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Sermon and Liturgy (2) for The Second Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36; John 2:1-11
"The First Sign"

READING:  Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36; John 2:1-11
SERMON :  "The First Sign"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or02su.y-c 914000

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   Sources: The Call to Worship and elements of the Prayers of The
   People are based on that of John Maynard,,
   Prayers and Litanies for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, as
   sent to the PRCL List, January 8, 2001.  The Eucharistic Prayer is
   based on Prayer B in "Celebrate God's Presence", United Church of
   Canada, 2000, page 243ff.  The children's story is based on one
   presented in the "Whole People of God" in 1995.
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                             (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L   Praise the Lord, all peoples on earth!  
   Praise God's Glorious Name!  
P  Come into God's Temple!  
   Come to God in awe!  
L  Say to the Nations: "The Lord is King!  He's our right Judge!"  
P  Be glad you earth, you sky.  
   Roar, you sea and every creature in you!  
L  Be glad, you fields and everything in you!  
P  Be glad all the earth
   Because our God rules His world with justice and fairness.
L  God's mercy is new every morning.  God's love is everlasting.

* INTROIT: "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" (verse 1)                - VU 232

Gracious and Generous God, your Living Word gives us Light for our Path,
your Spirit provides us Strength for our Journey, and your Love binds us
together and makes us whole.  We praise and we thank you this day for your
many mercies.  Help us we come before you at this  time to open our hearts
and minds to you, and to claim for ourselves - and for all your people  -
those things you have stored up for us.  Cleanse us from those things which
hinder us from knowing and doing your will and grace us with your presence
so that we be able to render you the worship you so richly deserve.  We ask
it in the name Jesus.  Amen

* HYMN:  "Come In, Come In And Sit Down"                            - VU 395

CHILDREN'S TIME:   The Miracle of Transformation
Object    Whipping Creamm, Knife, Crackers, and a Jar for shaking cream)
Theme     Jesus Changes Us
Source    Whole People of God 1995 and self

Good morning -- You know our world is a pretty incredible place.  God did a
wonderful job of creating things with just enough surprising things left
over to keep us all on our toes.  Just when we have things figured out it
seems that we see and learn something new.  Even the things we have figured
out can be pretty amazing.

Today we are going to take part in a miracle of a kind. (TAKE OUT CREAM,
POUR, AND HAND OUT TO SHAKE AROUND)   While everyone is shaking this, and
shaking hard, I want to tell you what is going to happen -  or why don't
you tell me???  

That's right - it is going to turn into butter....    Even though someone
can explain how it works, I think it is a miracle.  God is always doing
miracles like that - making some pretty neat things happen with everyday
items.  The very first miracle that Jesus performed was just like that.  He
was a wedding dinner and the people ran out of wine.  His mother knew that
Jesus was special - and so she asked him to do something about the
situation.  Jesus took ordinary water - and in a way that we don't
understand - turned it into wine.  Everyone had a good time. 
We believe that Jesus is special too - and that he can take us - ordinary
people - and use us to do some pretty amazing things.  Because God is God -
and cares a lot for us - we can do miracles for others - because God works
in us just like he did in Jesus.

Now lets check on the cream.  Yep - it's beginning to turn into butter. 
The more we shake it - the better it's going to be...  And the more we let
Jesus into our lives - the more we study his Word and pray and meet
together as his people - the better we are going to be as well.

* HYMN:   "Give Me Oil In My Lamp"                                - SFGP 130

   Lord God, loving God - we thank you for making the world - and for
   being greater  - than we can imagine. - Dear God - we know that you
   can do things - that we cannot understand - that you can do miracles
   . - Help us open our lives to you - so that you can do miracles --
   in and through us --- We ask it in Jesus' name -- Amen

   Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom
   come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this
   day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive
   those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but
   deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power and the
   glory, for ever and ever.  Amen

- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns

  Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear
  and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.
  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God thy will to see.
  Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

   (NIV)  For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake
   I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the
   dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.  The nations will see your
   righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new
   name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of
   splendour in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your
   God.  No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land
   Desolate.  But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah;
   for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be
   married.  As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry
   you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God
   rejoice over you.

L  This is the word of the Lord.
P  Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 36 (VU 762) and Gloria Patri Sung

   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. 
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  
   World without end.  Amen

   (NIV)  On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.
   Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been
   invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said
   to him, "They have no more wine." 

   "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not
   yet come."

   His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."  

   Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for
   ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 
   Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they
   filled them to the brim. 

   Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of
   the banquet." 

   They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had
   been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from,
   though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  Then he called
   the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine
   first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much
   to drink; but you have saved the best till now." 

   This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in
   Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their
   faith in him.

L  This is the gospel of our Risen Lord.
P  Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

* HYMN:  "Teach Me, God To Wonder"                                  - VU 299

SERMON:  "The First Sign"

   O Lord,  we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
   and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the
   thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. 
A small boy was asked by a visiting relative if he attended Sunday school. 
When he said he did, he was asked, "What are you learning?" 

   "Last  week," came the reply, "our lesson was about when Jesus went
   to a wedding and made water into wine." 

   "And what did you learn from that story?" the relative inquired. 

   After thinking for a moment, the lad answered, "If you're having a
   wedding, make sure Jesus is there!"

You know, that is pretty profound advice.  It is a good thing to have Jesus
at our wedding ceremonies,
indeed it is good to have Jesus everywhere that is of significance to our

The gospel today about how the wine ran out at the wedding in Cana - and
how Mary asks Jesus to do something about it - and he does - ends with
these words:

   This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in
   Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their
   faith in him.

He thus revealed his glory - 
and his disciples put their faith in them.

The gospel of John speaks often about signs and about faith.

Signs as you all know point to something - 
for those with eyes to see - they testify to something that is greater than
they are -
and it is that greater thing we are meant to grasp - and not simply the
sign itself.

The first sign that Jesus did points to many things about himself and what
he was about.
I would just like to mention a few this morning.

First  -  Jesus' turning water into wine is itself a picture of all that he
came to do.  Jesus takes what is and shows us that it has the possibility
to become something else.  What is - that which is tired, worn out, devoid
of joy, empty, and lacking purpose - can be transformed.   It can be turned
into something rich, fragrant, and
ripe with the fullness of joy through his presence, through his care.   

There is a lot of gospel in that for all of us.  Jesus can bring new life. 
He can fill the emptiness in our lives  - he can take whatever it is that
we bring to him - no matter how little - or how much - and utterly remake
it - giving to it a savour - a taste - the is beyond the best that we
ourselves are capable of providing. 

Second -  John notes that the wine came from the huge thirty-gallon jugs
that stood full of water at the front of the house, vessels that were used
by observant Jews to fulfill the rules on ceremonial washing.  Even a
wedding feast had to honour the rituals of cleansing.  Jesus transformed
those six jugs, ponderous symbols of the old way, into wineskins,
harbingers of the new.  From the purified water of the Pharisees came the
choice new wine of a whole new era.  The time for ritual cleansing had
passed; the time for celebration had begun.

Third - the Gospel story emphasizes the abundance of Jesus' provision of
wine.  The wedding guests went from having no wine at all to having almost
enough to swim in.  Now, the age of the Messiah was long expected to be one
of abundance - one in which the wine of joy - the cup of salvation - would
always be full and overflowing.  Thus this miracle is a sign, for those who
have eyes to see, of Jesus' Messiahship. He is the long-awaited deliverer
of Israel. He is the one who will purify Israel and all people.  He
provides more than is needed.

Fourth - the miracle takes place at a wedding feast.   Marriage has long
been a symbol of the relationship between God and the people of God.   We
can notice that in this morning's reading from the Book of Isaiah, where
the prophet tells us that at the time of Israel's restoration and
vindication, God will take delight in them and their land will be married. 
As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a
bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. 

The fact that the first sign that Jesus did - was at a wedding would not be
lost on people.  It was their belief that at the time of salvation that God
would provide a table for feasting for his servants and a cup that would
never run dry.  That imagery is in fact present in the much loved twenty-
third Psalm of David   whose final verses say

   Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
   thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely
   goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I
   will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Fifth, In this, his first sign, Jesus also stresses the place of his
mother, Mary, in the work of redemption.  It is Mary who triggers Jesus'
first act of public ministry by saying to him: "They have no wine."  It was
a simple request showing that she trusted that her son would immediately
respond and help.  Jesus' response to her seemed slightly brusque.  He
said, "Woman, what is that to me and you; my hour has not yet come."

The only other place where Jesus calls his mother "woman" is at his passion
as she stood beneath the cross. Then he handed her over to the care of John
and made her the mother of all of us.  Our original mother was
the "woman" Eve.  But Eve, as woman, handed down to us original sin and
death.  In calling his mother "Woman," Jesus seems to be saying, "You are
the new Eve.  As it was promised to her that her seed would crush the head
of the serpent - so through you I have come to do that which has been
promised - I have come to overwhelm sin and death with righteousness and

Which leads me to the last thing I want you to note this day about this,
the first sign that Jesus did.

The miracle at Cana is, among other things, a preview of the last Supper, 
the hour when Jesus transforms not water into wine 
but wine into blood, his blood shed for all humanity.

By telling Mary "my hour has not yet come" Jesus links what she is asking
him to do with his sacrifice on the cross.  

The best wine is saved for the last - the wine of salvation 
- a salvation won for us completely by Christ Jesus when he gave up his
life for us, 
- a salvation that is not just for one day, or the one week during which a
wedding is celebrated, 
- but forever.

Mary tells the servants in today's reading to "Do whatever Jesus  tells
That is what faith is all about, 
responding to the words of Jesus, trusting that his word will be fulfilled,
trusting that as he transformed the water of purification in the wine of
so he will transform us and lead us into the kingdom 
where the best is not only saved for the last,  but where the best lasts.

As we receive Communion today, may we open our lives anew to God's gifts of
grace.  The best is yet to come!  The glory of God is at hand.  Blessed be
the name of God, day by day.   Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE  (Singing #400 at the start of the prayer time.  Our
response to "Lord, hear our Prayer" is "And in Your Love Answer")
       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
       Lord, listen to your children praying,
       send us love, send us power, send us grace!

God of love, Father of all who call upon you, you have entered into the
heart of human life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  At a marriage in Cana
of Galilee he made glad the hearts of all and so declared us to be your
delight.  Give us that same Spirit of love that was there on that day that
we who are many may become one body...  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord Jesus, ever-welcome guest, when the hosts at the wedding feast found
they had no wine, and the crowds who followed You neglected to bring the
bread, not knowing that Your presence transforms tragedy into triumph, You
revealed Your glory and provided wine of such noble vintage, and bread in
such absolute abundance, that five thousand were fed.   Fill our emptiness
this day with your transforming power and lead us to an ever deeper faith
in you....  Lord, hear our prayer...

God of truth and beauty - we pray for the Church today - established around
the world through the life and death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.  May
our love and care for one another and for those whom you love be a sign to
the world - a sign that will lead all people to sit down at the wedding
feast you have prepared  in your everlasting kingdom.  Especially bless, we
pray, this church and the community we serve...   Lord, hear our prayer....

Caring God - we pray for those whom you have placed upon our hearts this
day.  We pray most especially for those whom the party seems over, those
whose wine has run out, whose reserves are spent, through loss of health,
wealth, or relationship.  Lord, hear the prayers now upon our hearts and
our lips  - BIDDING PRAYER:  ...Lord Hear Our Prayer....

Lord God, you showed your glory and led many to faith by the works of your
Son.  As he brought gladness and healing to his people, grant us, and all
for whom we have prayed, the same.  Let your name be glorified and praise
be sung to you in every home and town, city and nation -  we ask it in his
name.  Amen

* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:   The Offering Is Received and as it is
presented all stand for The Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings
Flow - VU #541) and the Prayer of Dedication

   Our heavenly Father, by your generosity we have received all that we
   have and all that we are.  Grant that we may so use the things you
   have entrusted to our care, that we may become more and more your
   children in spirit and in truth.  Accept our offering - first given
   by you - that your work may be done and your name glorified -
   through Christ our Lord.  Amen

* SHARING THE PEACE:    We greet those around us with a sign of peace  and
                        words like "The peace of the Lord be with you". 

* COMMUNION HYMN:  "We Gather Here"                                 - VU 469

L  The peace of the Lord be with you.
P  And also with you.
L  Lift up your hearts.
P  We lift them up to the Lord.
L  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P  It is right to give God thanks and praise.

L  We thank you God, Creator of us all, from the beginning you made the
   world and all its creatures.  You made people to live for you and for
   one another.
P  We praise you O God.

L  You created Adam and Eve and gave them a garden; 
   you showed Noah a rainbow;
   you gave Moses strength to free your people and taught Miriam to sing;
   you gave courage to Esther and loyalty to Ruth;
   you gave David a harp to sing your praise, 
   and helped him defeat the giant.
P  We praise you O God.

L  Yet even they turned away from you and forgot about you, 
   as we do too.  But you did not forget.
   You sent Jesus to the world to show how much you love us 
   and to bring us back to you again.
   He came as one of us, 
   first an infant, then a child, later a youth, then an adult.
   He rejoiced with those who rejoiced, and wept with those who wept.
   To the despairing he spoke a word of hope.  
   To the sick he gave healing. 
   To the hurting he was a friend. 
   Still people turned away from you.  
   They betrayed Jesus and nailed him to a cross.
   But he was lifted from the grave and restored to life, that he might be
   with us and we with him, alive for evermore!  Therefore with all the
   saints of every time and place, we join the angels in their praise.

P  Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are
   full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is the one who
   comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.

L  We gather to remember that on the night before he died, Jesus ate with
   his followers, his friends.  We recall how he took a loaf of bread, and
   after blessing it, he broke it, and gave it to them saying - "take, eat. 
   This is my body, given for you."  That same night, Jesus also took the
   cup, and after giving thanks, passed it to his disciples, saying, "Take
   and drink, all of you, this is my blood, poured out for many for the
   forgiveness of sins.  As oft as you do this - do it in remembrance of

L  Send O God, your Holy Spirit upon us, and what we do here, that we and
   these gifts, touched by your Spirit, may be signs of life and love to
   one another, and to the world.  Make them for us the body and blood of
   Christ - and make us his people, his light in the world.
P  Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, 
   in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
   all glory is yours, God most holy,  
   now and forever. Amen

THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE ELEMENTS (as you are served in the pews, receive
   with the word's "and also for you" and give with the words "the
   body/blood of Christ - broken/poured out for you".

L  Let us pray...
P  We give thanks, almighty God, that you have refreshed us at your table
   by granting us the presence of Jesus Christ.
   Strengthen our faith, increase our love for one another,
   and send us forth into the world united in courage and peace,
   and rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit
   through Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen.

* DEPARTING HYMN:  "Take My Life and Let It Be"                     - VU 506

* COMMISSIONING (unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of

* BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN                                      - VU 971
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ 
- and may the light of God's truth inspire us each day,
- may the compassion of Christ fill our empty vessels with wine of heaven
- and may the strength of the Spirit bring us the joy of the divine wedding
this both now and forevermore.  Amen

* SUNG BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"                                 - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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