Epiphany - Choral Evensong (1)

  • Preacher

    Succentor - The Revd Rachel Young

  • Readings

    Isaiah 60.1-9; John 2.1-11

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. The word ‘Epiphany’ is described in the Cambridge Dictionary as “a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you.”

I wonder if you’ve ever experienced an epiphany?

Suddenly realising – “ah! – that’s why it is…!” (or, “that’s why they’re like that…!”). It could be a moment of transformation, a life-changer.

In our two readings today we are prompted to consider who Jesus is, as do many of the readings we hear during the Christmas Season.

Who is this baby whose birth we celebrated at Christmas? We hear the words ‘gold’ and ‘frankincense’ in the reading from Isaiah which came to be applied by early Christians to Jesus, as the Messiah whom the Jews were waiting for:

gifts brought to Jesus by the magi –

gold brought for a king;

frankincense brought for a priest.

The Gospel writer asks John has John the Baptist at the beginning of his narrative,

“Who are you?”

I am not the Messiah! he says,

but I am preparing the way for him.

When he sees Jesus approaching him for baptism, John declares,

“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is who Jesus is.

And, to prove show more about who Jesus is, the Gospel writer then describes the first of seven ‘signs’, or miracles –

the turning of water into wine;

something which illustrates

the transformation that can happen

when Jesus is around.  

I’ve always been fascinated by this story of transformation.  Not just because water was made into wine, which saved the honour of Jesus’ extended family; not just because there was so much of it, and that it was embarrassingly good; and not just because Jesus was obviously doing something new with something ceremonial of the old Jewish faith.

What I’m fascinated by is, when exactly did the transformation take place? It may seem a small detail, but I think it’s quite important; especially in the implication that it can have for our own lives.

Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water, and they obeyed;

He told them to draw some out and take it to the chief steward, which they did.

They must have drawn some out with smaller jugs, as the jars were huge.

Was it transformed into wine at that point, as it was drawn? If so, for whatever reason, the servants don’t comment. Or did it become wine when the steward drank it?

This water was set aside for a purpose; and the transformation happened

as it was being used by Jesus for the good of all those present;

it happened because some people (the servants) obeyed Jesus.

They did what he told them to do.

And the transformation was determined by the water’s destination for use at the feast.

And so for us.

Life is always transformed in one way or another by the presence of Jesus, even if we reject him.

What sort of transformation might we expect?  Well, the transformation that Jesus brings for those who decide to follow him

is a result of our response to God’s overwhelming generosity and love for humanity,

as demonstrated in turning so much water into wine.

It happens because we set ourselves aside for this purpose, when we decide to trust him and obey him;

more importantly, it happens as we move towards God and towards others – as we give ourselves in love for God and for the world. 

It doesn’t just happen for its own sake, just to somehow make us nicer people, so that we can find life a bit easier.

It happens for the sake of others, as we give of ourselves.

As we give of ourselves, we can expect to know more of the overwhelming generosity of God.

We can experience God making something new out of our lives, for the good of others.

The writer of John’s Gospel shows us clearly

who he thought Jesus was -

The Messiah.

The One who brings transformation.  

This in itself could be called our Epiphany.

A life-changer.

A realisation of who Jesus is - and what he can do.