24th January – Epiphany 3

“I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades”

We live in hard and dangerous times. Yet there is hope. Our news is filled with pictures of exhausted hospital staff, schools coping with rapidly changing rules, businesses and livelihoods closed, many may never reopen.

But as the number of seriously ill people continues to be high, and the daily count of deaths continues to rise, so too does the number of people who have received a vaccine.

Now is hard and dangerous. Yet there is hope.

This perhaps gives us a glimpse into the reality of life many have lived before, and many are living now, which so far thankfully we have been spared. Those who have lived through war. Those living in parts of our world whose stories have disappeared from our news – but their struggles continue. Those for whom our readings today were first written.

Now is hard and dangerous. Yet there is hope.

Both our readings speak of wedding feasts. Weddings of course are one of the great moments of hope and joy that stand as beacons along the path of our lives. Weddings are currently suspended, many of the couples we are working with have postponed their weddings three or four times. This has been hard and expensive for them, and for those whose livelihood is catering for wedding celebrations.

The wedding at Cana is often read at weddings, but I suspect couples choosing it don’t spot the significance of the story. This is an Epiphany story. The point is revealed in the final verse – this is a sign, it reveals Christ’s glory, and his disciples believed in him.

Weddings reveal glory, they are moments when two people make a commitment to one another, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to stick together through all that life can throw at you. The moments of joy and dancing, and also the moments of grief and mourning.

Life can be hard and dangerous. Yet there is hope.

I am convinced that everything of this world is about anticipation. We live in a foretaste of what is to come. If it is true that humanity is made in the image of God then somewhere in that there is the revelation of glory.

That God is about love and truth, and loyalty and commitment, and courage and tenacity, and compassion and forgiveness. These hallmarks are of God, and of human relationships – at their best.

In the midst of so much that reflects a fallen world, humanity at its best shines through. Those whose care for others costs them dear. Those who give of their time for others. Those who labour to make life better for others.

In this hard and dangerous time, we see hope.

In his great hymns, Love divine, all loves excelling – Charles Wesley concludes by referring to our new creation. That time when humanity is restored in God.

“Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

The key words there are ‘changed from glory into glory’. The best things of this world are a foretaste of that reality yet to come. Yet note this, they are glory now, pointing to glory to be. They are glory now. So we live in hope. And we must not take for granted those best things, those best moments, that point towards better things to be.

In our reading from Revelation, which is always a difficult book to read, but worth sticking with, the writer tells of falling at the angel’s feet to worship him. But take seriously what comes next, take this very seriously.

The angel’s response is unexpected. “You must not do that! I am a fellow-servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus.”

I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades.

When you looked in the bathroom mirror this morning who did you see looking back at you? I suspect that when you looked in the mirror you didn’t say to yourself – there is an angel. There is a messenger of God whose place is at the throne of heaven. There is a being who God sends to announce good news. There is a guardian of hope.

So hear the words of the angel – I am a fellow servant with you.

We live in hard and dangerous times. Yet there is hope. That hope is within us. For we are messengers of a world that is coming to be.

It comes closer one small step at a time. One kind act at a time. One work of compassion at a time. These fragments of glory become the glory. They are signs. These are Epiphany moments. In them Christ is revealed, that the world may believe in him.

A prayer of St Benedict

Gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate on you, and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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