Sunday Sermon 23rd January
A transcript of our sermon and chosen prayers for the week can be found below.
Reading Luke 4:14-21
Jesus Begins His Work in Galilee
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, and the power of the Holy Spirit was with him. The news about him spread throughout all that territory.
15 He taught in the synagogues and was praised by everyone.
Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth
16 Then Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath, he went as usual to the synagogue. He stood up to read the Scriptures
17 and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed 19 and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”
20 Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him,
21 as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”
“Today, the scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing.”
You’re in the church. The preacher gets up and says “Today, the scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing.”
These words are not in the Scripture text.
These words are his own. This is Jesus directly speaking to the people.
Just imagine you listening to your local preacher doing that.
What do you think? How do you react?
Do you believe it? Do you scorn?
Do you think that guid Scots phrase “aye, right”?
Do you question the validity of the preacher?
Do you take it on board?
How do you react?
Did you notice the crucial word – Today?
Not some time in the past, not tomorrow, or next week or whenever, but today.
Right here, right now.
Today in your very hearing this text is fulfilled.
What does this mean for you?
Today’s text takes place in Nazareth, a small town in the north of the country. And Jesus’ hometown.
It’s a Sabbath day soon after Jesus’s baptism and temptation in the wilderness.
Jesus emerges from his forty days in the wilderness, armed with the power of the Spirit.
Jesus goes home, enters the synagogue he has likely attended since boyhood, and stands up (as is the custom) to read from the Prophets.
He asks for the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, unrolls it, finds the passage he wants, and reads aloud.
By the time he’s finished reading, every eye in the synagogue is fixed on him.
Then he says “Today”.
We are not told in this passage what happened next: the lynch mob gathering, scandalised that Jesus has apparently dared to claim that he is the anointed one of God.
Certainly, Jesus opened the book and made the old words of scripture his own:
“God 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.”
In other words, the Word of God lives – here and now, today.
It lives and breathes and moves and is not dull or dead. It is alive!
What does it mean if the Word of God is here, today?
At the very least, it means good news for the poor, release for prisoners, sight to the blind, broken victims healed: a challenging enough proposition for those doing just fine in the world as it is.
More disturbing still is what Jesus has been teaching through his actions around Galilee: God actually loves the Gentile, the cripple, the unclean foreigner as much as anyone else.
God is filling all humanity, without exception, with God’s life.
How do you react to that?
I’m sure we all want to give sight to the blind or the oppressed to be set free.
But release the prisoners? The drug dealers and the murderers? Those people who wilfully break the rules? Really?
And we have to welcome the foreigner or stranger?
These are injunctions which still cause disquiet today. It’s not too hard to find examples where even refugees are vilified and demonised in today’s society.
But God’s command is for us to bring good news to the poor, release for prisoners, sight to the blind, broken victims healed.
God, right now, today, is turning the world upside down.
God, right now, is saving and freeing and healing and forgiving.
The Word of God lives – here and now, today.
And we are invited to participate in living the Word.
We too are invited to participate in God’s work.
It is so easy to pass on responsibility.
For years the Hebrew people had lived through oppression waiting for a Messiah to come and save them.
Yet what Jesus made perfectly clear again and again was that the tradition which was handed down to them had the map to get them out of their wilderness.
It is not someone else’s job, it is not yours, it is ours.
I think that is the one great error we make when thinking religiously. We think it was his job or it is their job.
We think it is my job and we forget that it is ours.
It is as clear as the noses on your faces, together we must make a difference, together we must celebrate the loving goodness of God.
And yet so often we choose to be the ones who spectate and not participate, so often we think that all of this is directed at other people or so supernatural and magical that it is divorced from our daily lives.
Let me put this to you, if religion is divorced from the reality of people’s lives, if it exists on another plane entirely, then what use is it.
If our relationship with God cannot help us to make sense of our relationships with the world and the things in it does that relationship make sense?
Surely God understands the world we live in and wants us in our understanding to improve what is for the sake of those in it!
If this is so then our worship, our lives and how we live them should be directed towards making a difference in this world and not be spent waiting for someone, or something else to do it?
What use is prayer without an intent to action?
So we gather today as the people of a God of action.
Let us be determined to be the hope of this community of this world. May this be the prayer of all of us
18“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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
As this world needs to know of God’s Love and justice, so it needs to hear our voice and see our actions!
Right here, right now, we need to commit to living God’s word.
Right here, and right now we need to live up to our statement “Reaching out to all the people of Alva with God's love by growing closer to God and our neighbour.”
Today is the day.
It’s not always comfortable, God,
but it is certainly good,
that you go straight for the heart.
You do not allow us to skate over the surface of life,
filling our days with dry legality,
and pretend righteousness;
No, you come at us from the inside,
challenging our thoughts and attitudes,
our motives and perceptions;
and shaping them into the fuel for change
that gives us hearts like yours,
and lives that are lived from the inside out.
We praise you, O God,
for your uncomfortable grace,
your transforming Spirit,
and for the gift of lives
lived with integrity and compassion
from the inside out.