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Sunday Service 14th January




What should our expectations be

14/1/23

                    

Call to worship

Hymn 181:  For the beauty of the earth 

 

Time for all

 

Hymn 351: Jesus hands were kind hands

 

Reading:    Luke 4: 16-30 Amanda

Prayer

 

Hymn 182: Now thank we all our God

 

Sermon

Prayer of Dedication

 

Hymn 161: O God our help in ages past

Benediction

 

 

Welcome to our meditation for 14th January 2024.

It is hard to know what to expect from this year.

It is hard to know what we expect from the year, do we really want to reach out to others with God’s love, or do we secretly want to just hide in a corner and hope the world goes away?

Today we start looking at Christ at the start of his ministry and reflect on how that might affect our ministry.

 

 

 

Sermon

Expectations can be dangerous thing if they dictate how we feel about something.

On Christmas day Roseanna went to turn the turkey after it has been in the oven for five hours, and to her horror discovered that the oven fan was working perfectly, the oven light was working perfectly, the only thing not working in the oven was the heating element, and the turkey was cold.

The gift that my granddaughter Leah gave me for Christmas was a stinking head cold for the New Year.

Did I have a terrible Christmas and New Year...no, actually it was ok, not what I expected, but my feelings were not dictated by what I was expecting, but the fellowship that I was going to be sharing...which was wonderful.

 

Sometimes we have expectations, and we let our feelings be dictated by whether our expectations are fulfilled. And that can be dangerous. Because when they are challenged, then we feel challenged.

 

Our passage today is at the very start of Christ’s public ministry.

In many ways this is Jesus creating his manifesto, his promises to the people as to what his ministry is all about.

‘The Spirit of God 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 free the oppressed and announce the time has come when the Lord will save his people.’

 

That is not just any passage, these are not just random nice words Jesus has put together; these words come from Isaiah 6, a part of the Bible that speaks of the restoration of Israel after its time in exile in Babylon. The captives are the people who have been deprived of a nation for decades. They are going to be allowed to go home, to be a people with their own land again.

And with it comes all the romance of finding that you will be a nation again.

But the reality ended up far from the expectation.

In the original prophecy it says things like;

‘My people, foreigners will serve you. They will look after your flocks and tend your vineyards.’

‘You will enjoy the wealth of the nations and be proud that it is yours.’

‘You will live in your own land and your wealth will be doubled; your joy will last forever.’

 

And the people took the poetry literally and were so disappointed, and had been disappointed for centuries.

In the time of Jesus the land was not their own, it was Roman land, and Rome had outsourced the rule of the land to despots like Herod and maintained his rule with garrisons of roman soldiers.

Their religion was in theory theirs to practice but the leaders of the faith were put in place by political decree and many were self-serving if not corrupt.

 

In ordinary people’s eyes this was not a prophecy that had been fulfilled.

Therefore, it was a prophecy that was still to be fulfilled.

And here comes Jesus and he announces that it is his purpose in life to fulfil the prophecy.

What could be better?

 

God’s will, will be done.

And the only problem they had was that they were a bit confused about what God’s will was, and what their will was.

You see they were immediately all for Jesus at that point, because in their eyes Jesus was offering them a place where their riches would be doubled.

Where they would conquer the Romans and take over their empire and the Romans would serve them.

Jesus was handing them paradise and they were all in favour of them getting it.

 

And immediately Jesus dashes those hopes; that is not what his ministry is about, that is not about what God’s will is.

The two examples that Jesus gives are very telling.

And it is not just that they are foreigners that are helped.

One is a poor widow...Jesus is talking to men in a synagogue who would truly believe that women were a lesser species...why should they get preference.

The second one is a rich Syrian warlord, Namaan, who had leprosy...in fact people with that illness were not told they had leprosy, they were defined by the illness...they were called LEPERS, they were cursed by God.

Those were the ones who got God’s blessings from the prophets.

 

Suddenly they turn against Jesus.

God’s blessings are for God’s people, and that is us, not them.

In their eyes, why is Jesus even wasting his time with them if he is not going to be of any benefit for them?

And so they get angry.

 

Think on this.

They were angry with Jesus because he said that he was going to show God’s love to others.

They were in a synagogue where they were there to remind themselves that God loved them...and they were angry because Jesus said that he wasn’t limiting God’s love to them.

 

Here’s the theology bit.

This is where I think the expectations of the synagogue and Jesus were clashing.

 

 

People in the Promised Land don’t need to be led to the Promised Land, they already are there.

If they don’t feel the benefits of the Promised Land then that is because they are not living as if they are in the Promised Land.

Jesus wasn’t there to help people in the Kingdom of God to get there, because they were already there, Jesus was there to lead people far from God into the Kingdom of God.

So his examples were those far outside the Kingdom who found the blessings of the Kingdom and so were led closer to God.

 

Jesus’ work, Jesus’ ministry, would be seen outside the synagogue, because that was where it was needed. Those outside the synagogue were the ones far from God who needed God’s blessings to bring them nearer to God.

Whereas those in the synagogue, they already had God’s blessings.

Those in the synagogue where already part of God’s kingdom, their responsibility, was not to be receivers of God’s blessings, but givers of God’s blessings...so that others could grow closer to God.

 

I think that is a challenge, even to us.

We still instinctively see the church like a kind of club, and if we are members of a club then we have the benefits of the club.

I am a member of a squash club. That means I pay a fee and I get to play squash at the club at a very low price.

If I bring a friend into the club it is expected that the friend still has to pay quite a bit of money, even if I have already paid for the court...because he or she is not a member, they don’t get the privileges of being a member.

 

And we think that is the same with church.

We are members, so we get privileges.

God has to hear our prayers first.

God has to answer our prayers. If he doesn’t then we get angry at God.

God has to protect us from our own stupidity.

God has to forgive us when we deliberately act badly, even if we are not repentant.

God has to accept us exactly as we are, even when we don’t accept others exactly as they are.

God should punish the evil of others, God should judge the evil of others, God should be angry with others when they do wrong...but not us;

God should never punish or judge or be angry with us....even if that is exactly what we deserve.

 

And Jesus is saying that the synagogue, the church is not like that.

They don’t get God’s blessings because they already have God’s blessings.

These are places where the people know of God’s love, are part of God’s fellowship...that’s God’s blessings.

 

I’ll admit though that the problem often is that the benefits of these blessings of fellowship grow slowly.

I am visiting a woman in hospital that broke her leg very badly at the end of last year. And every time I go in the conversation flows the same path.

‘How’s things?’

‘Not too good. Though the physiotherapist tells me that he is happy with my progress but I don’t notice the difference.’

 

And she’s right. From day to day she probably doesn’t feel much difference.

But over the months she has gone from not being able to do anything but lie down in bed and accept as much morphine as she could.

To being able to take small walks in the specialist Zimmer called the pulpit.

To now she is using an adapted Zimmer.

She forgets that a few months ago she could only walk to the end of the bed and back. Then it went to the end of the ward and back, now she is walking halfway down the hall and back.

She is getting better, just a lot slower than she wants.

She doesn’t need to pray for healing, the healing is already taking place.

And often in churches it is the same.

We don’t need to pray for growth, growth is already taking place within us, just a lot slower than we want.

 

That being the case, THEIR, our, responsibility then is not to receive more of God’ blessings, but to give away God’s blessings.

Jesus didn’t go into the synagogue to give them God’s blessings, they already had God’s blessings.

Jesus came to the synagogue to invite them to join him outside the synagogue in sharing God’s blessings.

 

So here’s the lesson to be learnt.

If you are in the church and you don’t feel God’s blessings...then the trick is not to try to get more, the trick is to give more.

‘I don’t feel as if I am supported, I don’t feel I am encouraged, I don’t feel I am loved.’

Don’t look to receive these blessings, give those blessings away.

Be the person who is supporting someone, be the person who is encouraging someone, be the person who loves someone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is not hard to do.

Visit someone who is ill and encourage them.

Sit with someone who is grieving and support them.

Celebrate with someone who has had a new child or grandchild.

Notice the sad face at the bus stop and ask if they are alright.

Be aware of the old person struggling with the shopping and ask if they need help.

Phone someone who you haven’t heard from for a while and just check that they are all right.

 

We are in the church; we don’t need to be led to church.

We know of God’s love and support and encouragement and sometimes his loving discipline...we don’t need to be taught these things to get closer to God.

All the support and encouragement and help we need is already here.

All the blessings and hope and joy and love are already here.

We don’t need to be shown them, we don’t need to be given them...we need to share them, give them away.

 

That was what Christ was telling them.

God wasn’t going to bless them, because they were already blessed.

What Jesus was doing...was inviting them to join him in giving away God’s blessings to those outside the synagogue; maybe family, maybe friends, maybe complete strangers that they would bump into.

 

At the start of the New Year I am sure many of us want God’s church to be great.

But if it is to be great then it doesn’t come with how much money we have in the bank, or how many ministries we are doing,

or how great our fabric looks.

It comes with how well we are sharing the fellowship of God.

It comes with us knowing the blessings of fellowship and encouragement and support and forgiveness and love that God has given us...and then giving them all away.

It comes with us sharing the blessings God has already given us.

 

God’s work is out there...that means our work is out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let us pray

Heavenly Father

May our lives this week flourish as we live the good news that you care for us.

May our lives flourish as we live the good news of your care for all...in what we say and do.

May our lives this week flourish as we share your care for all with grace and conviction,

and enthusiasm.

May our lives this week flourish as we watch out for and see your grace touching the lives of others and feel a joy for them.

May our lives this week flourish as we realise how undeserving of your love we are,

and yet feel that love around us,

that this love is not some reward for good deeds we have done, but instead a great gift which we respond to with a greater compassion for others and their plight.

 

May we be grateful for all that has been,

hopeful for all that is yet to come,

faithful to the end of our days,

sharing always the blessings of fellowship that you have generously given us.

May we go into next week with Your love in our hearts,

with Jesus’ passion in our souls,

with the Spirit’s persistence in our actions.

Amen

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