Water into Wine
Birth of Mary: 7th September, 2014
Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster, Vicar of St Peter's, Eastern Hill
This week has been a week of festivities at St Peter's. I think spring is in the air! Today is a feast day, the feast of the Birth of Mary, a day that is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Churches. On Tuesday evening we celebrated another feast day as we remembered the sacrifice of the New Guinea Martyrs with a beautiful High Mass followed by a meal. People gathered from all over Melbourne to mark the occasion, and even our own Archbishop and Mrs Freier turned up in the congregation. On Wednesday we had a mini-feast, our annual Spring Luncheon for the Mystics Anonymous contemplative prayer group. It was a delightful gathering, full of fun and laughter. One member of the group brought along some beautiful cheeses, and another member asked the clergy present whether there were any verses in the Bible about cheese. We racked our brains but couldn't come up with any, so I turned to Google and discovered there are in fact numerous references. My new favourite Bible verse is Job 10:10 "[Lord] did you not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese?"
But the highlight of this week has to be yesterday's parish fair. What a festival that was. The weather was perfect, and an army of volunteers looked after the books, the white elephant, the plants, the children's activities, the sausage sizzle, the recitals in the church. Well over one and a half thousand people came through our doors. The Treasurer hasn't released the final figures yet, but I understand there is around $6,500 to be banked. As much as the money, however, it was the gathering of our church community around a common goal that was such a blessing. Carol O'Conner, the Fair Coordinator, and Coleen Farrell from the Parish Council had been planning every last detail for months. Katherine Barnett put hours and hours into making all the items for the children's table and craft stall, fundraising $400 from decorating fairy-cakes alone. Helen Drummond's Devonshire Teas were a big hit, and Mary Armour and her team in the kitchen were on their feet from 9am to 5pm with hardly a break. Josie Gunning was on face paints all day, and I was sporting a beautiful St Peter's cross and keys on my cheek for most of the day.
As well as the feast of the Birth of Mary (and Father's Day) today is Stewardship Sunday, the launch of Stewardship month at St Peter's, and I can't think of a better example of Christian Stewardship than a parish fair. We need money to run a church, but Stewardship is so much more than simply writing out a cheque, giving a weekly envelope or setting up an automatic payment to the church, important as that is. Stewardship is about building Christian community. Yesterday I spoke to a newer member of our church. She and her family have recently moved to Melbourne, and she had tears in her eyes as she spoke about what it means to her to be part of this community. A new city can be a very lonely place, and we should never underestimate the importance of our inclusiveness and our welcome as a church community. This outward looking focus lies at the core of our Stewardship, and indeed our very being as Christians. William Temple summed it up perfectly: "The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members".
The first of Jesus' signs took place at a party. Traditionally, Jewish wedding festivities lasted a week, so they needed a great deal of wine. The author of John's gospel picks up the story just as the wine has run out. Disaster is impending, the festivities could be drawn very quickly to an unwelcome end. But Mary picks up on the crisis, and she draws it to her son's attention. He seems reticent at first, but his mother insists, and the first of the Messiah's miracles is performed. New wine is produced in abundance, and the Christ is revealed in glory for the first time to those who have eyes to see.
God turned the water of our humble offerings into new wine yesterday. We were good stewards as a community. We all brought what we could: a few cakes, a box of books, some brick-a-brack from the spare room, our time and our energy. And a miracle took place, there was wine in abundance for everyone who came to St Peter's yesterday. We had quite a party.
When you receive your Stewardship information this week, I encourage you to think and pray deeply about your role in this community of faith, about our financial needs, about the ways you can volunteer your time and expertise, and about our mission, how can we better reach and serve those who are not yet members of our church.
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St Peter's Eastern Hill, Melbourne Australia.