4th Sunday of Epiphany – Sermon 295
Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
10.00am Holy Communion.
28th January 2018
Prayer to start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ AMEN
There was an upset in the Body!
Eyes had seen a friend in the distance and wanted to catch up with him
Ears agreed – he had a great sense of humour – and ears liked listening to him –
So together they urged mouth – to shout out his name – But he refused –
Ears might like to listen – and eyes to see – but the friend talked so much – and so fast – that mouth could never get a word in edgeways
So – mouth kept silent.
Legs ran and arms waved – but mouth said nothing – why should he do what body wanted – body didn’t catch him up.
Later when body went to bed – he didn’t sleep well – tossing and turning – he’d had a hard day – with little relaxation –
Mouth had time to think
Perhaps they would have all slept better – if he hadn’t gone his own way!
This story is about failure of the mouth to speak – but breakdown can also result when we speak too much – or don’t listen – don’t look – don’t use ourselves – when the need arises –
Point 1 The Word Proclaimed
Our reading from Nehemiah is the oldest known account of a synagogue service – Nehemiah a servant to the King in a place called Suza – persuaded the King – to allow him to go back to Jerusalem – and rebuild its walls – after they had been destroyed some years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar –
It had been nearly 70 years since the Jews captivity in Babylon – most had forgotten or new of their faith only – from what had been passed down to them – but now the walls were complete – and Nehemiah held a special service – (‘The feast of the Tabernacles’) outside on a specially prepared platform – so that the people could again experience worship and hear the word of God –
Ezra came forward – and read out the text from the book of the Law of Moses – he interpreted the words – explained their meaning –
the people wept – they realized how far they had drifted from the ways of God –
Fast forward now to our Gospel reading – with Jesus – in a Synagogue service in Nazareth – standing up – to give a reading from the scrolls – in the church where he grew up –
He reads from the first two verses of Isaiah chapter 61 –
‘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’
Jesus rolled up the scroll – and as was the custom for a visiting preacher – sat down – and interpreted the text –
‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ –
If you read the next few verses of Luke you’ll see that the people’s reaction was good at first but then turned to anger – when they realized what Jesus had said – and what He intended –
Isaiah’s prophecies were of a future blessing – and here Jesus was telling them – that it was already happening – through Him –
Jesus announced – who he is – and why He has come – what He is doing – and who His priorities were –
His purpose was not to inflict punishment on the nations – (the part of the second verse in Isaiah that Jesus omitted) – which many Jews expected the Messiah to do – but to bring God’s love and mercy – to those who need it –
He was setting the stage for his own ministry – and those of his followers right up to our own time
Point 2 Paul’s words on the Body
Two new starts – two different reactions
Fast forward now some 60 years later to the words of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians which gives some advice to his hearers – on what their reaction to Jesus should be.
‘Just as the body is one – and has many members – and all the members of the body – though many – are one body – so it is with Christ’
‘For in the Spirit we were all baptized into one Body …. And we were all made to drink of one Spirit’
In other words we are all connected – with Jesus – He is part of us – and we are part of Him – we are one body with Him – and – we are all helped – and develop through the guidance and grace of the one Spirit –
‘God has arranged the members of the body – each one as He chose ….. giving greater honour … to the inferior member … that there may be no dissention ….but members may have the same care for one another’
Paul says that we should all act as one – and act to support one another – that we should all care for one another –
If one member suffers – we all suffer – together – with them – if one member is honoured we all rejoice – together – with them –
Paul’s message is that every single member in the Christian family matters –
Here Paul has the life of the local congregation in mind – but Jesus – has a much bigger family to consider – and with today’s worldwide communication so have we – so our care should not just be for those around us – but for those in places beyond our physical reach –
We should strive not only to bring Jesus’ love and justice those that are in our village – but also as our ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’ reminds us for families in need in other parts of the world –
Towards the end of our passage Paul comes again to the question of Gifts – the gifts God uses to build up His Church – prophecy, teaching, healing, interpreting – he reminds us that not everyone has the same gifts – and that the Gifts given to us are not just gifts for us to enjoy and experience but gifts for the whole church family to enjoy – and experience – they are gifts given to the church through the individual –
We are members of the Messiah’s body – here on earth – individually each one of us is a limb or organ – of Christ’s presence – and we each have a responsibility – to use our gift for the good of the Gospel – so that others may come to know Jesus – and become part of Him too –
Point 3 – What it means for us today
But offering help – and using our gifts is not always an easy thing to do – God may put us in the right place at the right time – to help others – but not everyone wants to hear it –
-Listen to this poem by Shel Silverstein;
“I walked through the wildwood and what did I see – but a unicorn with his horn stuck in a tree-
Crying someone please help me – before its too late –
I shouted, ‘I’ll free you” – He shouted back, “Wait!”
How much will it hurt? How long will it take?
How hard will you pull? How much must I pay?
Must you do it right now – or is Wednesday OK?
Have you done this before? Do you have the right tools?
Have you graduated from horn-saving school?
Will I owe you a favour? And what will it be?
Do you promise you will not damage the tree?
Should I close my eyes? Should I sit down or stand? Do you have insurance? Have you washed your hands?
And after you’ve freed me – tell me what then – can you guarantee I won’t get stuck again?
Tell me when – tell me how – tell me why – tell me where – I guess that he‘s still sitting there!
Are we still sitting there wondering – should I or shouldn’t I – sometimes we can imagine all sorts of reasons why we don’t need help or shouldn’t offer ourselves forward –
We are all part of Christ’s body – part of his saving grace – part of His love on this earth –
Letting go – and letting God show us the way forward means we have to face some important truths about our priorities and our relationship with Him – about where we put God and the needs of the Gospel in our daily lives and loves –
Jesus gave everything for us – He died on the cross so that our sins will be forgiven – and we can be reconciled back to God –
We need to put Jesus first – offer ourselves in His service – ask Him – through prayer – to show us what to do – seek the help and power of the Holy Spirit – to show us the way forward –
we may feel we are still very far from the person God wants us to be – slow to speak – slow to act – slow to listen to Him or to help others –
but what we need to remember – is that Jesus is not finished with us yet – that when we let Jesus into our hearts – day by day – moment by moment with infinite skill and patience God’s love and grace will work through our lives to bring it to the perfection He longs us to reach –
And when we offer our gifts – for use in God’s service – He will support us and help us succeed.
Speaking out about God is something we have all been called to do – it may involve reading from the Bible – interpreting the word – expressing Jesus’ love and presence through the gifts we have been blessed with –
We are the body of Christ –
Jesus wants every Christian to value every other Christian – not just in Church – but everywhere – and care for them – to show others that they are valued by Him too –
Now is the time for the Scriptures to be fulfilled – Jesus is playing His part – are we willing to play ours?
Prayer to finish –