On Sunday January 15th the new vicar of St Peter’s Church, Rev. Alan Garrow led worship at our chapel. The previous vicar Tony Shepherd had been the vicar for 27 ½ years, so it is quite a legacy to follow. Alan introduced the theme for the day, as he asked us what we were longing for. He asked his family every week that same question. He reminded us that God had a longing for us. He asked us to consider whether our longing fitted in with God’s. We sang ‘O thou who camest from above as the opening hymn.
Alan explained that he had been ordained for 23 years and was 49, but had never been a vicar responsible for a church before. Before this appointment he had been involved in theological education training, in research or in shared ministry with others. He asked us to think about why we attended church. He loved the church but was struck that we are often not confident about whether we worship in the right way. He loves worship and feels sustained by it. God probably wants something more. He had gone swimming with his young son the previous day. Apparently his son had been taught to swim. He was far more confident and loved swimming under water, but needed to remember what he had learnt in Sheffield. Alan wondered if God felt the same about us. He asked us what we felt our life was for. Alan said that we had been created to worship and we are to rejoice in it. When the steward was praying for him in the vestry before worship he noticed the prayer book from St Peter’s church there!!
He led the prayers with the collect for purity, the confession and absolution. The next hymn was ‘Father, we love you’ and we remained seated as we sang the first verse and stood for the remaining verses. Before we heard the Bible readings from Isaiah 25 and John 2.1-11, we sang, ‘Break thou the bread of life’.
Jesus had just chosen his disciples, when he and his mother were invited to a wedding reception at Cana. Why did Mary turn to Jesus to solve the problem of the wine having run out? Why did Jesus react in the way he did by saying his hour had not yet come? What hour was he referring to? Then the miracle produced a lot of great wine, which was to show the ministry Jesus was to have. First century Jews saw heaven as a great banquet; a huge wedding feast with the Messiah presiding over it. It would be a perfect banquet when we were reconciled to God and one another. Mary knew Jesus was the Messiah, so when they ran out of wine she asked him to help. Jesus knew it was not the time for the great banquet yet that showed that anything he did would be on a small scale. 60 gallons of wine seems a lot to us but is a drop in the ocean to Jesus. It was his first sign; the guests got great wine and the disciples put their faith in Jesus. This was where Jesus was leading them and this is what God wants for us. When we share communion we become guests at that wedding; a small sign of the end point towards which God calls us. Follow me and this is where you will end up is what Jesus is saying. Isaiah 25 showed a picture of a banquet, the root of the Messianic vision.
Jesus taught the disciples to pray a lot; in particular when he gave them the Lord’s Prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer in Greek is a word, ‘Epiousion’ has no particular translation but is translated as ‘daily’ bread in the prayer. It could also mean the bread of tomorrow, the future; give us today future bread. What does that mean? When we think of the heavenly banquet then bread of the future means something. Jesus and his disciples would have prayed after the meal as Jesus taught them; give us today the bread of the future Kingdom.
Alan wondered what we longed for. We are called to long for the bread of the future kingdom. When we pray after a meal what we really want is your kingdom to come in our kitchen in our home. We are to do this or it doesn’t have an impact on our daily lives. Every Saturday night he and his wife and two children aged 7 and 4 ask what they are longing for when they have a special meal. The children consistently long for next Christmas or next Easter. They read a Bible story together and say the Lord’s Prayer, when they have finished their meal.
We all said the Lord’s Prayer more slowly than usual and he showed us actions we could use to accompany the prayer. It certainly made us more aware of what we were actually saying. We sang ‘Shine Jesus shine’, before Alan led the prayers of intercession using concerns suggested by members of the congregation. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Glorious things of thee are spoken’.