The Third Sunday of Epiphany - Reflection

'Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder-peals, crying out,’Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready […] And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’’ Revelation 19:6-7, 9

Brothers and sisters, This week has been a bit of a week don’t you think? If you watch the news, read the papers, or if you chatted on the phone this week there has been both good news and bad news. Good news: the government is successfully rolling out our vaccine programme. Good news: there has been a successful transfer of power in the US. Bad news: that numbers in our hospitals continue to climb. The NHS is close to being overwhelmed. In amongst all this, we might begin to question: ‘How can we have hope?’ The answer - as always - is in our readings.

How can we have hope? Well says, the author of the Book of Revelation, we can have hope because of where history is heading. Look with me at verse 7: 'Let us rejoice and exult and give [God] the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready’. Not for the first time, the Scriptures point us to the climax of history as a great marriage, as a great wedding banquet. Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, is the bridegroom and God’s people, the Church, is the bride. On that fateful day, the day the whole creation has been waiting for, finally the Church will be united with their God. Since our engagement on the day of Pentecost there have been times when it looked like the Bride might not make it. When sin, and abuse, violence and faithlessness might have seemed to suggest that the Bride would not get to the church at all! But as God opens the future to the author, as - through the author - God opens the future to His Church, we can see that the day will finally come to pass; nothing will cause it to fail. How can we have hope? Because God guarantees the end of the story. God the author of history has already written the ending, and it ends well, for it ends in our marriage, our perfect union with God.

Come with me now to our Gospel reading form John 2:1-11, to a book written, perhaps, by the same person who wrote Revelation. Verse 1 of our reading says: ‘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.’ Jesus begins His ministry at a wedding, and John records it for us all to read. I hope now as you read it, you’ll see the resonances you’ll see that here is something significant. Jesus’ presence at a wedding, and John’s recording of it is there for a reason. It is there to remind us of our great hope. Jesus' ministry begins for John where history will end, at a wedding. A wedding where there will be only joy. A wedding which itself will mark the end of all wars, the end of all poverty and the end of all pandemics. A wedding which itself will be the climax of all history, and from which no-one who is invited will ever get over. How true, then, are those words from Revelation: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ Blessed indeed, for THEY will have arrived at the kingdom of heaven. All their aches and pains, all their worries and doubts ,and all their guilt and shame will have been finally done away with.

At the US inauguration on Wednesday President Joe Biden - himself a Christian - said this: ‘Many centuries ago, St Augustine wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. Defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we as Americans love, that define us as Americans? I think we know.’ We might ask a similar question this morning, but not of a particular nation, not just of American people or British people, but of all Christian people. What is the common object of our love? What is the common object of the love of all Christian people whether American or British, Indian or Vietnamese? The common object of our love the common object which unites the Church together is our love for Jesus Christ. On the last day of history we will be united to the One we love in a great marriage celebration which will make every trial, every hard season and every difficult moment more than worth the cost. We know where history is headed and therefore we can have hope. Hope that God’s people will not be defeated by a virus. Hope that, in the words of St Paul: ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,  will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Here then is our hope! Here then in our readings this morning God points His people to the end of time and God whispers in the ears of those who love Him and says ‘Hold on! Do not give up. Stand firm, for the end is coming, for a day is coming when you will be invited to the greatest wedding there will ever be. When you will united with the One you love and all darkness will pass away. The wedding of Jesus and His Church is coming, and therefore we can have hope. Amen (from Rev. Mike).