Sunday, 24 January 2016

Can't make it to church - 24 January 2016

Christmas is long gone and for many all that remains is the weight carried around the waist. But here in Church we continue to celebrate Jesus, the Christ, being made known to the world. The same is true with the Old Testament where the people, having returned to Jerusalem after some fifty years of exile and finding a trashed Jerusalem, set to rebuilding the walls and making it habitable (and safe) again.  They were still oppressed and things were grim. "What sort of future do we have?" they moaned.

But then it all changes as the people call for Ezra to read the Book of the Law, which he does and this lead them into an attitude of praise and this lifted the people as the words were read those who were able to instruct and put the words into their own language did so. This is a model for us today. When we struggle we should read the word of God and those who are able should open the words and make them intelligible to the extent that people can put them into action. When trouble strikes - reading God's words and making ourselves open to His presence, His past with us and our future will surely lift us and bring us into a new place.

The reality is that we all hear different things and all interpret, and function differently, as Christians and this is exactly the same as our own bodies. The 1 Corinthians passage parallels the organs and various parts of the body with us as believers. A body can survive without one of its component parts, but it will be weakened - after all, lose an eye and you can continue, but you are always at risk from attack on your blind side. Lose a leg and you can still walk, but your progress will be slowed and should trouble come, escape is restricted and hampers survival. the loss of hearing doesn't stop life, but it removes many of the pleasures and joys (says he listening to Faure's requiem on the radio as he writes).

Each of us play a distinct and significant part in the lives of those around us; our families, our workplace, our homes and as Church. Add to this the gifts and callings God has for us and we can see that we become the people who will make things change around us. Those called to lead, if they had back will cause others to be left to their own devices and to perhaps stumble (or achieve what was intended at a slower rate). The same is true for those called to teach,  preach, speak and proclaim God's word to others... and so on.

We are, in ourselves, essential components in many places - this is true in our natural selves, and true again in our spiritual selves. We cannot live in isolation: We need to be part of the bodies (familial, spiritual, work and social) around us - and if we don't, all are left lacking, unsatisfied and limited.
Who are you called to be in the bodies you are part of?

In the Gospel, we find Jesus opening the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah: he reads of hope, restoration and freedom. These words sum up the mission and ministry of Jesus, the Christ: Reconciliation with God and the destruction of all the things that hold us back, imprisoning and removing from us all the joy and potential we have.

We are called to speak God's words to those who are downcast - like Ezra did - and as part of the body we are called to take our place and function as we should for the good of the bodies we are part of and in the doing of this, we set people free. Free from oppression, from their own sin and from the sin of others.

Are we ready to be effective and to be a blessing to ourselves and those around us?

Are we ready to visit this who are downcast and to be the one who 'lifts their countenance' (great words aren't they?) by bringing the word of God andHis presence in us through the Holy Spirit?

The Collect
God of all mercy, your Son proclaimed good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom to the oppressed: anoint us with your Holy Spirit and set all your people free to praise you in Christ our Lord. Amen

Nehemiah 8.1-3,5-6,8-10
All of them gathered together. They went to the open area in front of the Water Gate. They told Ezra to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses. The Lord had given Israel that Law so they would obey him. Ezra was the teacher of the Law.

Ezra the priest brought the Law out to the whole community. It was the first day of the seventh month. The group was made up of men, women, and children old enough to understand what Ezra was going to read. He read the Law to them from sunrise until noon. He did it as he faced the open area in front of the Water Gate. He read it to the men, the women, and the children old enough to understand. And all the people paid careful attention as Ezra was reading the Book of the Law.

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him. That’s because he was standing above them. As he opened the book, the people stood up. Ezra praised the Lord. He is the great God. All the people lifted up their hands and said, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down. They turned their faces toward the ground and all these Levites read to the people parts of the Book of the Law of God. They made it clear to them. They told them what it meant. So the people understood what was being read.

Nehemiah was the governor. Ezra was a priest and the teacher of the Law. They spoke up. So did the Levites who were teaching the people. All these men said to the people, “This day is set apart to honour the Lord your God. So don’t weep. Don’t be sad.” All the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy some good food and sweet drinks. Send some of it to people who don’t have any. This day is holy to our Lord. So don’t be sad. The joy of the Lord makes you strong.”

1 Corinthians 12.12-31a
There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptised by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.

Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body?

As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body. The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honour. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honour to the parts that didn’t have any. In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honoured, every part shares in its joy.

You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.
First, God has placed apostles in the church.
Second, he has placed prophets in the church.
Third, he has placed teachers in the church.
Then he has given to the church miracles and gifts of healing. He also has given the gift of helping others and the gift of guiding the church. God also has given the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages. Is everyone an apostle? Is everyone a prophet? Is everyone a teacher? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in languages they had not known before? Do all explain what is said in those languages? But above all, you should want the more important gifts.
But now I will show you the best way of all.

Luke 4.14-21
Then 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.”

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