Celebrating Church?

It’s Monday morning. We pray that you have had a blessed Sunday of Sabbath rest and now find your spiritual batteries fully charged for the week ahead.

PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the Light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that He may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN”

SCRIPTURE: (from the Lectionary)
John 2:1-11 (NIV) Jesus Changes Water Into Wine
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

QUOTE: “To turn water into wine, and what is common into what is holy, is indeed the glory of Christianity.” —Frederick William Robertson (19th Century Anglican Preacher)

PRAYER FOCUS THIS WEEK: Celebrating Church.

Does your church celebrate? Is there joy in the gathering, or is church just something you “do” on Sundays?

This week’s Lectionary Scriptures are quite different—even divergent—from each other (see the list of four, with links, below). We do discern, however one common thread: celebrating fellowship with other believers.

Isaiah prophesies that “you shall be called My Delight Is in Her” and God will rejoice over you “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride”. The Psalm sings of how God’s people “feast upon the abundance of your house”. In his first letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul explains gifts of supernatural power to individual Christians for their common good. And John describes Jesus’ first “official” miracle while celebrating at a wedding in Cana.

It is upon this last passage we draw our focus.

Let us begin with full disclosure: The authors of The Monday Prayer appreciate good wine, and we love a good celebration. We can easily relate to this account of Jesus in Cana, having fun at a wedding with his friends and family. We note with respect that the party had been in progress for three days before they ran out of wine. We note further that when Mary asks Jesus for help, he miraculously provides six 25-gallon stone-pots filled to the brim with very high quality stuff. FYI, 150 gallons would yield close to 760 of our modern bottles (750 mL). That’s a lot of wine! The wedding revelers’ cups were literally about to “runneth over”. (Recall the “feast upon abundance” passage from Psalm 36:4.)

If the effect of Jesus’ very first recorded miracle was to upgrade and extend their celebration, why aren’t we having a better time in church? Have we no cause to celebrate? Have we no wine? (NOTE: In Jesus’ day, to an even greater degree than today, wine was an essential component of hospitality; to run out of wine was to exhaust one’s hospitality).

In our time, in our culture, according to some recent surveys, both non-believers and Christians have a generally low opinion of church. Some may argue over the reasons why that is so, but there isn’t much point in debating whether it is true. Regular church attendance has dropped to all-time lows, especially in Europe and Canada, where the survival of whole denominations is now in doubt. The Gospel message has been marginalized, if not made irrelevant, in these communities, and it shows. Clearly lots of churches are failing at something fundamental.

On the other hand, the global church is certainly not dying, nor has the message of God’s Love become irrelevant. Church congregations are growing in many places around the world, even in some of the blighted countries. Some are growing very quickly indeed. Most of these are planting new churches, and transforming whole communities in the process. Their numbers expand weekly. Lives are being changed. People are being healed, some miraculously. Relationships are being restored. Others are realizing freedom from bondage. Miraculous or not, these are all reasons for celebration.

What are these churches doing right? Mary’s words give us a clue: “Do whatever He tells you…” (v.5). Another term would be obedience.

This week’s Prayer asks that God’s own people, “illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine…that He (Jesus Christ) may be known, worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth.”

In order to be illumined by God’s Word, you must first read it, regularly and with intention. Similarly, we must understand the Sacraments and their meaning (Quick Hit: How many are there, and what are their names?). The point, and our purpose in prayer, is that Jesus Christ may be known and worshipped—and obeyed—to the ends of the earth.

Never mind the ends of the earth for a moment: What about your church? Is Jesus Christ known, worshipped and obeyed? We suspect there is a strong correlation between church success and the illumination of its members through obedience to the Word and Sacraments. Followers of Jesus Christ are commanded to gather in order to encourage one another (Heb. 10:24) and to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). Doing what Jesus says will bring great joy as well as abundant cause for celebration.

It’s Monday morning. How can you contribute to the success of your church this week?

Coffee With Jesus

Lectionary Scriptures for the Second Week of Epiphany:
Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10 [By the way, these are also the lyrics to “Your Love O Lord” by Third Day.]
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
John 2:1-11

In case you were wondering. There are seven Sacraments historically recognized by the Church:
• Baptism (Christening)
• Confirmation (Chrismation)
• Holy Eucharist (Communion)
• Penance (Confession)
• Anointing of the Sick (known prior to the Second Vatican Council as Extreme Unction)
• Holy Orders
• Matrimony (Marriage)
The Roman Catholic Church still honors all seven traditional Sacraments, although many denominations do not. For example, the United Methodist Church recognizes only Baptism and Communion (the others are considered “rites”).

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About themondayprayer

We are an independent prayer newsletter, publishing every Monday morning.
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