Sunday Sermon 30th January - Jesus revealed as a stirrer



A transcript of our sermon and chosen prayers for the week can be found below.





Jesus revealed as a stirrer

Let us come before God in prayer. Let us pray.


Lord, you are our God, and we worship you as the creator and sustainer of life. Without you nothing could exist, and you alone are worthy of praise. We can never fully understand you, but we can see your handiwork all around us. When we take the time and trouble to look carefully at our surroundings, we see the beauty of the countryside, the huge variety of plants and organisms, and the amazing animals. The Earth is truly marvellous, and when we look out into space, we see that your creation is awe-inspiring, and its size is beyond our comprehension.


You are a generous God, and you continue to give us far more than we need, but we confess that we have not always used your gifts in the ways that we should. We know that we have sometimes been wasteful, and that we have used more of the earth’s resources than we really needed. Our actions have contributed to the pollution of our world.

Merciful God, forgive us for the times when we have been careless in our use of the earth’s resources, and for the times when we have ignored the impact of our actions on other people, and on the environment. Help us to be more thoughtful, and caring, and guide us to reduce the impact of our actions on our world.


You are a loving and caring God, and through Jesus you have told us that we should love and care for all people everywhere, but we have failed to live up to this. We know that we should treat people as individuals who are loved by you, but we tend to make snap judgements and put them into categories. Even when we do not know anything about people and their circumstances, we judge by appearances, and put labels on them.

Merciful God, forgive us for our treatment of others; for all the times when we have not behaved as Jesus has taught us. Help us to remember that you love and care for every individual, and that we should do our best to show your love and care to all people everywhere.



We thank you that you are a generous God, and that you continue to give us far more than we really need. Help us always to consider the needs of others, and to share your gifts with others.

We thank you not only for the material things, but also for all the people that you have put into our lives. We easily remember our families and friends, but there are others on whom we rely for many things. We come across many people in our daily lives, but there are very many more whom we will never meet, and whose work provides the services that we all need. Lord, bless all these people, encourage them in their work, and let them know that their efforts are valued by others.

Most of all we thank you for sending Jesus to be our example. May we have the strength and courage to be his faithful followers.


Lord, hear our prayer which we offer in Jesus’ name. Amen.




Today’s Bible reading is from the New Testament, Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 4, and verses 21 to 30.

In Luke’s Gospel, this story comes at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is shortly after he had spent time in the desert where he had been tempted.

This reading tells us about an event which took place in Nazareth where Jesus had been brought-up, so he was well known to the people. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus had gone to the Synagogue where he had read from the Prophet Isaiah. He handed the scroll back to the attendant, then he sat down to speak to the congregation.


Let us now read from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 4, verses 21 to 30.


21 Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."


22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"


23 He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, "Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.' "


24 And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown.


25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;


26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.


27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."


28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.


29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.


30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.



Amen, and may God bless this reading and help us to reach a better understanding of his word.



Now let us bring our prayers for ourselves, and for others, before God.

Let us pray.


Compassionate God, we all need your help. For more than two years we have been living with the threat of Covid, and trying to cope with the various restrictions on where we can go, and on whom we can meet. At this time, the restrictions are being relaxed, but many of us are still suffering. Some have been bereaved, some are struggling with the effects of illness on themselves or on others, some have worries over employment or finance, and many are depressed or lonely. The future is unknown to us, and many people are worried and afraid.

Loving God, send your Spirit to bring peace and comfort to those who are in need. Lord, we know that as your followers we must be your hands on earth. May we take the opportunities that you give us, to show your love and care for all people. Take our feeble efforts and turn them into blessings for others.

We offer our prayer in the name of Jesus, and we further pray in the words which he taught his followers:


Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation.

But deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.

Amen.


Sermon

As a minister with my L plates still attached – and I hope they always will be as I continue to learn and grow – I do love getting words of encouragement. Folks telling me ‘aw you have a great clear voice, could hear you no bother’. Or telling my supervisor, ‘didn’t she do well today’.

But sometimes we focus on the delivery of the message and not the message itself. We do it naturally, we notice quickly the microphone not being on, or a slide not coming up, or what I have chosen to wear or how Jim is arranging his hair this week. Sometimes we drift off and missing what is being said.

But with this passage there would be no chance of that, Jesus gives it straight, in a town with cliffs that they were minded to throw him off. Now you have plenty of high spots right outside with the Ochil Hills so be kind to the probation minister brining this message today.

We continue in epiphany with how God is revealed to us, how Jesus is revealed as good news who turns everything topsy-turvy and now as a provoker, challenging the traditional ways of doing things to new and different ways.

There is a positive buzz about Jesus, this is not his first sermon but the first recorded for us. The homecoming young man returning to Nazareth warmly welcomed. The tone in verse 22 is one of wonder and amazement, “this is Joseph’s boy”. In a positive way – I can’t believe what this young lad is doing. It is not Jesus the person they grow angry at. They don’t reject Jesus but the message of inclusiveness that he is preaching.

Jesus holds up a mirror to them and stirs up an angry response. This message that God’s love and grace is for everyone but it is not a new message for them. John the Baptist preached it, then the birth stories of John and Jesus, Jesus himself reminds them that what he is preaching is not a new message.

Jesus uses the teaching of the scrolls, the words of God in scripture from the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The message of inclusion consistent with the scrolls.

So why the angry response? They want to bring Jesus under control or bring him down if they can’t control him – all about power. They want to ignore his challenge to them as he takes aim at their sense of divine privilege as Jesus has been sent to love everyone. Jesus is moving beyond the normal tribes out to show care to others who don’t yet feel they belong.

During Covid we have been socially isolated, physically distanced and for some we have grown closer with those who are most like us or closest to us. But as followers of Christ we are called to look wider, to look deeper at what binds us together – the love of Christ, the care of God, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today we can use social media in lots of positive ways to connect to different people from all across the planet.

But I want us to pause for a moment to consider who do you find it difficult to really talk to, who do you not have in your friendship group at the moment – young people, single parent, addict, football fan for another team, different political group, refugee. Someone that comes to mind – I wouldn’t know what to say to …. I want you to share that with someone else in church – what questions might you come up with together for the person, what would you be curious about, what do you wonder about?


PAUSE to chat

Did you notice if you had similar groups of people or different? Perhaps it was someone in the congregation here – I don’t really know them, perhaps I could ask them to meet me at the church café next Tuesday? We can limit ourselves into Alva folk, Menstrie folk, Alloa folk when in reality people move around more and connect differently now. Folks moving into areas just as they get married or their children start school or they get a new job and I know that for lots of you that’s how you have come here too. So how do they connect and who with? How do we then reach out into a space where they are that we can offer that welcome?

Jesus was returning to somewhere that he was known, where he understood the people and the culture and he was giving them a simple choice. Jesus says to them - make your mind up time, you know what has been said in prophecy, you know what needs to be done in terms of social justice – good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free. He is provoking a response, are you ready to accept this and do this, are you willing to change and follow.

What about here and now as individuals with the change in Covid. Are we ready to get going again or do we need a bit of time to move gently, to transition at a pace that allows us to see what we want our lives to look like, to be guided as God goes on ahead. We want to get going and grow again as a church too but perhaps we can take time to keep some of the things that were a blessing during Covid – the online connections that allow folks who can’t come to church or don’t want to come to church to be able to join in different ways.

Trying new things, different ways of being as a church together involves risks as you will fail when you try things that have never been done before. But that is the way of following Jesus. Some folks hear Jesus and they are inspired and follow straight away, some need a bit more time to think and to react, some reject it and walk away and some were so scared about the threats to what they need, what they understand that they actively fought against it. Jesus senses that threat to his mission, his purpose and he moves through the crowds and onto the next. He leaves them behind. To try new things is one of the most courageous and vulnearable things you can do to follow Jesus. We all meet people everyday who are facing new ways of living, living alone after bereavement of a lifelong partner, living with deteriorating health conditions, living with new unexpected grandchildren who have moved back into home, living with creating a new business at home during Covid, living online as they can’t access activities in person anymore, living with adult children with addiction, living with jobs that are post-Covid not what they signed up or trained for, living trying to make the day just a wee bit better for someone else.

This story of Jesus going home, somewhere which should have been a celebration, somewhere it should it have felt safe and encouraging, somewhere to be celebrated and affirmed and then being rejected is so powerful as we can all relate to it in some way at some point of our lives.

But the response from Jesus helps to reinforce faith, to re-invigorate and to re-direct our thinking and action. Jesus knows who He is, knows what He has to do and who He has to do it for, Jesus sees the need and Jesus is doing something about it. We are all uniquely called to follow Jesus in our own ways, bound together as the body of Christ. Let us stay curious and wonder about the other.


Let us pray:


Our God who keep our promises to us to send a Saviour

Jesus who reminds us who we are to God

Every ONE included

Baptised into ONE spirit

Members of ONE church of Christ

Let us stay curious and wonder.

AMEN


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