Epiphany Evensong at Coventry
Arise, shine -for your light is come!
Welcome words as the darkest days of winter retreat...joyful words as we find ourselves kneeling at the manger once again...
The light is come
The light that shines in the darkness – while the darkness cannot even comprehend it...
And – the dawning of that light means that we too are called to shine.
Not simply to bask in its transforming glow but to SHINE...and to recognise that
“The glory of the Lord is risen upon you...” and in that light, the whole world is transformed
That's what an Epiphany does. It helps you see things differently.
Simply put, it's the moment when God is revealed.
It’s that instant of “Aha!” when you can say with confidence that this experience is nothing less than a real live encounter with God – and after that nothing will ever look the same again.
“Lift up your eyes and look around”...
This is not the same place that it was before...
These people are more beautiful...
They reflect that light which has dawned...and so do you...
“You shall see and be radiant. Your heart shall rejoice!”
Epiphanies change everything.
So- for the wise men, perhaps their epiphany came with the rising of the star…their very own sky-writing, telling them where to go, what to seek. Certainly, they seem to start out on their journey confident that they know where they are heading…all they have to do is to follow their star.
Though I'd guess that the Christmas card scenes that present it as obviously the one and only REAL star in the sky may be distorting the truth slightly...Step outside on a clear night and the sky tells a different story...countless stars...but our
hese travellers looked at the night sky and saw something that others didn’t. What's more, they chose to focus on one light, rather than the surrounding darkness and so set the tone for their journey.
To focus on light rather than darkness is always, in every circumstance, an act of faith – and this season is itself a triumph of faith, a succession of wonders beyond all expectation.
We are invited to marvel at them in the liturgy for the feast itself, and then in the weeks that follow they are unfolded to us, one by one.
The star over the stable – proclaiming Christ's presence to the Magi
Later, the voice at his baptism that proclaimed him God's beloved Son...and this afternoon the demonstration of his ability to transform the ordinary, the workaday, into something amazing, full of joyous celebration.
Wonders that show us, and all humanity, something of the truth of God with us...
A birth story, a baptism and a wedding
I have to say that, as one who has spent a fair bit of time involved in the fine details of wedding arrangements, I find them very nerve-wracking affairs. So much seems to ride on the success of the day, there is such a longing for “perfection”, that honestly it seems impossible that any mortal couple could ever live up to their own hopes and dreams – let alone those of the bride's mother. (Feel free to remind me of this in the summer if I show signs of getting carried away by excitement at my older son's wedding, if you would)
It's bad enough if the clouds gather, or the florist fails – but I would really really hate to be too close if the wine ran out.
But, of course, this is exactly what happens at Cana of Galilee.
A wonderful day of celebration is transformed, not by the radiant light of an epiphany but by the looming clouds of family shame and disappointment.
What a disaster.
Despite the best planning, the many attempts to ensure perfection, a roomfull of guests is faced with the exciting choice of water or water.
Human resources have failed.
But luckily that bride and groom whose names we'll never know had the good sense to invite Jesus to be part of their celebration – and in doing so, had, against all their expectations, brought God directly to their marriage feast.
Lift up your eyes and look around you!
So, at that moment when all they could offer was water, tasting of shame
– Jesus intervened and turned it into wine – and not just supermarket plonk but the finest vintage ever tasted.
How did it happen? I can't help with the mechanics of the miracle, and sadly I don't know how to replicate it, but at the most basic level it happened because someone had the sense to ask for help....a useful reminder for all of us. God is waiting, longing to bless us – but too often we try to struggle on, claiming our independence even as we fall flat on our faces again and again.
The God who in Jesus took the ordinary things of life and made them extraordinary is the same God who takes ordinary people – you, me and the lady down the road – and blesses us to be signs of God's kingdom.
We are utterly ordinary, each one of us....nothing to recommend us, nothing to make anyone take a second glance
and yet.........and yet, we can and will be transformed by God, if we can only find the courage to ask God to work with us.
The water that we bring is blessed and transformed into wine..so that we too can be a sacramental sign of God's presence – for that is what the church is called to be.
But the thing is – those servants who poured out the contents of the water jars as directed had NO idea that a wonder was occurring. They had to act first – and one can well imagine how it felt to approach the MC with a cup of – well, they knew that the jar had held water...they'd filled it themselves...
There's something for us to learn here, isn't there.
If we don't actually RISK trusting that God can do amazing things....if we don't attempt the extraordinary for his sake ….then we will never discover what His grace can accomplish.
Yes – even in me. Even in you.
Truly, this is the season of wonders,
“Lift up your eyes and look around you” as we continue to celebrate God with us, - in the simple things of everyday, - in men and women, water, bread and wine – not just at Epiphany but every day of every year.