Sunday 24 January 2016 – Jesus goes home



The Word This Week:

Thoughts on the Word:

Today as we gather in 21st century Australia in an Anglican church with our own particular customs and practices and where most of us have had little to no experience of Jewish customs and practices it can be difficult to understand the context of much of what we read in the scriptures – especially in the case of todays Gospel narrative of Jesus reading and preaching in the synagogue.   So lets set the scene.
In first century Jewish synagogues the service generally consisted of prayers, readings from the law, and prophets and then a sermon – the leader of the service would stand whilst praying and reading, but would be seated to preach.  Any competent person present could be asked to take part.  The first reading from the law was a set reading, but the reader of the second reading ad much more leeway in what they chose to read.
Jesus chose to read from the prophet Isaiah quoting from Chapter 61 verses 1 and 2.  Then he says something really significant – “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[1]  Now we must understand that this account given of Jesus sermon or address is a summary – Jesus no doubt would have said much more than this – But Luke wants us to understand something important here – Jesus is not some upstart pretend messiah  – of which there were many. 
Jesus claimed for himself the promises of the Jewish canon of scripture – he claimed the title of the promised messiah and redeemer of Israel.    Now if we were to read on a little further we would find that what Jesus had to say to the people of Nazareth wasn’t well received and they tried to kill him by throwing him off a cliff side.
They do this because Jesus points out to them that he, just like the profits of old will be rejected – but this won’t stop him fulfilling the purpose that God has for him.  He points them to Elijah and Elisha you see, ‘Elijah was sent to help a widow—but not a Jewish one. Elisha healed one solitary leper—and the leper was the commander of the enemy army.’[2]
You see what Jesus did was point out to them that God will work to rescue people whether they were Jews or gentiles  – God wouldn’t be held back from his work of salvation by the failures or unbelief of the Jews and neither would Jesus.
Jesus was being clear that whether they accepted him or not he is the promised one – he is the Messiah who has come to redeem the world. He truly has come to bring good news to the poor… to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free.[3]
We in this country who enjoy incredible wealth, and freedom relative to the majority of the world often think only of those ‘others’ when we think of Jesus coming to proclaim release to captives, good news to the poor… but the truth is that we, each and every one of us are captives to sin, if we have not placed our faith in Christ. 
The truth is that each and every one of us is blinded by the temptations of this world, that each and every one of us suffers under the oppression of separation from God through sin.  You see that is truly the message of Jesus – that all of us, each and every one of us needs this Messiah.  Each of us is broken, each of us struggles with our own temptations and failings – and yet Jesus comes to offer us hope.
The Good News that Jesus came to bring to the poor is for us, the Good News is that though we are weak, he is strong; though we fail, he succeeds.  Though we are worthy to suffer the wages of sin – though we deserve the consequences of our own actions, which offend against the very one who give us life – The Good news is that he came to earth as one of us, and took the consequence of sin upon himself – Jesus bore our sin, our offences in his own body on the cross – he conquered death through his resurrection so that we might live. 
So then… we know that Jesus sermon in the synagogue was more than just a regular word of encouragement; we know that it points us to the truth of who he is and what he has done for us.  But what are we to do with it?  How does it apply to us now – a group of people living in 21st century West Wyalong…  
Well the first thing we need to do is give thanks to God.  We need to give thanks that we live in freedom, we need to give thanks that when we are sick we have free high quality medical care in hospital, we need to give thanks that, if we can’t find work we can get support.  We have much to be thankful for as we live in this country.
Above all these material things however, we need to give thanks that we have been welcomed into Gods family through the redeeming work of Christ.  Above all else we need to give thanks that even though we are all sinners, God so loves us that he was willing to save us through sacrificing himself.  We need to give thanks that he conquered death so that we might live.  
We who have been called into a communion of believers, into the body of Christ as his church on earth are called to do more than give thanks though.  We are called each one of us to serve each other and those around us using the gifts which the Holy Spirit has given us.  St Paul in our reading from 1st Corinthians tells us that we are one body with many gifts – and these all come from the spirit. 
We are called as Christ’s body to utilise our God given gifts and talents to help share the good news which we have heard.  To bring love hope and comfort to the poor, the captives and the blind.
We are called to take on the mission that Jesus laid down for us, we are called as his body to show the world, to bring others to know this good news.  
So my brothers and sisters as we commence a new year, as we give thanks for the freedoms and privilege we enjoy in our country, lets commit to remembering that the greatest freedom we have has been granted to us by Christ, lets commit to being a body of believers that helps others to come to know of their need for salvation – and gives them the good news that forgiveness and redemption is available. 
Lets be a church that brings good news to the poor. that brings sight to the blind, proclaims release to the captives and lets the oppressed go free.
The Lord be with you.

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 4:21). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Wright, T. (2004). Luke for Everyone (p. 47). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 4:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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