Monday, 24 January 2011

The True Christian - a homily for BCP evening Communion

Romans 12:6-16
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Marks of the True Christian Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

John 2:1-11
The Wedding at CanaOn the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

In the Epistle reading from Romans 12, St. Paul exhorts us not to claim to be ‘wiser’ than we are, so at the outset of this sermon, I want to assure you that I make no such claim! But that reading gives us some pretty challenging things to think about. I wonder how many of us would claim to be a ‘true Christian’. I would probably say that I am a ‘true Christian’. But looking closely at verses 9-16 of Romans 12, known as the ‘Marks of the True Christian’, we gain a sense of renewed humility as we recognise our shortcomings.

A ‘true Christian’ lets love be genuine, hates evil and holds on to what is good; ‘true Christians’ love one another with affection and outdo one another in showing honour. They do not lag in zeal – they serve the Lord with enthusiasm. They rejoice in hope, are patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer. They contribute to the needs of the other Christians; and extend hospitality, even to strangers. True Christians bless those who treat them badly; bless - and not curse. They rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and live harmoniously with one another; they don’t think they’re important - they associate with the lowly; and they never claim to be wiser than they are. I think this passage gives us a target to aim for, if we seek to be true Christians; I would venture most of us aren’t there yet – but we would hope that we’re on the right path.

One gift of St. Paul’s letters is that he reveals to us our higher goal, that higher way of living as disciples or followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, St. Paul’s letters are a sign revealing the glory of Jesus himself, which links in with this season of Epiphany. During the Epiphany season, the focus is on signs from God revealing the true identity of Jesus to mankind, and the glory of Jesus revealed in our Gospel Reading from John chapter 2 is revealed through the miracle of the water turned to wine.

The symbolism of water turned into wine demonstrates that Jesus is the One who has come to do a new thing; to provide the new blessing; to transform the old covenant with its system of laws that became corrupt (to the point of absurdity) into a new covenant, the rule of love, grace, faith and trust in what Christ has done, and what he’s able to do for us when we let him into our heart and mind and soul. The message of the water turned to wine at the wedding of Cana is a picture of the way our God gives to us an abundant life. But with our human nature, we can take this for granted. As St. Augustine writes, “For even as that which the servants put into the water-pots was turned into wine by the doing of the Lord, so in like manner also is what the clouds pour forth changed into wine by the doing of the same Lord. But we do not wonder at the latter, because it happens every year: it has lost its marvellousness by its constant recurrence.”

On a superficial level, the wine Jesus created was a face-saving gift to the groom and his family, but at the deepest level, Jesus has created the good wine of redemption, given to us by his grace; he produced good wine from water when the old "water" of the Jewish Law had run out. Jesus is the only One who provides the grace of redemption when the old ways produce nothing.

Miracles are called ‘signs’ in John’s Gospel - signs that point us to Jesus as the One who came to give us life in all its fullness. And when we follow him, we then become signposts ourselves – we should be displaying signs of growth and transformation. We should display something resembling the marks of a ‘true Christian’ that St. Paul describes. When we show genuine love, affection and honour to one another, when we’re patient in suffering and bless our persecutors, when we live in harmony with one another, we will be signs that point to Jesus our Savour, the one who meets our needs in times of crisis and times of joy; the One who offers the very best of the kingdom to the meek and the lowly.


  1. I know - virtually impossible, because of our human tendancies. It would entail relinquishment of selfish desires, I suppose, but without the motivation of gaining anything by doing so. All we can do is accept God's grace and forgiveness for how often we fall short.


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