Letter to parishioners, 20 January 2022

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

This week’s reading from Luke’s gospel (Luke 4:14-21) continues the theme of making Christ known in the world. As we celebrated Christmas we heard of the shepherds taking the good news of Jesus’ birth into the local community. At Epiphany, the wise men visited and took that same good news into the wider world. Since those two great festivals we have been present at the baptism of Jesus and at the wedding in Cana of Galilee where he performed his first sign. This week we hear of Jesus’ visit to the synagogue in his home town, and his declaration that he is the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies in the writings of Isaiah. This week we hear Jesus saying: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

From the beginning of Advent, at the end of November, we have been journeying towards this moment. The season of spiritual preparation got us ready for the celebration of Christ’s nativity and, from then, we have watched the good news of Jesus’ birth ripple out from Bethlehem into the whole world. From the opening up of this world-changing story to just a few shepherds and wise men we have come to the point where Jesus is acknowledged by God as his own Son; where Jesus has demonstrated the miraculous and divine power of renewal and abundance that he brings into the world; and, today, when he declares himself to be the one who has come to bring good news to the poor … release to the captives … sight to the blind … freedom to the oppressed.

We should not be surprised that the verses beyond this Sunday’s reading reveal a swift transition from acceptance to rejection, from amazement to cynicism and the threat of violence. We should not be surprised because that is how humanity … how we … still behave when confronted with the new, the different, the challenging. It is a sad reality that we are generally passive when presented with new ideas, until the moment, that is, when it dawns upon us that the message we are hearing is going to demand repentance and a change in our lifestyles.

It is not difficult to imagine the worshippers who had gathered in the synagogue to see the local boy who was beginning to make a name for himself. There would have been a sense of pride that their carpenter’s son was doing well in the world. As he read the scriptures, they probably felt a warm glow inside … but then the reality would have struck them. The local boy was getting above his station! Joseph’s son was making a claim that was beyond the pale. They had seen Jesus grow up … how could he possibly be the one who would fulfil the prophecies of Isaiah? As all of these emotions rose within the gathered company it is not surprising that they became angry.

In the lives of our church communities there is often anger that is rooted in our being led down a different path from that which we find comfortable. Too often we encase our faith in a way that leaves no room for God to speak to us. We rush through services, we compete to be the loudest in prayer and we consistently fail to discern the still, small voice that is God trying to communicate with us. This week we are challenged to step away from the baying mob and to hear the incredible message that Jesus is Lord and Saviour of us all, and that we are called to follow wherever he might lead.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen