Thinking Thursday: Studies in Elijah – 1 Kings 17 Faithful in the Famine

[Last weekend I attended a Bible Conference, and the teaching was so good, I have written up my notes to share over the next three weeks. I hope you find them helpful too. You will need to read the chapter as it would make this post too long to put it all in.]

[Wikimedia]

[Wikimedia]

Sometimes life can be like a roller-coaster: ups and downs, unexpected corners, and if you don’t like it, you can’t get off. But surely our lives are about more than that. Elijah experienced in a few years what we experience in a lifetime, but he found out that God was faithful. In the famine he learned that God speaks, God supplies, and God saves.

God Speaks
In 1967 the English band The
Tremolos had a hit record with Silence is Golden. The lyrics ask whether silence really is golden, when you see something wrong and don’t say. Silence is also not golden when it is God who seems to be silent.

1 Kings 16 tells of a succession of evil kings in Israel, but God seemed silent. Yet even at this time a prophecy came true. Joshua 6:26 records a curse on anyone who rebuilds Jericho after it fell. This is fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34.

Then chapter 17 begins ‘Now Elijah‘ – the name Elijah means ‘the Lord is God’. So the chapter says ‘Now the Lord is God’. James tells us that Elijah was a man just like us (James 5:17), but God used him in mighty ways. He wants to use us too, if we will listen when he speaks.

God spoke to Elijah and he spoke God’s words to Ahab, even though he knew it would be dangerous for him. God kept speaking to Elijah and telling him which way to go, first to the Kerith ravine (v2-4) and then to Zarephath (v8-9).

Prophet Elijah in the Desert by Dieric Bouts [Wikimedia]

Prophet Elijah in the Desert by Dieric Bouts
[Wikimedia]

God spoke to nature (v4). He arranged for ravens to feed Elijah. Ravens are scavengers and therefore unclean, but God used them to bring bread and meat twice a day. (Where did they get the bread and meat? It is nice to think they may have scavenged from Ahab’s table to feed Ahab’s enemy!)

God spoke to a pagan woman (v9). He was preparing the way for Elijah, using someone who would be regarded by Israel as unclean.

It is the same today. We are all called to be truth-tellers. We need to hear God’s word. God chooses to use us even though we are not perfect and he doesn’t need us.

God Supplies
Through the famine caused by the lack of rain, God supplied what Elijah needed.
Most of us today have enough to eat but we can all experience famines in other things: loss of income, loved ones, esteem.

The ‘health and wealth’ gospel is wrong but we all want to live a rich, healthy and easy life. We don’t glorify God when we pretend everything is okay, but when we love and help each other through the hard times.

God gave Elijah two safe places – in the desert (the Kerith ravine) and in the land ruled by Jezebel’s father ( Zarephath).

God gave Elijah and two staple diets – bread and meat (from the ravens) and flour and oil to make bread (from the widow of Zarephath). Both were unclean, but God used them.

God provided water from a brook that didn’t dry up, even when there was no rain.

And my God will meet all your needs (Phil 4:19).

But God didn’t provide for everyone in Israel. Is God more faithful to those he saves than to those who suffer? No. God had a job for Elijah so he provided. What about those who suffered in the famine? Even those who died, God provided for in a different way.

How did Elijah feel as the brook dried up? Did he panic? Did he wonder if God was letting him down? God needed him to move on. It may be hard, but it will always be better to obey God.

God Saves
God bypassed all the widows in Israel.
I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. (Luke 4:25-26).

[Flikr]

[Flikr]

Jesus talked of her and offended his hearers (Luke 4:14-30). He also went out of his way to meet the woman of Samaria and not one of his own people (John 4:1-42).
God extended his kingdom and had already prepared the widow.

Then in the midst of blessings her worst nightmare happened. Even Elijah could hardly bear it.
Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”(v20)

But he didn’t give up, three times he prayed. The boy received life, but the widow was saved. When she first met Elijah she said, “the Lord your God” (v12). When her son is returned to her she says, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” (v24).

When hope is lost we need to get back to God and his word. Count the blessings God has given you. Not just material things, but eternal things, especially Jesus. Remember back to when you saw Jesus in others and trusted God to save you.

[From a talk by Jane McNabb at the Women’s Bible Study Conference, Hebron Hall 20-22 March 2015]

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Writing Wednesday: Print On Demand

Thanks to ebooks you can publish a book today for next to nothing. But what if you want a print book – a physical book you can hold and hand to people?

SigningTraditional Print

When I published my first local history book it was clear that most sales would be impulse buys. Tourists and locals would be intrigued and say, “It’s less than a fiver, I’ll have one.” A printer will print however many copies you ask for, but because of the setup costs and economies of scale, it makes sense to print a lot at once. That means you need several hundred pounds usually.

I funded the first book out of my pension money. I used the profit from the first book to fund the second. I used the profit from the second to pay for professional editing of my science fiction novel. So now comes the third history book, and I don’t have the funds. The solution? Print on demand (POD).

Print On Demand

There are several companies online that will print one book at a time at a fixed price. They also sell, so someone will buy your book from them, they print one and post it and send you your profit. You don’t have to do a thing once it’s set up. If you want books to sell or give away, you pay the cost price plus shipping. You don’t make much money per copy, but you don’t have to pay out a lot up front or find storage for boxes of books.

Companies

Create SpaceThere are three main companies that I am aware of, Create Space, Lightning Source, and Lulu. Some offer printing in bulk for publishers as well as POD, but I think they’re all fairly similar. I’m going with Create Space, because they were recommended in a book by some prolific authors, who had looked into it.

Costs

Ebooks or POD don’t actually cost you nothing, because you need to make sure your book is as good as it can be, which usually means paying a professional editor, and you need a good cover, which usually means paying for one. I think you have to pay shipping on your proof copy as well, but it’s minimal.

Never, never, never make do with a cover you designed yourself, or a friend did for you, unless you or they are a skilled graphic designer. People really do judge a book by its cover. Create Space have a free online cover designer which allows you to tailor one of their professionally designed covers, but it’s a poor second. Ideally you want a cover that fits your book perfectly, doesn’t look like dozens/hundreds of others, and looks good as a thumbnail.

Formatting

Formatting your manuscript for print is totally different to formatting for ebook.

An ebook has no pages but is one long stream of text which the ereader will split up according to the font size and screen size, over which you have no control. You also don’t want too much in the front, because it will fill up the sample and potential readers won’t get to see much of your writing.

A print book – go and find one and check for yourself – has all sorts of front matter, page numbers and headers on every page except the front matter, and you have total control over how every page will look. This means a lot of work and may be a problem if you aren’t good with a word processor.

The Magna Carta Story

Magna Carta CoverSo – I had to make a copy of my manuscript and reformat for print, which is almost done. I have to order a new cover, because the ebook cover is front only, but now I need the spine and the back as well, and it has to have trim areas – but Create Space give detailed instructions for that.

But – I’m going to have a print book very soon! I’ll give more details when it happens.

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Thinking Thursday: Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles?

This post is based on the notes I took at a public theology lecture at Swansea University by Professor Sir Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University, on 9 March 2015.

colin humphreysRichard Dawkins said all miracles are a violation of the natural world.
Augustine of Hippo said miracles are only contrary to what we know of nature.
Let’s look at some miracles from a scientific perspective.

Crossing the Jordan

Gläubige am Jordan by Georg Macco (Wikimedia)

Gläubige am Jordan by Georg Macco
(Wikimedia)

Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. (Joshua 3:15-16)

We must ask, was this account meant to be historical? What was the writer’s intent?
He gives historical details – the town of Adam, in the vicinity of Zarethan, the people crossed opposite Jericho.
It certainly looks as if the writer intended it to be a factual account.

Can we find out, 3000 years later, what actually happened? The town of Adam is now called Damia, 17 miles upstream of Jericho. There is a meeting of tectonic plates under the river, and movement of the plates causes earthquakes. In 1927 an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale stopped the river Jordan by a mudslide. It took some days for the water to find its way around or over the mudslide and start flowing again. This has happened many times before and been documented.

So this is a natural mechanism, but it is still a miracle. The miracle is of the timing. We can find other such incidents which are natural events described as miracles from God.

Why was it, O sea, that you fled, O Jordan, that you turned back, you mountains, that you skipped like rams, you hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob. (Psalm 114:5-7) Clearly this describes an earthquake.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided (Ex 14:21) Another natural mechanism, but a miracle of timing.

The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. (Psalm 77:16-19) The people of that time attributed all natural phenomena to God. They believed natural phenomena were ruled by God, but he leaves no sign of his involvement.

The river Jordan today is a very small river, because countries on both sides draw off water for irrigation. When it was in flood from the spring snow melt, it was half a mile wide in the 19th century. This incident happened in the spring.

Water from a rock

Moses draws water from the Rock by Francois Perrier (Wikimedia)

Moses draws water from the Rock by Francois Perrier
(Wikimedia)

The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Ex 17:5-6)

This would have been a large rock, probably well known. Moses would have struck it a heavy blow.
There are porous rocks like sandstone and limestone which soak up water like a sponge. This is called an aquifer. The city of Cambridge (UK) gets all its water from aquifers. Also, with the weathering of rocks in the desert by sandstorms, organic matter is blasted at the rock faces and then dries out. The rocks develop a varnish which sets hard and retains the water inside the soft rock, which can be released with a blow.

This violates no natural laws, it is God working through them.

Walking on water

Peter walks on water towards Christ (Wikimedia)

Peter walks on water towards Christ
(Wikimedia)

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. (Matt.14:25)

Did Jesus walk on ice? There was a news story suggesting this possibility, but it’s highly unlikely.

Did he change the gravity? Was something holding him up?
If God interferes with gravity, scientists would not be happy. Maybe God upheld him against the force of gravity. This is something we don’t know.

Resurrection

Resurreccion de jesus (Wikimedia)

Resurreccion de jesus
(Wikimedia)

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:5-6)

Can science explain the resurrection? Not with our present knowledge, and maybe never. Scientists strive to understand the laws which govern the natural world. Maybe there are another set of laws under which God operates.

The music analogy

Key Signature Flashcards (Wikimedia)

Key Signature Flashcards
(Wikimedia)

A composer sets the key signature at the beginning of a piece of music. This sets the rules for this piece. This dictates that, in reading the music, the performer must always play certain notes sharp or flat. For example, the key of G major always plays the note F as F sharp (F#).

But, within a piece of music there may be accidentals. These are notes which are played differently to the key signature. For example, there may be an F in the key of G major which is not played sharp. This adds colour and richness to the music, and would not sound right if played according to the key signature rules. The composer is free to break his own rules to make better music.

Scientists are discovering the laws which govern the natural world, like a key signature. But God, like a composer, can break his own laws or even operate under a completely different set of rules.

Peter at Pentecost said that Jesus rose, “because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24). He was saying that resurrection was inevitable if Jesus was who he said he was. It was a change of key signature, a new set of physical laws.

[Have you found this helpful? Do you have questions? Please leave a comment and join the discussion.]

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Writing Wednesday: Why Every Writer Needs a Media Kit

When I published my first history book, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

(Wikimedia)

(Wikimedia)

Thanks to the internet, I found some good articles and advice books and made a start on publicity. You can’t do everything at once, so I started slowly. When I talk to people about my social media platform for example, their eyes glaze over with panic because it sounds so complicated. It is quite complex – now – but I have been doing this for three years.

I was better at publicity when I launched my second book – been there, done that – but there was still so much to learn. When I dealt with the media, I didn’t have a media kit. I didn’t even have a press release. I just rang people up or emailed them and said, “I’ve just published a book, can you help me?”

Sometimes I got lucky, but mostly I was ignored.

I got lucky enough that my books have been quite successful locally, but I have learned so much more since then. One important thing I’ve learned about is a media kit. I recently purchased a set of media kit templates from Joan Stewart in an introductory offer, and they are brilliant. Unfortunately, they are now expensive, but if you’ve got the cash, you should check them out here.

Media Kit TemplatesHere is what she says about why you need a media kit:

Here are 7 reasons why:
1. A Media Kit, also referred to as a press kit, is the major marketing piece that represents you and your book.
2. Anyone interested in any aspect of your book can find everything in one place. Your audiences include journalists, bloggers, reviewers, retailers, individual buyers, event planners, librarians and anyone who wants to promote your book.
3. A Media Kit serves as a crutch for busy journalists. They can cut and paste entire paragraphs from your press release, synopsis and author bio into stories they are writing.
4. Magazine and newspaper editors can find your high-resolution book cover inside the kit. They don’t have to email you with a special request “because the photo you provided won’t reproduce well.”
5. A tidy “sell sheet” can double as a printed order form at live events like speaking engagements and book signings. No need to give people two pieces of paper: One that describes the book and another they can use to order.
6. Most radio and TV talk show hosts who will interview you don’t have time to read your book. They will appreciate a list of interview questions. Another big benefit: You can choose the questions you want to answer.
7. The kit includes a variety of ways people can contact you: by phone, email, Skype, and on the social media sites. This information is so important that it deserves its own document. Don’t bury it at the bottom of your author profile!

So you can get started, here is a list of the main things that should be in your media kit:

1. Author Biography Page
2. Book Synopsis Page
3. Contact Information Sheet
4. Press Release
5. Sample Chapter
6. Sample Interview Questions
7. Book Review Excerpts
8. Selection of High Quality Author Photos
9. High Quality Images of the Book Cover

Mine is nearly ready, and I’ll be adding it to my author blog in a separate page so it’s available there as well as in a zip file via email. I’ll let you know when you can go and see, then use it as an example to start your own. It’s so much easier to talk to people when you’re prepared.

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Thinking Thursday: Jesus All The Time

Why is Christianity more like a peach than an orange?

Christianity peach or orangeOn Sundays the church gathers together and supports one another in praise, prayer, learning and fellowship. But the rest of the week each individual member is out on their own. In work, in school, shopping, playing sports, so much of our lives is spent with non-Christians. But we are still the church, whether we are gathered or scattered.

Most of us find the thought of evangelism daunting, like going over the top in the First World War. There is a frontline for each of us, but it’s not a battle, it’s just where we are through the week, where we interact with non Christians. Where is your frontline?

Most of us find it a struggle and we’re failing more than succeeding. Let’s look at some post-resurrection experiences of the original disciples, they were really struggling.

The Emmaus Road

The_Road_to_Emmaus

(Wikimedia)

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-33)

The two on the Emmaus Road were hopeless – things had not worked out the way they expected. Jesus came even before they expressed their hopelessness and he walked with them.

Mary at the tomb

Resurreccion_de_jesus

(Wikimedia)

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:14-16)

Mary met Jesus at the tomb but didn’t recognise him. She lost sight of Jesus amidst her doubts and questions. Jesus doesn’t move on to better disciples, he stays with her through the questions and worries. We may feel very alone with our own concerns. Knowing someone is praying is not enough. Jesus was there even before she recognised him,and he called her by name.

The Locked Room

(Flikr)

(Flikr)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:19-21)

Jesus appeared in the upper room, where the door was locked. Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Shalom.’ He gave them his peace. Then he equipped them for mission.

To return to our original question – An orange is segmented, but a peach is one whole. We segment our lives, but they should be whole. Putting your life into compartments doesn’t work like that. Jesus is with you in everything, every day.

Let’s fall in step with Jesus, listen to his call, live in his peace. Be equipped for our frontline.

[based on a sermon by Peter Orphan at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

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Writing Wednesday: Making the Cut – Editing

Since I am working through the professional edit of my novel Intruders, I thought it would be good to post about editing.

Amazingly, in these days of ebooks you can publish yourself, some people write a novel and publish it without any further work. It gives ebooks a bad name when you see the rubbish that is out there, and it makes it more important that your book must be the best it can be in order to stand out from the crowd.

Intruders editI really thought I had done so much work on Intruders that it would need very little work. Boy was I wrong! Yet 98% of the edits are right, but I just couldn’t see them. Most of the other 2% are misunderstandings which were also my fault and need work. Believe me, however good you think your work is, try leaving it for a month and then re-reading it – you’ll have a shock.

Anyway, here’s an old article from Writing Magazine, July 2009 by Jane Wenham Jones:

Please can you tell me what is meant by a ‘damn good edit’? I have been told several times that this is what my short stories need and now that I have finished my first full-length manuscript, similar comments have been made. I have spent a year writing my novel and, as far as I am concerned, have done everything I can to make it as good as possible. So what am I supposed to do now to ‘sharpen and polish’ it as has been suggested? I know this sounds like a silly question but I really don’t know where to start.”
Chrissie Howerd, Edinburgh

It doesn’t sound silly at all. This is a very good question and one, as I’ve heard agents and publishers agree, a few more writers should ask! Editing is as much a skill as any other aspect of writing – the most important one, I would say – and none of us are born experts. We have to learn how to edit effectively and when we do, the difference it makes is profound. Which is why every successful writer I know goes over and over their manuscripts, cutting, tweaking and holding, until they feel they’re absolutely right. And still something may slip through – that’s why copy editors have a job. Lynne Patrick, managing editor of Crème de la Crime, believes that the months or years an author spends immersed in their manuscript leaves them ‘too close’ to their work and makes it difficult for them to see it objectively. Describing her read-through of a manuscript the company was planning to publish she says: “I found far too many repetitions on one specific expletive; three minor characters all with the same first name; a couple of acronyms whose meaning wasn’t clear from the context; and an incorrect Famous Name. This was after several rewrites by the author.”

Take a break

Lynne recommends putting the manuscript away for a few weeks after typing ‘The End’ and then working on it again before sending it out. This is an excellent piece of advice, albeit one that I’m usually too impatient to follow. It is true, however, that if you can manage it, all sorts of flaws will become apparent when you reread your work after a suitable break. And it’s getting rid of those flaws, making the writing smooth, seamless and effortless to read, that is the aim of that ‘damn good edit’ all manuscripts need if they’re to make their fortune.

Print and read

You ask where to start. The answer is at the printer. Do edit on paper. You may think you can save the rainforest and be just as proficient reading your work on the computer screen but believe me, you can’t. I check things a dozen times on screen and still find all sorts of typos, missing words and speech marks in the wrong place once I’m staring at a hardcopy. After it’s printed, many authors would suggest reading the manuscript aloud. If you find yourself stumbling then something is wrong with the rhythm of that sentence and other faults will show up too. “Repetition jumps out at you if you actually hear the words in the air,” says writer and tutor Sue Moorcroft, “and punctuation errors become obvious.”

Cut, cut and cut again

Biddy Nelson, whose had more short stories published than you can shake a stick at, likens editing to weeding the garden. “Go through the manuscript cutting out anything unnecessary to the plot or characterisation – i.e. do away with favourite bits,” she says wryly. “It can be done over and over again, there’s always something that could or should go.”

As a brief checklist, things to hoik out include repeated words and dull superfluous detail, any overuse of adjectives and adverbs and weakeners like ‘rather’ and ‘quite’. We often have one or two of these we use more often than we realise. I have a tendency to litter my dialogue with ‘just’ and ‘really’ as in ‘I just feel… ‘ or ‘I really thought’, and have to prune them out at the end, while writer Anne Catchpole tells how she recently edited a chapter of her work in progress – mostly dialogue – and had to delete “twelve Ohs, fifteen wells and several buts.”

Sift through for mistakes

Also, watch for places where you’ve stated the obvious: “he yelled loudly,” or “she whispered quietly” and keep an eye open for the sort of spelling errors and grammatical glitches that the spell check won’t pickup e.g. the misuse of ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its,’ ‘there’ instead of ‘their’ and so on. Make sure it’s clear who is speaking in any dialogue and that your paragraphs don’t continue for several pages.

Different authors have different methods of working at this. Penny Alexander believes in the ‘counsel of perfection’ which she explains as “only ever editing while focusing ferociously upon ONE aspect: e.g. punctuation, or repetition, or information dumping… And NEVER to get sidetracked from that.”

Others, myself included, look for everything at the same time. Whichever way you do it, try to be ruthless. “I have always found that you can edit out far more than you think,” says magazine writer Pamela Weaver. “I’ve even managed to get a 3000 word story down to 1,500 words and still sell it, so it can be done! If you think what you’ve written is quote of the month, you can always save it for another time.”

My first drafts are always too long, too fluffy, too wordy,” says novelist Hilary Lloyd. “So my approach to editing is to cut, cut and cut again. Like writing, editing needs confidence, only gained from sharp practice!”

So grab your red pen and practice away. Editing your novel may take some time but, like clearing out an old cupboard, is strangely satisfying and you’ll be very glad you did it. Good luck!

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Thinking Thursday: Water into Wine – John 2: 1-13

This week yet another story about a banquet – a wedding banquet. See the previous ones here and here.

When Jesus taught us how to pray, the last thing he prayed was, For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. (Matt 6:13)

The first miracle Jesus performed, when he turned water into wine, fulfilled that prayer:
His kingdom commenced

His power portrayed
His glory revealed

The Wedding at Cana by Daniel Sarrabat [Wikimedia]

The Wedding at Cana by Daniel Sarrabat
[Wikimedia]

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 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 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.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2: 1-11)

His Kingdom Commenced

This may have been a family wedding, which would explain how Jesus and Mary were there. Mary seems to have been involved in the arrangements.

Mary takes the initiative, but she doesn’t dictate to him. She had been told by the angel before his birth who he would be. She knew about the Kingdom. She already has faith in his power.

Jesus is guided by his heavenly Father not his mother. He says, “My time is not yet come.” All his ministry is in the light of the cross.

Mary’s focus is utterly on God, as shown in her song after the angel’s visit (Luke 1:46-55).

His Power Portrayed

This was Jesus’ first miraculous sign. He demonstrated his power over nature.

John comments on the sign by following it with the story of the cleansing of temple (John 2:13-17).

The water jars held water for the guests to wash. The roads were dry and dusty. Turned into wine, this was too much wine for a simple wedding – indicative of the abundance of grace.

New wine is also a symbol of the abundance of God’s blessings:
In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias. (Joel 3:18)
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. (Amos 9:13)

His Glory Revealed

 John comments at the end of the story, He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. (John 2:11)

God’s promise of restoration is symbolised by marriage:
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:4-5)

Jesus himself is the good wine kept back until now:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus fulfilled his life work of revealing God’s grace. The miracle at Cana symbolises the generous outpouring of God’s grace.

Do you have a place in his kingdom? Do you experience his power in your life? Has his glory been revealed to you?

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