SMC 27 January 2019
I Love these Sundays that come between the Feast of Epiphany and Lent for we get some of the most wonderful glimpses into the ministry of our blessed Lord. Today in the passage from St. Luke`s gospel we are shown just how Jesus fulfils the prophecy of Nehemiah which tells of the priest Ezra addressing the people from a platform facing the square in front of Jerusalem`s Water-Gate, surrounded by elders following the return from exile in Babylon, giving praise to God declaring the Day holy to the Lord and instructing them not to weep even though the hearers and people were moved to tears. Instead, fortelling what was to come in Jesus, they were instructed to “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to the Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah and Ezra, just like the prophet Isaiah from which Jesus quotes the passage from Isaiah 61 that we heard in this morning`s gospel reading from Luke in some detail.
Luke is dramatic in his description of how Jesus entered the synagogue in his own home town of Nazareth telling how he takes the holy scroll of the prophet Isaiah and, carefully choosing the passage, reads from it. When we have in mind the fact that Luke, the Evangelist, was NOT one of the twelve apostles we might question how he knew so much about this happening in the synagogue at Naza or Nazareth, the home town of our Saviour for he would not have been there! However, although it was St. John, the very close friend of Jesus, who cared for Mary, the Saviour`s Mother, after the crucifixion and Ascension yet the tradition of the church has it that Luke also had a very special relationship with Mary. How else would he have known so much about the Annunciation ,the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the Mother of John the Baptist, and the Birth of the Saviour except from the mouth of Mary the Mother of Jesus – not to say the story of the Presentation in the Temple forty days of the Lord`s birth and Joseph and Mary finding the Hllyu Child in the Temple at the age of 12. Mary would have been present to hear Jesus in that synagogue at Nazareth and would have related the story to Luke.
In quoting Isaiah 61 verses 1 and 2 Jesus proclaims that he is the fulfilment of that prophecy of old when, after rolling up the scroll and handing it back to the synagogue attendant he sat down, clearly in the place of authority, for we are told that all eyes of those in the synagogue were fixed on him and he spoke to them saying, `This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.` And, for our today, the passage from Luke 14 ends. The shocking thing is – and this shows how fickle we humans are – when we come to next Sunday`s gospel reading which is being replaced by the account of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple since we are keeping that Feast, the passage setr for the 4thSunday of Ordinary Time continues from where we leave off today and we see that even members of the Lord`s family and friends turned against him at this very early stage of his ministry. Indeed, no matter, to begin with they are pleased to hear what he has to say and begin to recognise his calling and his power and his desire to put the poor first even though it is a radical departure from what they have been used to by both the occupying power – the Romans and, indeed, the power seeking and holding scribes and pharisees. However, it seems that even that very day after Jesus had repeated the story of the Widow of Zarephath and the healing of Naaman the Syrian leper they turned against him and hustled him out of his home town. Thus it is that Jesus adopted Capernaum as his new home and, in reality, a sensible place from which to conduct the bulk of his ministry in Galilee.
Those listening to Jesus had the opportunity to recognize that they are called to be the new Israel of God but, as we discover later, sadly rejected that call. Instead, those who followed Jesus, including you and me through the waters of Baptism which we have received and by which we have become brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ by adoption and grace, have become the New Israel – the chosen of God and members of Christ`s Church which is the Body of Christ – His Church - in the world today.
In this morning`s epistle reading from chapter 12 of St. Paul`s letter to the Christians at Corinth, in its shortened form, we are reminded, very succinctly of our calling: `Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptized, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one spirit was given to us all to drink……..verses 15 to 26 might well be considered in this space…Now you together are Christ`s body; but each of you is a different part of it.`
Those who heard me last week may remember how I brought out the fact that we each have different gifts. Some fewer, some many, some who have yet to discover their gifts and talents for the proclaiming of Christ`s Kingdom! But remember with courage that we are all part of the Body of Christ and therefore indispensable to one another and therefore to be loved and valued as indeed we are by our Saviour Jesus Christ.