Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
Today we behold a second ray of Epiphany light manifested by Christ’s presence and first miracle that He wrought in Cana of Galilee, and, as taught by the Epistle, to be then reflected in us as members of His Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This grace is evidently the grace of sympathy, and its gentle beauty shines brighter after the stern lesson of duty as taught on the previous Sunday. It is true that we are to renounce the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, but the spirit of Christ’s religon is not ascetic, except in regard to evil. The Christian is not to flee from the world, but to conquer it; he is to mingle with the dough, that he may leaven it; he is not to refuse God’s bounties, but to seek grace to use them, and not to refuse the gift to save the trouble of seeking the grace. Our Master’s system is not to hide us from temptation, but to train our powers of resistance, or rather to force us to look to Him for needful strength.
THE GOSPEL – S. John 2:1-11 – The Sympathy of Christ
The miracle of Cana is here to be considered as an Epiphany of Sympathy.
A. Duty and Sympathy.
Duty did not so completely fill Christ’s life as to leave no room for sympathy, and surely no life was ever so spent in duty, and no time more anxious than this crisis when He had but just entered upon His campaign, and was in the very act of choosing His captains in the fight. Yet, for all this, He did not plead duty as an excuse, but came with His disciples. If such a life may not plead urgency, how much less lives of pleasure and selfishness?
B. Sympathy with Human Relationships.
Just as one object with Christ that day was to proclaim Himself Divine, so another object with Him was to proclaim as the great purpose of His coming His Will to sanctify all that is human. He came not to destroy human nature and relations, but to fulfil them by reconnecting them with God. Christ came to unite, not to scatter. Our fault is not that we love too much, but that we love too little. We shall not love home less by loving Christ more.
C. Sympathy with Human Joys.
Our chief joys and sorrows centre round our homes, and, as at Bethany, Christ relieved the deepest sorrows of a home, so at Cana He showed His sympathy with the joys and lesser anxieties of home. He was manifested as the Friend of human happiness. The fault is not that we are happy, but that we are not happy enough. Earth’s sources of pleasure run dry, and at Cana Christ was manifested as the source of a joy that is richer. The poor flat wine of earthly joy is soon spent in the cask, and thus Christ came to give a joy that no man can take from us. They that seek Christ at Calvary shall find Him, and they that seek Him at Cana shall find Him there also.
D. Sympathy with Human Feelings.
We see in Christ the very essence of sympathy, which is not merely to feel for others, but to enter into their feelings. His bounty was bestowed so secretly that none but the servants knew how near the little store had been to failure, nor how it had been replenished. Christ’s gifts of grace are given and are best received secretly.
E. The Final Victory of Sympathy.
That which was done at Cana is a type of all Christ’s working, and of the final banishment of sorrows when “God shall wipe away all tears,” and the water of sorrow shall be turned into the wine of joy at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Till that consummation our duty is obedience, unquestioning, impartial, practical, personal, and its motto, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.” We cannot share the Christian hope and comfort without rendering Christian obedience. Christ will only turn the water of purification into wine, but not that stained by sin, defiled by worldliness, and muddied by disobedience. If we keep His commandments we shall attain His promises, of which it shall be said, “Thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
THE EPISTLE – Romans 12:6-16
S. Paul here lays bare the deep foundations on which the grace of Christian sympathy must rest—a sympathy which is more than the unconscious overflow of a kindly temperament, being the offspring of a new principle infused into the soul and derived from new views of our fellow-creatures and of our relation to them as fellow-members of the Church of Christ.
A. Sympathy and Duty.
S. Paul passes naturally from duty to sympathy, for the Epistle of to-day follows directly that of last Sunday. The same Divine obligation which binds to duty binds also to sympathy. We are alike to labour and to love because we are members one of another.
B. The Brotherhood of Duty.
Christian brotherhood is the foundation of Christian duty. Socialism treats men as so many things all alike, Christianity as brothers, all “having gifts differing according to the grace given unto us.” Each Christian must contribute his special gift to the good of all. The prophet, or preacher, is to prophesy according to the proportion of the faith—i.e., not to preach an isolated gospel of pet truths which he brings forward to the exclusion of others—or, if we translate “his faith,” that his faith must accompany his words in the rhetoric of conviction. The minister is to give himself wholly to his flock; the teacher to his class; the mission preacher to his evangelizing. Charity, authority, mercy, must not be administered perfunctorily. Our first duty to others is to do our own work well.
C. The Brotherhood of Sympathy.
Inflexible in principle and careful of our own spiritual life, we are to be no less careful of the needs of others.
“To distribute to the necessity of Saints”—i.e., fellow-Christians. The Christian rich have a direct responsibility for the Christian poor. Such sympathy is not a matter of sentiment, but of duty.
“To be given to hospitality”—welcoming fellow Christians not only to our hearts, but our homes.
“To bless and curse not”—going beyond the friendship which only loves where it is loved, by blessing our persecutors.
Christian sympathy must “rejoice with those that rejoice,” as did Christ at Cana, and “weep with those that weep,” as did our Master at Bethany. It is to rise to absolute identity of feeling, “one being of the same mind with another,” and to conquer prejudice, which so contracts the affections, by “condescension to men of low estate.”
This brotherhood of duty and sympathy is to be found in the Church of Christ. Christians are of bounden duty to recognize that want of courtesy and indifference to the feelings of others, to say nothing of positive readiness to give pain, are an open denial of Christ.
A prayer for continual peace “all the days of our life.” For this we need:—
A. The assurance of Divine power extending over “all things in Heaven and earth.”
B. The assurance of the Divine mercy and sympathy accepting our petitions. This union of love and power is the great teaching of the miracle of Cana, in which Christ made use of the power of God to relieve anxiety and grant peace. Christ’s sympathy is not ineffectual, for it is united with infinite power. The power of Christ is to be trusted, being united with infinite sympathy.