Sunday, January 15, 2017
Sermon for the second Sunday after Epiphany.
How much is a firkin?
Imperial measurements are sadly dying out. It’s a shame because they are based on our human dimensions and thus fit our lives better than something that is rather more arbitrary. Both of the words inch and ounce come from the Latin word for thumb. We still think in feet. A furlong is literally a furrow-long. But what of a firkin?
Firkin comes from the Dutch word for a quarter of a barrel of beer, and is actually 72 pints (or 41 litres if you’ve gone metric).
This means that three firkins would be 216 pints. That’s a lot of water and would weigh approximately 250 pounds! That’s heavy!
And yet, six jars of this weight are brought before Jesus for Him to turn the water into wine. All 216 pints in each jar turned from water to wine - that’s clearly a miracle, isn’t it?
Yet, if we listen to Our Lord carefully, it isn’t what He does that matters to Him. He does it in response to what others do. He wants us to play a part in these miracles. There would be no wine if some servants hadn’t laboured hard to bring the water to Him. The paralysed man is let down through a roof through the faith for his friends and Jesus can respond to that faith by telling the man to take up his bed and walk, which he does. Likewise, blind Bartimaeus calls out in faith of Christ and is rewarded with his sight. What would have happened if Our Lady had said “no!” to God rather than “yes!”?
Here in Cana, it is Our Lord’s mother who has faith in her son and communicates that faith to servants who are willing to lug six jars of about 250 pounds to Jesus for Him to work a wonderful miracle. A bride and groom who aren’t even mentioned by name receive a gift of about 1,246 pints of the best wine. What a wonderful wedding gift, and what a lesson for us!
We have seen the Lord’s Epiphany – His revelation of Himself to us. Effectively, He has said to the world, “Here I am!” This is unequivocal. The presence of Our Lord in history is without parallel. We have a man who says that He is God. We have a choice of whether or not to believe Him. Many people these days will not. They demand evidence and then, when it is provided, they disregard it because it is not in keeping with their idea of the world. They do not want their worldview challenged, and yet they would demand miracles of Jesus which would break that worldview to pieces! To them, Our Lord gives only the sign of Jonah – His shameful death upon the Cross.
But what if we do dare to believe?
It is for those who are prepared to have their world challenged that Jesus performs His miracles, and in abundance. Those who are prepared to lug a thousand pints of water to Him just to see what He will do, they are the ones who receive something astounding, something good, something truly joyous! If we want a miracle in our lives then we must believe that Our Lord can do miracles and demonstrate that to ourselves by working hard in coming to Christ so that He can make that transformation in our lives. This is our Salvation, and it is a miracle that comes about not only through our Faith but our living out that Faith in response to God’s Epiphany in our lives.
This wonderful transformation is hard work. It requires a change of life, a commitment to suffering and sacrifice for the Kingdom of God, and a denial of our rights so that God’s righteousness can enter our lives. As we stand looking into the wedding at Cana, we see hard labour turned to joy overflowing. The work pays off; the miracle is there for all to see; water becomes wine, all 1,246 pints of it!