The Readings for 23rd January
Nehemiah 8: 1-3,5-6,8-10 ~ 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a ~ Luke 4: 14-21
Thoughts for this Week
1st Reading: Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6,8-10 Ezra, the teacher of the law brings out the Book of the Law of Moses and reads it to the Assembly.
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
Collect for Epiphany 3: Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Gospel: Luke 4: 14-21 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
To my mind, this isn’t simply about Jesus getting up to read the assigned passage for the day. This isn’t like one of us looking at the rota and thinking, “Oh, it’s my turn to read the Old Testament lesson.” According to Luke, Jesus “found the place” where these particular verses were on the scroll. He intentionally chose them. Jesus is up to something.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon him, the same Spirit that descended upon him at his baptism, that filled and led him in the wilderness, and with which he returned to Galilee. Something is stirring within him.
In Luke’s account of the gospel what Jesus reads and says today are his first recorded public words. And he speaks them in the town in which he grew up, in the synagogue where he worshipped as a child, among the people who know him and his family. It’s almost as if he is saying, “I’m back and let me tell you who I am and what I am about.” Jesus is naming what God is concerned about in this world. He’s naming a truth and our responsibility for bringing that truth into existence. He’s describing the work and direction of his life. He’s taking a stand, a very public stand. Now that terrifies me. Not so much for Jesus’ sake but for mine. All my wonderings about Jesus, his anxieties and worries, what he saw, and how he felt; that’s my stuff. That’s me projecting on to him my fear, anxiety, and worry about taking a public stand about who I am and the direction of my life, about naming and embodying God’s concerns for the world, about giving existence to God’s truth in my life. How far will I go for this gospel I claim to love and follow? What am I willing to do and what am I not? Those are choices I make every day with all the particulars, needs, and desires of my life. I struggle and wrestle with these choices pretty well every day. Because here’s what I see in the world and read in the life of Jesus. Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, the gospel asks us to make a choice, to take a stand, that will inconvenience us, be contrary to our self-interest, or put us in conflict and even opposition with others, ourselves, our family, our country, our religion. These are some of my favourities;
• “For God so loved the world” (John. 3:16) is great, but “love your enemies” (Luke 6:27) not so much.
• I am happy for good news to be brought to the poor, but I resist selling all my possessions and giving the money to the poor (Matthew 19:21).
• We claim family as the most important thing in our lives and then Jesus goes and says that whoever “does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be [his] disciple” (Luke.14:26).
• I’ve saved and worked hard to have a comfortable life and retire and Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew. 6:19).
• I suspect most of us would rather fight back than turn the other cheek and we’d rather be secure than risk welcoming a stranger etc. (Luke 6.29).
So, yes, I have some real anxiety about this and living the gospel. It scares and challenges me. I don’t think I am the only one. I think we all have fears and concerns about taking a stand, about embodying and living the gospel. We know there is a claim and a call on our lives that we sometimes do not want to hear or heed. We know how easy and tempting it is to let the gospel go in one ear and out the other. We know that if Jesus’ words are fulfilled in our hearing today then we will have to change.
Maybe that’s why we can so easily talk and laugh about the difference between preaching and meddling. Preaching is okay but meddling is not. Maybe that’s why we so often say that religion has no place in politics. Maybe that’s why we so often blame the ones Jesus says we should be helping. Maybe that’s why we use the church as an escape from rather than an engagement with the world. Maybe that’s why we are so content with just having a friend in Jesus. Maybe that’s why we usually see Jesus as being on our side, and the side of our church, our party, our country. Forever forgive our trespasses. Amen.
Apart, we pray together
Throughout our lives we start new things. Some are good, some not so good.
Today let us pray for these new starts.
We pray for all starting a new job, for help and encouragement from colleagues and good relationships with customers or clients. We pray that they may quickly learn what needs to be done and be appreciated and valued.
We pray for all children starting at a new school this term, that they may make good friendships and be encouraged by staff and other pupils. We pray for success in learning and good growth in the life of this new community.
We pray for parents with a new baby or new family, for good sleep and strength for a new life and all its changes. We pray for good health for mother and child and for good relationships with siblings and the wider family.
We pray for anyone wanting to start something new. First that they may know whether it is a good decision and if so for the strength and ability to be able to start, and for support from family or friends.
We pray for anyone wanting to start a new life with Jesus, that they may know the joy of this new life, that they may have help and encouragement as they become part of Christ’s body here on earth.
We pray for those who have just retired and are experiencing a new life without paid work. We pray that they may find things to do to use their abilities, for opportunities to learn new skills or take part in new activities.
We pray for those who have just been made redundant and are experiencing a different and difficult life. We pray that they may have the strength and energy to see the next steps in life, searching for new work, using the opportunity to do something different, to retrain or retiring early. Give them good friends to talk to.
We pray for all those where there is illness or pain, whether something old or new. We especially pray for those we know and those in our community * Revd Jonathan Russell, Dickie & Pauline Winfield, Graham Howlett, David Ratcliff, Bill Harris and Lynne Lane. We also give thanks for the lives of those who have died and think especially of those whose year’s mind falls at this time Leslie Clayson and Alf Hickmott.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers in the name of your Son Jesus.
(*individuals can be named on request; these will be removed after one month, unless notified to the contrary.)
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who
sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.
May the cross of the Son of God
protect us by day and by night,
at morning and at evening,
at all times and in all places.
(Church of England)
February can be a gloomy month. The sort of time that highlights whether we and the folk around us are glass half empty, or half full, kind of people. We all know those who are more positively minded than others, who instantly approach things optimistically. Whilst
others’ initial reactions to situations are cast in a darker shade. Life experiences may well have understandably influenced both perspectives.
Yet now at this season are we bemoaning the still short days and variable weather patterns? Or do we notice the snowdrops and crocuses pushing up through the cold earth, ready to herald the approaching Spring?
What are the followers of Jesus required to be like in their outlook? Overzealous joy and enthusiasm can be as off putting as a morose and depressed attitude. With most people’s temperaments affected by what is happening in their lives at any given time.
Proverbs 17.22 says “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”. In John 15.11, Jesus tells his followers “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”. Difficult to live by at times.
Yet there are some interesting statistics contained within the Bible. The NIV version quotes the word love 551 times, but hate or hatred only 80 times. The word joy is used 218 times, but sorrow, regret, sadness and grief only 19 times for all four words in total. Perhaps our Bibles are more of a source of encouragement than we realise.
Two farmers had been friends for many years. Their attitudes to life differed considerably. One was always very negative, while the other had a very sunny disposition. The cheerful farmer needed a new gun dog and searched high and low for the ideal animal. Eventually he located one and took him home to train him up. This dog had a very useful talent – he could walk across water! Eventually the dog’s owner invited his gloomier friend out for a day’s shooting. The new dog excelled himself running into bushes and high grass to
retrieve his master’s fallen birds. When one of the birds fell into the water, the dog went out to retrieve the quarry, shooting across the top of the water at speed. He returned, dropping the bird smartly at his master’s feet, who then turned to his friend and asked him “what do you think about that then?” His friend looked solemn, and replied in a sad voice, “it’s a shame you couldn’t find a dog that could swim!”
At the time of writing, November is well underway. Leaves are rapidly changing colour, temperatures have fallen, and woolly jumpers and hats have made their way out of the cupboard. Around us, the weather is becoming darker, and lights are being switched on earlier to provide comfort. In church, plans for Advent Groups and Christmas Eucharists are well in hand, and there will be Crib Services galore for everyone to enjoy.
By the time you read this, lights in all their multicoloured glory will have begun to adorn our windows and doorways, our ornamental trees and our pathways. I, for one, can’t wait to be hanging lights, and igniting candles, and attempting to chase some of the gloom away as I curl up with a good book!
Have you ever taken the time though to really observe a candle as it’s burning? Have you seen how the flame flickers, almost dancing to some internal music that is inaudible to others? Have you remarked on how the light from that one single insignificant flame is yet strong enough to dispel darkness, and completely changes how a space feels? Have you noticed how your eye is drawn to it, your gaze almost mesmerised by both its simplicity and its complexity?
As a Christian, that’s exactly how I feel about Jesus. I am mesmerised by both His simplicity and His complexity. In our Advent Group this year, we’re discussing The Chosen. It’s a publicly funded exploration of Jesus’ life, through the eyes of those who encountered Him and were mesmerised by both His simplicity and His complexity. Whilst some of it is fiction (the characters’ back stories for example) the reliance on Gospel truth is both inspiring and challenging. The stories told are of people whose lives were changed by their encounter with the one true Light.
This Christmas-time, as we welcome the baby in the stable, and we sing again the glorious story of Salvation, may our hearts and minds, as well as our eyes, be mesmerised by His Light.
With every blessing of the season to you all,
Churches around the UK have come together to sing a blessing over the nation.
Our buildings may be closed but the Church is alive.
(shared by Mike Chinneck from St. Mary & St. Ethelburga, Lyminge)