It’s been a quiet week, at least online.
In the other world it’s been crazy busy, however. At the start of the week we ripped up the floor in one of our church buildings, just because we’re like that. Ah, that’s not quite true. It was because we discovered some rot in the floorboards which spread further and was symptomatic of a more serious problem with the floor… we’ve now pulled out all the timber and tonnes of soil/rubble… next week the builders start putting new things in.
Before we started, this is what it used to look like… by Monday it was this:
By the end of the week most of that had become a flat surface…
At the end of the week we ran a marriage preparation workshop in a neighbouring church as a joint project between 5 churches- 10 couples who are getting married this year came together for a day designed to help them build a fulfilling and lifelong marriage. After wanting to do this for ages, we finally managed to get it to happen, and had a great day. But it was a lot of work. I may post some of the transcripts from the sessions, but they rely heavily on discussion exercises and video clips so might not make a lot of sense without those. For the two of us (Carolyn and I did the sessions together as much as possible) it reminded us of a similar day we attended nearly 10 years ago, and it also gave us a nudge about all the stuff that we want to be doing to keep on growing our love and building our relationship.
Alongside those things, all the ‘usual’ stuff of the week had to happen too, including preaching this morning- except we weren’t in the church, we were in the hall next door. Its amazing how moving the same people and most of the same stuff into a different room, and doing some really similar stuff, can create a completely different atmosphere. Our time this morning felt really intimate and cosy, and people seemed very engaged both with each other and the worship. In the midst of all that I was speaking about the wedding party that is described at the start of John’s Gospel, with some thoughts based on a great teaching video i recently watched by Jonny Hughes, a pastor at htb, a church in London.
Here’s a rough draft of what i said (yup, it never got any further than this- I said it had been a busy week…)
One day there was a wedding taking place, and everyone was invited to the party…Mary was, and so was Jesus. He came along with several of his friends… the story is reasonably well known- I’ll retell it.
The sermon: its about going, not knowing. The servants didn’t know, they were just told to go. If I’d been doing this I’d have been tempted to have a small glass poured for myself- just to check it had all worked ok… but no. Go, take the wine and give it out- have faith in his words…
This isn’t the first time in the Bible that we see this happening- with Abram- go, I will tell you when you’ve arrived in the promised land; with Moses- go, I will bring my people out of slavery and you’ll know I’m with you when you arrive back here. And later in the New Testament, when Jesus calls the first disciples- follow me, I will make you fishers of men, and later: go into all the world and I will be with you.
When people encounter God, the outcome is that God’s instructions- go, come, follow always precede the proof… God always asks his people to have faith. God asks us to have faith. Faith is going without knowing. You’ll know when you get there, when you arrive back, when the Holy Spirit comes, when you’re standing before kings and emperors and I give you the words to speak, when you’re extending the hand of love into the local community and you see people respond- after we have faith, not before.
God doesn’t ask anything of us that we cannot do- its that we don’t believe ourselves. The servants at the wedding could fill jars with water and serve drinks to the guests… that’s all they were being asked to do. God is at work, we’re just in the vicinity. God often has greater faith in us than we do. If we believed in God’s dreams for our church and this community as much as God does, it would change everything. We believe in a creative, generous God who’s love overflows throughout all creation- so why in our worship and our faith do we so often look as though we’re on rations?
This, the first miraculous sign that Jesus did, showed that he had power over the things of nature, that the normal order of things would not bind him- that this messiah was not the messiah people were looking for, but was something very much more. If you read through John’s gospel, looking for the other signs, you’ll see a gradually emerging picture of a messiah who is the word of God-as described in the very first verses of the gospel. We worship the Son of God, the power of God incarnated in a human body, and he calls us to put our faith in him, and go into the world.
As I finish, we’re just going to spend a few moments, before we move on, reflecting on what that last thing might mean- something we say most weeks at the end of our worship- we go into the world… where is it that we go? Where is the place where each of us goes, where we are the presence of God, the hope of the Gospel? You might be the only person in your workplace, or your class, or your street who would profess to being a Christian. What might it mean for you to be called by God to go into that place?