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Weekly Bible Notes

Epiphany 4 Year C (White of Gold)


Introduction

I once preached at a church in the UK where there some pretty angry Southern Baptist visitors in the congregation and they were waiting for me at the door afterwards. I had used a long rope as a visual aid for how we Christians need to work together like a tug of war team and everybody is pulling on the same rope. The most angry of the group advised me of what other purpoose a rope could be used for back where he came from. I had been speaking about ecumenism and getting along with Christian folks with different ideas and clearly it had the opposite effect. All pretty unsavoursy stuff but it does give me an idea of how Jesus would have felt when after preaching his first sermon at Nazareth, the folks were so incensed that they want to kill him by throwing him off a cliff.

Opening Verse of Scripture  

Psalm 116:1&2
I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

God our creator, who in the beginning commanded the light to shine out of darkness: we pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, shine into the hearts of all your people, and reveal the knowledge of your glory in the face of 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.

God of heaven, you send the gospel to the ends of the earth and your messengers to every nation: send your Holy Spirit to transform us by the good news of everlasting life in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Eternal Lord, our beginning and our end: bring us with the whole creation to your glory, hidden through past ages and made known in Jesus Christ our Lord.

First Bible Reading  Ezekiel 43:27 - 44:4

The Lord said to Ezekiel: ‘When these days are over, then from the eighth day onward the priests shall offer upon the altar your burnt offerings and your offerings of well-being; and I will accept you, says the Lord GOD.’ Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east: and it was shut. The Lord said to me: This gate shall remain shut: it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it; for the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it; therefore it shall remain shut. Only the prince, because he is a prince, may sit in it to eat food before the Lord: he shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gate and shall go out by the same way. Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; and I looked, and lo! the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord: and I fell upon my face.

Second Reading  1 Corinthians Chapter 13:1-13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Gospel Reading Luke 4:21-30

And he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked. Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' ""I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy[a] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian." All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.


Post Communion Prayer

Generous Lord, in word and eucharist we have proclaimed the mystery of your love: help us so to live out our days that we may be signs of your wonders in the world; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen


Commentary

There was a synagogue attendant (chazan) who was responsible for looking after the synagogue building and the scrolls. He would have ensured the scroll would have been unrolled and Jesus would have stood to read the scripture from Isaiah and then as was customary he sat to expound it. Jesus quoted two people, the widow at Zarephath who was dealt with by Elijah and the soldier Naaman the Syrian who Elisha healed. The thing about these two were that they were both Gentiles. Jesus was making the point that the poring out of God's grace was something which was going to benefit the Gentiles and not the Jews. Jesus tells the people that the scripture has been fulfilled and that he is the Messiah mentioned in Isaiah, but he is going to shatter some of the traditional expectations. Jesus will not inflict punishment on the Gentiles but will bring God's grace and mercy.

After he has spoken the people become an angry mob and they forcibly take Jesus out of the town to a place where there was some kind of cliff. Stoning began by throwing the victim off a cliff and then throwing large stones onto the poor soul beneath. We cannot be sure how Jesus escaped but Nazareth would have been a town of less than 2,000 people and so perhaps enough people knew him for them to come to their senses.

There are two reasons why they are so angry.

1. The people of Nazareth lived only four miles from the destroyed Galilean capital of Sepphoris, a place which Jesus no doubt helped to rebuild as a carpenter/builder. The city was destroyed by Rome after a messianic revolt in AD6. Having Jesus claim to be a Messiah would not have been popular given the fate of their neighbours. So conscious were folks in the region of this huge destruction that the people of Sepphoris did not join the subsequent Jewish revolt of AD66.

2. Jesus was telling people that he wasn't even a Messaih worth having. The Jews would have to forget any ideas of the Messiah coming to restore them as a great military nation. No wonder that Jesus was unpopular!

 

Meditation

Act As If You Do Love

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Do not waste your time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbour act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less."

'Love is choosing to do right no matter how you feel.' Heldur Nork

 

Hymns

1. Sing to God new songs of worship 600, 2. a-Jubilate 394, b-God is good 185, Thanks to God whose Word was spoken (notices), Thou whose almighty word 699, O God beyond all praising 22

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Our Father, each day is a little life, each night a tiny death; help us to live with faith and hope and love. Lift our duty above drudgery; let not our strength fail, or the vision fade, in the heat and burden of the day. O God, make us patient and pitiful one with another in the fret and jar of life, remembering that each fights a hard fight and walks a lonely way. Forgive us, Lord, if we hurt our fellow souls; teach us a gentler tone, a sweeter charity of words, and a more healing touch. Sustain us, O God, when we must face sorrow; give us courage for the day and hope for the morrow. Day unto day may we lay hold of thy hand and look up into thy face, whatever befall, until our work is finished and the day is done. Amen. Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226.

A Prayer for Courage God, give me the courage to be revolutionary, as your Son Jesus Christ was. Give me the courage to loosen myself from this world. Teach me to stand up free and to shun no criticism. God, it is for your kingdom. Make me free. Make me poor in this world; then I will be rich in the real world, which is what life is all about. God, thank you for the vision of the future, But make it fact and not just theory. Henry Nouwen

Keep us, Lord, so awake in the duties of our callings that we may sleep in your peace and wake in your glory. John Donne (1572-1631)

Let us rejoice in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life. By Him we are born into the family of God, and made members of the body of Christ; His witness confirms us; His wisdom teaches us; His power enables us; He will do for us far more than we ask or think. Amen

Additional Material

About Jeremiah From Chapter 1, we know that Jeremiah was either born or began his ministry in 627 BC. During his life, Babylonia succeeded Assyria as the dominant power in the Middle East. He was a witness to the return to worship of the Lord (instituted by the Judean king Josiah), and then (after Josiah's death in battle in 609), the return of many of the people to paganism. When Babylon captured Jerusalem in 587, Jeremiah emigrated to Egypt. God called him to be a prophet to Judah and surrounding nations, in the midst of these political and religious convulsions.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 The people of Israel have strayed from God's ways. In the late 600s BC, King Josiah guided the people back to godliness by removing all traces of foreign worship and by making Jerusalem the one place of worship. Jeremiah played a key role in Josiah's reforms. "The word of the Lord" is a characteristic expression in this book: the message Jeremiah proclaims is God's word. The Hebrew word yashar, translated "formed" (v. 5), is a technical term for created; a potter forms clay into pottery. Recall Genesis 2:7-8, where God forms man. The idea that God himself forms a child in its mother's "womb" was accepted. God has known Jeremiah since his first moment of existence - both intellectually and in his capacity for action. Even before that, God dedicated him, separated him for his purposes ("consecrated"), to serve him. Jeremiah is but a youth ("boy", v. 6), probably in his early twenties, without experience and authority, but God will give him all necessary support. (Moses' reaction to God's command to lead the people of Israel was similar.) God commissions Jeremiah through the symbol of touching his mouth (v. 9). In vv. 5 & 10, the "nations and ... kingdoms" are most likely Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt and Judah: the history of Israel is intertwined with that of the whole Near East. Jeremiah's mission is to do away with corruption and ungodliness, and to promote ethical conduct and godliness. God's instructions to the prophet continue in v. 17. Jeremiah is to respond promptly to God's commands ("gird up your loins"). Mighty as the ungodly are, he is not to flinch, but to "stand up" to them; if he fails to do so, God will break him. Even though the deviants will fight against him and persecute him, he will prevail, "for I am with you .. to deliver you" (v. 19).

About Luke Luke is the third synoptic (or quasi-chronological– synoptic means to ‘see together’) gospel in the New Testament. Its author, traditionally Luke the physician who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, draws on three sources: Mark (via Matthew), a collection of sayings (known as Q for Quelle) and his own source. It is a gospel that emphasises God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. Women play a more prominent part than in the other gospels. Luke never uses Semitic words; this is one argument for thinking that he wrote primarily for Gentiles.

Luke 4:21-30 Jesus attends the synagogue service on the sabbath. He has just read some verses from Isaiah. He now tells worshippers that he fulfils them: he is the expected messiah; he will rescue all those who are in need; God's promises made to Israel are "fulfilled" in the new age. All are "amazed", they keep wondering: at (as a scholar puts it) Jesus' words of grace, of God's freely given gift of love. An Old Testament usage suggest the "words" are the word of God. Probably vv. 22ff describe a subsequent visit to the synagogue. In v. 23, as often in Luke, Jesus takes the offensive: people want him to perform miraculous deeds to satisfy their curiosity, and for their benefit. In vv. 25-27, Jesus reminds them of instances where God has helped foreigners (both women and men) rather than Israelites. (In 1 Kings 17-18, a "famine", attributed to God cutting off Israel, lasts 3 years; in contemporary books about the end times, the period of persecution and disgrace lasts 3½ years.) The people are "filled with rage" (v. 28) because they begin to realise that Jesus is for others as well as for them. Is there a lesson here for us? Nazareth, being on a hillside, has steep slopes down which a person might fall to his death. However, Jesus escapes the lynch mob: they let him go, perhaps because they think he really might just be the messiah. He continues his mission in accord with God's plan.

We thank God for his goodness to us, confess that our lives have not always adequately demonstrated the reality of our faith, and recommit ourselves to His work and service.

 

 

Leading picture

Tissot, James Jacques Joseph, 1836-1902. Brow of the Hill Near Nazareth, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55366 [retrieved January 23, 2016]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Brow_of_the_Hill_near_Nazareth_(L%27escarpement_de_Nazareth)_-_James_Tissot.jpg.