O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Creator of the heavens,
who led the Magi by a star
to worship the Christ-child:
guide and sustain us,
that we may find our journey’s end
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 72.1, 17-19
Give the king your judgements, O God,
and your righteousness to the son of a king.
May his name remain for ever
and be established as long as the sun endures;
may all nations be blest in him and call him blessed.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wonderful things.
And blessed be his glorious name for ever.
May all the earth be filled with his glory.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 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?’
Today’s reading offers us Luke’s account of the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry. Following his baptism by John and his forty days of temptation in the wilderness Jesus returns to Galilee. Despite these three events being reported as though they flow smoothly from one to the other, we are left with a sense that Luke is just reporting the highlights. Before Jesus reaches his home town we are told that a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. There must have been some excitement in the air as this local ‘celebrity’ returned to his home. For whatever reason, Jesus could not return without being noticed. Thus, when he finally arrived in Nazareth, everyone must have been delighted to see him in the synagogue.
What happened as Jesus arrived to pray and worship was not unusual. Such an honoured visitor would have been asked to read from scripture, and to comment on the words he had read. What was unusual, however, was what happened next. Jesus chose a specific passage from the prophecy of Isaiah (the opening of Isaiah 61). This passage speaks of the promised Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Saviour of Israel. This passage would have been well known, you can almost see the gathered worshippers mouthing the words as Jesus read. But … never before would that congregation of faithful Jews have heard what Jesus said next: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
It is interesting that today’s reading stops where it does, with all speaking well of him, and being amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. In just a few more verses all of that amazement will turn to anger and resentment. The phrase: Is not this Joseph’s son will turn from words of admiration to words of contempt and murderous rage. Once again, as throughout the Old Testament, the words of the prophet will be turned into words of indictment. And, in a foretaste of what is to come, the adoring crowd will become the vengeful mob.
I wonder you have ever met a celebrity, someone with a larger-than-life reputation? If you have, can you remember your expectations before the encounter, and your feelings afterwards? Whether you are anticipating a meeting with a famous actor, musician, politician, or whatever, your expectations will be coloured by what others have said of them, while your feelings after meeting him or her are going to depend upon how well they kept up the act while you were in their presence. Feelings of satisfaction or disappointment will pivot around your ‘celebrity’s’ gift of pretence.
In today’s reading the ‘celebrity’ is Jesus. In Jesus there is no pretence, just an honest encounter with God. Our reaction to meeting Jesus has nothing to do with his ability at pretence, rather it depends on our willingness to be confronted by God’s truth. To be a follower of Jesus means being ready to drop our pretence and to allow Christ’s light to shine in and through us. Are we strong enough for that encounter?
Prayers of Intercession
In the power of the Spirit, let us pray to the Lord.
Enrich the Church by the gift of the Spirit, to prophesy and interpret the abiding words of the holy Scriptures. Bless her ministers and all who preach the faith; grant them wisdom and power in their work.
Give grace to all who are in positions of authority to lead public opinion. Grant that those who hear shall discern between the true and the false, for the peace of the nations and goodwill among all people.
Help us to hear and to follow the word of God and to share it with all whose lives touch our own. Bless and direct the teachers and all who give instruction in our community.
Grant release to those who are held captive by human tyranny or by the tyranny of sin. Restore sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed, and make the good news known to the poor.
We give thanks for the souls who have received the freedom and the perfect sight of the faithful departed. Help us so to follow in the way of revelation that we at the last may enter into eternal life.
We offer our prayers through Christ, in whom the Scriptures are fulfilled.
Prayer for the week
who by the light of a star
led wise men to Jesus:
by the light of your Word
lead us and all nations to him,
the Saviour of the world;
that together we may bring him our best gifts,
and pay homage to him as our King.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who 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 trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Will you let the blinded see
if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean
in you and you in me?
Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound
in you and you in me?
John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)