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The Transforming Power of Christ's Presence

00:00 / 17:39

21 Jan 2024

Third Sunday after Epiphany

John 2:1-11

The Story

-       Story about a crisis at a wedding: the wine has run out. Serious crisis in literal terms. Symbolically represents barrenness of Jewish religion at the time. More broadly, represents lack of joy, loss of conviviality, running down of resources.

-       Until Christ’s mother petitions him and he performs ‘the first of his signs…and manifested his glory’ (v.12), turning six large stone jars of water into fine wine, finer wine than was had before.

-       Story really about the transforming presence and power of Christ in human life and society more broadly.

Consider the words of bridegroom, when given water become wine by master of the feast, “Every man serves the good wine first and when they are drunk the lesser; but you have saved the good wine until now” (v.10).

-       Christ reverses the normal order of things.

1)    Normally, good wine first and, being drunk, the lesser.

-       A picture of life without God. Times of abundance in life – financially, socially, physically – which inevitably run out as strength wanes and death approaches. Example of plane coming in to land having been in flight for some time.

-       No God, no hope of life after death, no belief in anything but nature eventually leads to emptiness, barrenness, loneliness etc.

-       Spoke last week about the consequences of shunning God from the Church: decline, lack of interest and commitment, death.

-       In society same pattern. Culture has changed in my lifetime: growing up, I was surrounded by partygoing, Friday-night lifestyle. Lots of drinking, drugs, underage sex, teenage pregnancies, etc. New generation affected by social media and internet usage much more solitary.

“Today’s adolescents spend far less time in person with their friends - up to an hour less per day - than did members of Gen X. And dear God, they are lonely. They report greater loneliness than any generation on record.” Abigail Shrier, Irreversible Damage, p.3

-       Instead of being out with friends, kids are at home alone on their phones, looking at social media, comparing their inadequacies with curated, unrealistic images of perfection.

-       From US stats, but reasonable to assume similar in UK, Shrier reports between 2009-17, increase of high schoolers contemplating suicide rose 25%, between 2005-14 teens diagnosed with depression rose 37% with worst hit being teenage girls. Additionally, since 2009 self-harming increased 62 per cent. Among preteen girls aged 10-14, self-harm rates up 189% compared to 2010.

-       Teenage pregnancy and sex as low as has been for decades, whilst rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, and self-harm massively up. As though younger generation is running out of life.

-       Or, to put it another way, the good wine has been drunk, and only the bad wine of bitter and negative consequences remains.

2)    “You have saved the good wine until now.”

-       Difference at the wedding was the presence of Christ, who took what nature would give and transformed it by his supernatural power.

-       Image of Christ’s presence in our lives and the Church: his presence and power is the difference. The water of our spiritual emptiness transformed into the wine of God’s peace and joy. Once we have developed a taste, we cannot return.

-       Glasses analogy: once you discover you can’t see very well and obtain appropriate glasses, everything looks blurry when you’re not looking through them. You realise how blind you were.

-       Wedding feast is a picture of the church at its highest: rejoicing and happiness, conviviality, lit. “life together”. Don’t believe the propaganda, the church can and should be the happiest place on earth.

-       Part of why we need the Church: we need one another, we need warmth of human community.

-       The Church is a place of family and companionship for those who are lonely and outcast. Put beautifully by Catechism of Roman Catholic Church:

‘Many remain without a human family…The doors of homes, the “domestic churches,” and of the great family which is the Church must be open to all of them. “No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who labour and are heavy laden.’”

Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, citing Familiaris consorto, no. 85, and Matt. 11:28

-       A great lie: Christians are passionless. Stats I’ve mentioned show passion running dry in the world. Christians are people of desire: those who want to know the creator of the universe and to walk with him, those who desire greater levels of peace and joy than normal life offers, those who cannot bear the thought of death as the final word, those who reach out for eternal bliss and everlasting fecundity. We want so much more and will not be satisfied unless we obtain it. We desire far more not less.

-       Let us recognise also the centrality of the supernatural in our faith. Christ’s signs were miracles, this is how he “manifested his glory”.

-       We are not a membership group. We are not here to ameliorate problems in society. We are here to be part of the supernatural manifestation of the glory of Jesus Christ in this world.

-       When we forget this, we get co-opted into an atheistic project of the divinisation of man and the worship of nature.

-       Taylor Marshall puts this well: when we deny the supernatural, we ‘deny the unique Incarnation of Jesus Christ and reject the idea of sin and the need for Christ to die and rise again for human salvation. Consequently, there is no grace, no sacraments, and no Church – human nature alone is sufficient for humanity’s happiness’. Taylor Marshall, Infiltration, p,18.

-       Except, as we have seen, it is not. Neither is there prayer, or somebody to call on beyond this world.

-       A supernatural faith says that nature is not the final reality but that it points towards something far greater and fundamental: the supernatural realm where God and Christ are.


-       Allow the presence of Christ to transform your water into wine.

-       Perhaps you don’t believe: asks him to turn your unbelief into faith. “I do believe. Lord, help thou my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

-       Perhaps you are sad or suffering from depression or anxiety. Ask him to give you the wine of his presence and to bring joy to your life.

-       Perhaps you need a miracle: healing, deliverance, power, provision. Ask him for these things and look for a response from him.

-       An opportunity today to be anointed in faith. Often when we take a step, sometimes a physical step, we find that something changes.

-       In general, ask God to change your outlook, to help you to see that life, marriage, family, friendship, relationships can all be transformed by the presence of Jesus Christ. Don’t believe the propaganda. God in Jesus Christ calls us to rejoice!


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