23 January 2022

The readings this week offer a range of options for themes. There is the word of God, revealed in creation and through the book of the law. There is the mission of Christ proclaimed in his reading of the scroll from Isaiah. And there is the call for us to be the body of Christ, working together with each part taking his or her place. All of these ideas come together in the theme of purpose and call. We are all recipients of God’s calling word, and we are all called to participate in Christ’s mission. To do this work, we need to collaborate and each take our place in the body.

May our worship this week reignite our sense of call, and teach us to find our place in God’s called community.

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10: Ezra reads the book of the law to the people. They respond in remorse, but Nehemiah encourages them to be joyful and to celebrate.

Psalm 19: A celebration of God’s word, proclaimed and revealed in creation, which makes naive people wise, which gladdens the heart, which gives light to see by, and which is a valuable treasure.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a: Paul teaches that the Christian community is like a body with many parts. Each has a gift, and each must use their unique gift for the benefit of the “Body of Christ”.

Luke 4:14-21: Jesus reads from Isaiah’s scroll about God’s anointing for ministry, and God’s liberating work through God’s anointed. Then, he claims this prophecy for himself.

In a world that can sometimes seem so random, this week in Epiphany gives us a vision of purpose. God’s purpose – God’s message – was read from the book of the law by Ezra to God’s people. It is proclaimed, as the Psalmist declares, through all of creation. And it was the guiding force in Jesus’ life and ministry. As he began his work, he proclaimed as his mandate the words of Isaiah’s prophecy – God’s saving and liberating “Jubilee” purpose. Now, as those who follow Christ, we are called, individually and together, to fulfil Christ’s purpose, in our world and in our time. To do this, God has gifted each of us, and called us to work together as one Body, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12. Hearing God’s word, allowing it to call and direct us, and working together as a body, a called community – these are the elements of this week’s theme.

Global Application:
The idea of having a sense of purpose – of calling – is one with a chequered history in the global community. Too many corrupt and tyrannical leaders have become so because they felt that they were somehow given a special purpose by God, and that God was on their side, and against their enemies. The time for this kind of “destiny” talk is over. However, the purpose of Christ, revealed in the Isaiah prophecy, is one in which God calls us all to participate. This liberating, compassionate, transforming vision is one that impacts everything we do, and is one to which we can hold our leaders accountable. As we face global economic, climatological and other challenges, let’s allow a renewed vision of Christ, and of Christ’s purpose, to guide our social conscience and activism. Let’s not allow the magnitude of the struggles we face, or the fatigue that we so often feel as we work for justice, to dull our sense of call. Let’s not allow the “spirit of the age” to make us deaf to the wisdom and revelation in God’s word, and let’s not forget that we are all – as individuals and as organisations – connected to each other, and we need each other if we are to address the crises of our time and begin to realise something of Jesus’ liberating dream in our world.

Local Application:
In every community are those who need liberation – the poor who need good news; the physically, psychologically or spiritually blind who need sight; the prisoners who need to be freed. Who are these people in your church and in your community? The purpose of Christ is both an invitation to life for all the broken and lost ones (including us), but also a challenge to participate in the work of liberation for those who choose to follow Jesus. This means that each of us needs to find and fulfil our place and purpose in the Body of Christ, as we work together toward Jesus’ dream of a liberated world. It also means that we need to cling to God’s word and allow it to challenge our injustice and direct our quest to bring life and wholeness to those around us. How can you work within your world to commit to Christ’s purpose so that, to those among you, you may also say (collectively) “today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”?

The Way Forward
The Way

Hymn Suggestions:
Jesus, Joy Of Our Desiring
Now Thank We All Our God
Christ Whose Glory Fills The Sky
All Ears (New Hymn.com)
Beautiful News (Link to YouTube video)
You Do All Things Well (Link to YouTube video)
Take It To The Streets
God Of Justice
I Will Follow Him (Sister Act)

A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Body of Christ
What Is Your Purpose
Missing Purpose