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Church Service January 23rd

st johns

Collect and Readings for The Third Sunday of Epiphany – Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21
The Prayer for today Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sometimes we may be reading a very familiar passage of scripture, yet for the first time it seems to shoot out at us with great significance and we realise with a shock that it is exactly what we needed to hear. When this happens, it reminds us of the way the scriptures are much more than historical data and fine literature. They are also in-breathed with God's presence so that through them we can be given God's guidance.

As the law was read out to that ancient crowd in the square in front of the temple, we can imagine their emotions: sorrow and grief as it suddenly dawned on them how they had neglected their spiritual heritage, the yearning to put things right, and the joy that at last they were able to see things more clearly. It seems to be a hallmark of God's way of doing things that instead of condemnation, he gently brings us to see for ourselves what and where we are wrong and gives with this insight a joy and excitement at the prospect of putting things right.

In the Gospel we see another congregation, gathered and attentive as the scriptures are read. But there is a difference, which Jesus must have been aware of even before he started his teaching. These people were his own people, the people he had grown up with, representative of the chosen people of Israel. They are privileged to be hearing the scriptures explained by the Word of God in person. And yet whether or not they were able to receive him and what he said would depend on where they were spiritually as they sat there that morning. Jesus cannot but reveal to us the truth because that is his nature. If we are to recognise it as the truth, we need to make sure we are open and receptive.

The Church is a body of people, rich from its diversity of types and gifts, and strong when it recognises its unity in Christ. When as a body we are open and receptive, the life of Christ in us can speak out love and truth to the world. But wherever individual members lose their receptiveness to Christ, the whole body is seriously weakened.

Some things to reflect on:

  • Why do you think the people were encouraged to go and spend the rest of the day celebrating
  • Where does true penitence turn into a wallowing in guilt?
  • What kind of atmosphere do you detect in the event described in this week's Gospel?
  • What might have blocked the people from 'hearing' what Jesus was saying?

God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev'd Fiona Robinson

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