Sunday, 20 January 2019

The God that Gets the Party Started

There's a scene early in the Vicar of Dibley. David Horton, expecting a bad-breathed bearded new vicar, invites the parish council round to his house for a drinks reception. And he ensures they're all very well supplied with cheap sherry. But then Geraldine the actual new vicar turns up. And Hugo Horton lets slip that David has some single malt whisky hidden away.

At which point the party really gets started. The scene is set for the rest of the series - the unexpectedly female vicar outwitting the reactionary bloke who thinks it's he that should run the place.

I dunno whether Richard Curtis knew the parallel he'd drawn here. But here's, 2,000 years earlier and in real life, Jesus arriving at a party. And they also have a problem with the drinks. To be exact, they've run out of wine. Major faux pas. They're gonna be the talk of the Galilean towns and villages for years to come - just like, to quote another Dibley tale, the day the pub ran out of crisps.

It's Mary who nudges Jesus into acting. And there's a lovely point here to me.  Jesus  thinks it's a bit early with the miracles. But he does what his mum says.

Now it strikes me there is a nice piece of practical piety to be learnt here. If you want God to do something for you, there is no harm in asking Mary to have a word with her Son.  Mary brought him into the world and here,  in Cana in Galilee, she launches him into his ministry.

But the way he reveals himself - as ever - is interesting. He could have had the jars brought into the feast, said some dramatic words, and the water turns to wine and everybody's amazed and knows who he is. But he chooses not to do it that way. Apart from anything else, he'd be taking the attention off where it should be - the happy couple.

Instead, he's off quietly with the servants. Doing something quite unspectacular - "fill the jars with water. Now take them to the master of the feast" .

And the water is made wine.  The disciples believe. The lowly servants wonder. And a new-made marriage has been blessed, even unknown, by the presence of God made human.

And Jesus does this using the jars that are for purification in the Jewish ritual. He is not rejecting the Jews. Not cutting a new religion off from  the centuries of faithfulness  that went before. Instead,  he's coming from his own starting place - a Jewish man, a son of Abraham and David, and opening God's love

You can  have your religion of rules - I'm thinking grumpy Christianity here, not Judaism, by the way. You can have the God that stands far off and judges and that tells you off  and makes you feel bad and that you can only fail. But you know the God I believe in? The one that enters into our lives. That went to  weddings. That takes the simple things - like that water - and transforms them into things that bring him praise, and us joy. That, when we run out under our own provision, brings us more, and better. I believe in  the  God that gets the party started.


  1. Thank you, sometimes need reminding - when darkness seems to prevail

  2. As ever, you spot our common hypocrisy.


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