every race, gender, and creed we offer up prayers of thanksgiving for all those who made selfless sacrifices for God and country so that we and future generations might live in peace.
Bring your comfort and relief to those who mourn. Enable those who were wounded in body, mind, or spirit to live more peaceful and satisfying lives. Endow us all with a new resolve to hasten that day when war shall be no more, and Your will alone is done on all the earth. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen.
Sunday’s Reflection: Our Gospel lesson consists of two complementary stories tied together by the mention of widows. The stories contrast the pride and greed of the scribes with the humility and generosity of a widow.
Widows are especially vulnerable in a patriarchal society. Scribes act both as lawyers and theologians, assisting people with financial as well as spiritual affairs.
Jesus does not condemn the large gifts of wealthy people but says that this woman’s offering is even larger. He bases his calculation, not on what she gives, but on what she has left. He knows how tempting it would be for her to think, “This little bit won’t matter, so I will let the rich people fill the coffers.” Jesus admires her faith in God and her sacrificial gift. Jesus measures the widow’s gift, based not on the amount that she gave, but on the amount that she kept back for her own use—nothing. Jesus shows them the meaning of true greatness. This widow is the great one in their midst.
This is not an example story in the sense that Jesus tells us to go and do likewise. He does not demand that we drop every penny in the offering tray. However, we should listen carefully to ascertain Christ’s specific call to us about stewardship. It is clearly not satisfactory to give God a bit of what is left over after we have paid the bills. Christ expects us to put God first, not last. A tithe is the clearest Biblical standard for stewardship — and God calls particular people to give much more. But, most importantly, we are to do our giving quietly, without fanfare.
Prayer: Gracious and generous God, Creator and Giver of all that is good, we thank you for our many blessings. We acknowledge that all that we have is from you. We offer you thanks and praise for the beauty of the earth, our work, our family, our loved ones, and all the gifts we have been given. Blessed by your grace, may we show gratitude by sharing what we have been given. We seek to be your faithful stewards. Amen
All Saints: The festival of All Saints’ Day has its origins in the fourth century, when churches in the East began to celebrate “the feast of the martyrs of the whole world” on the Sunday after Pentecost. Several Western churches adopted this festival and kept it on various dates in April or May, but in the early Middle Ages the church of Rome assigned it the much later date of November first and broadened the feast to include all the saints. Western Christendom has followed this custom ever since. Saints are Christians who in various ways, often against great odds, showed an extraordinary love for Christ. The Holy Spirit acted in their lives so that they chose to bring aid to the needy, justice to the oppressed, hope to the sorrowful, and the divine word of forgiveness to sinners. For the sake of Christ they were servants to the people of their day; and the service they rendered in the past makes them examples to the rest of the people of God throughout history.
The Church also believes that our life on earth has eternal consequences; and so our remembrance of what the saints were is directed to what they are. It is the Church’s conviction — a conviction often expressed in the Anglican tradition — that the saints continue to be our partners and fellow-servants before the face of God’s glory. We pray for our present needs, and the saints pray with us — not as if their prayers were better than our own, but because they are still bound to us in mutual service as members of the one body of Christ.
For this very reason, we may say of the Church’s saints what the Letter to the Hebrews says about the Old Testament saints — that they and their service shall not be perfect until all of God’s friends have answered the invitation of Christ and arrived at the banquet of glory. For that is the ministry of the saints in heaven as on earth: to help others become partners in the salvation of God.
Prayer: Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen
In this short glance at Jesus’ healing ministry, a blind beggar begins by sitting on the side of the road, then ends up on his feet, following Jesus. Is this the transformation that Jesus offers us too? Maybe so, but the middle part is critical. We must call upon Jesus’ holy name more than we call upon everyone else that passes by where we sit, because Jesus is the one with the healing power. The blind beggar knew this, and said, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He would only do this if he had faith that Jesus could provide what he needed the most. And his own faith turned out to be the cure.
In Mark, Bartimaeus is not the first person seeking a miracle who approaches Jesus in faith, but he is the only one who winds up following him, presumably straight into Jerusalem and into his confrontation with the temple-based aristocracy. After ten chapters full of so much secrecy, confusion, and misapprehension, Bartimaeus shows Mark’s readers that faith in Jesus remains possible and potent. Without Bartimaeus, and others in Mark like him who tenaciously cling to Jesus out of faith born from their urgent needs, this Gospel would offer little assurance that anyone could have the spiritual insight to perceive the mysterious ways of God in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
What healing miracle would you call out to Jesus for, if he walked by where you sat today? What first inspired you to follow Jesus? What has continued to inspire you to follow Jesus?
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sunday’s Reflection: What would it look like for us to follow Jesus’ command to be a servant to others today? Here we have another surprising answer from God. James and John ask Jesus how to become the greatest, and Jesus says that to become great you must be a servant to others, and to be the first, you have to be a slave to all. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ Matthew 10.
When the scriptures tell us that we should be servants to others, there is an underlying message that we should carefully reflect on the instruction of Jesus. Part of the work of a Christian is to serve as Jesus served us all and has restored our likeness in God. How does this contradict what you might think about how to become great? God chose to enter the world as one of God’s very own creations, a human being. And in God’s human state, God suffered all the hurt and pain that humans face each day. God suffered ultimate betrayal and utter desolation. Sometimes it is impossible to find good news when we are lost in a sea of pain and confusion. How can we better serve not only one another, but also the other beautiful creatures God has made?
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Mark 9:38-50 – The metaphor of the body was a commonly used teaching tool in the ancient world, and we see Jesus take it up in our verses this week. While often used to symbolize the community (see also 1 Cor. 12), Jesus creatively uses “body” to address the matter of scandal. We might find Jesus’ language harsh, for he says in effect if a member of the community is leading others astray, that member should be removed, before the whole body is damaged. And his concluding proverb about salt is not innocuous. Salt was used in the ancient Near East as a catalyst to start fires. He is telling his audience to be confrontational at times. Verse 50 could be interpreted to mean that troublemakers should be confronted so that the community can have peace. This passage, when read in this light, is among the “hard sayings” of Jesus. In the context of our modern church communities, we are invited to carry the tension between protecting the integrity of the community and being compassionate toward the wayward. How might we go about discerning when scandal is a danger to the community, and how we might confront it? Brian B. Pinter, Sermons that Work.
Prayer: Creator God, from you every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. You have rooted and grounded us in your covenant love, and empowered us by your Spirit to speak the truth in love, and to walk in your way towards justice and wholeness. Mercifully grant that your people, journeying together in partnership, may be strengthened and guided to help one another to grow into the full stature of Christ, who is our light and our life. Amen. From Indigenous Ministries, The Anglican Church of Canada.
Sunday’s Reflection: Mark 9:30-37: In this run of interwoven passages in Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ disciples are thinking (as we all do, unaided by God’s grace) along pretty unfailingly earthly lines. This section takes us straight into the heart of the tension between natural and grace-assisted ways of thinking. Earthly habits of thought, as we see in verses 30-32, can’t begin to comprehend the mystery of the Resurrection. And the disciples don’t comprehend it on their own. We are told they are too “afraid to ask” (v. 32). Jesus’s mercy in this case pierces through their silence. Instead of rebuking them for their human preoccupation with rank and order (v. 34), he gives them an object-lesson (really a human-being-lesson) and an example when he takes a child into his arms. He takes the lowest-status person in the house—who is also probably the simplest and least complicated—and embraces him. And not only that: he says that to embrace the low status, a simple child in his name is to embrace God. Whoever recognizes this and does it is on the way to true greatness.
- What does it mean to welcome someone “in [Jesus’s] name?” Does this verse/teaching mean the same thing as it would without the phrase “in my name?”
- How might you be called to welcome Jesus this week? Is there a “child” in your midst?
Gunn, Kristen. Sermons that Work, www.episcopalchurch.org