What are you giving thanks for?

Sermon preached by Fr John Pritchard
on Sunday 20th January 2019 (Third Sunday after Epiphany)

Isaiah 62.1–5; Psalm 36.5–10; 1 Corinthians 12.1–11; John 2.1–11

In our Gospel, here we are again on the third day… and on the third day there is a wedding; a celebration to which you have been invited not only to witness through the telling of the story, but to which we have been invited to see beyond the grave for a moment into the post-resurrection life.

In this celebration there is clearly no longer need for the huge stone water-jars for the purification rites.  For those who have found themselves at this wedding or witnessing these nuptials, have either already been purified, or are in no need of purification any longer.

So what better use for the water than to turn it into wine to use to further the festivities and further the point that on this third day (the resurrection day) while in the presence of the bridegroom – we know God’s generosity and our thanksgiving.

But it seems just a little short-sighted to say that there will be a party on the other side and gallons of booze!  It seems a little narrow minded to be motivated in faith by the reward of a joyful celebration – no matter even if that offsets our daily reality.

So I suppose I am left asking, ‘What is it about you which begins to hint at an invitation being given, and our being welcome guests at the feast?’ Has your thanksgiving even begun?

I suspect even over this period of celebration, there have been times for all of us where the party was ready and even running – but we weren’t quite there or certainly in the party mood!

The immediate reflection for me is to ask what sort of a faith do any of us have which prepares us for that heavenly thanksgiving? It isn’t about whether or not you are ready for a party now, but are you in any kind of a place with your faith which might reflect that you have anything to give thanks for at all?

The place for testimonies in this church are few and far between – but what is it that you are celebrating when we gather? What is your celebration of God today?

In my role as an Area Director of Ordinands, I often find myself asking candidates: ‘What is your gospel? What is it that you are giving thanks to God for in the offering of your life?’

The same must be asked of each of us. What are you giving thanks to God for in the purposes and outworking of your life?

We all have complicated and on occasion incredibly difficult experiences in this life, so no one here wins the prize for being the most tortured soul. But the pulse which beats quietly within your Christian being… What is it beating for? What is it giving thanks for?

I know we are not only looking for the party which is going to come!  But do you live life being thankful for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the resurrection of the dead?  I suspect for most of you that isn’t the first thing which is thought about when you wake each morning…

What are you, by being Christian, giving thanks for? I know it’s not for me or for Fr Philip, it’s not for Brexit! We’re not giving thanks for a mortgage-free life or reaching retirement?

In anticipation of heaven, in anticipation of the resurrection of the dead… what is it that you are giving thanks to God for in the here and now?

Because even though the party is set… are you in the mood?

Not in preparation for the feast of heaven, but in the reality of living life in the here and now; my thanksgiving is simply that God has revealed himself as faithful to me and to you in my experience of God in life.

That faithfulness continues to be expressed in the generosity of God which we hear about in scriptures being revealed in the sacrament of the Altar.

The faithfulness and generosity of God is evidenced in those here who gather and whose pulse and life beats in response to the love of God, that we might reflect this in our community of faithfulness so often amidst others’ faithlessness.

The good wine is saved for last, but ultimately there is a revelation of a deeper understanding of God which is revealed in that there never was a cheap wine. It has only been the best, though sometimes drunk out of plastic cups.

The revelation of Christ in this Epiphany time is for the good of us all when we are working out our faith – the revelation of God is an act of generosity and necessity – otherwise we deny God, because our eyes are fixed on our troubles only and not on the nature of God to be with us through all the changing scenes of life.

But living in the Christian faith: perhaps you might be less surprised by the stories of divine revelation and more inclined to ask yourselves, ‘In this thanksgiving what is it that we know in ourselves about God which we are prepared to reflect in the gentle celebration of our lives, and give thanks for and show forth in our lives?’

What is your testimony? What is God inspiring in you? What is it that you are giving thanks to God for in the offering of your life in service of Christ as Christian people in this church and wider community?

In our Gospel, here we are again on the third day… and on the third day there is a wedding; a celebration to which you have been invited not only to witness through the telling of the story, but to which we have been invited to see beyond the grave for a moment into the post-resurrection life.

But we are here, and being here in this life, this side of the grave we should see not only the troubles of this world, but see also the means by which we are already a people of thanksgiving.

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