Sunday 10 January 2021 Good News for a New Year Martin Baker
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
16 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, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
20 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. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Good News For the New Year
I think especially over this last year we are mindful of how things have changed.
The conversations that are so different now to what they were just a year ago.
Perhaps we remember back to what we were doing this time last year. But let’s think ahead for a moment. To imagine 2022 - January next year.
How will life be different?
How do we give expression to the hopes we have in times like these?
And most importantly, and we find this question in our Gospel reading today, what will you and I have said and done to make things better for the people in our lives, in the life of our world between now and January 2022? What expectation do we have about deepening our faith or our experience of God’s love and blessing in our lives?
Our scriptures are pretty clear. All our actions start with some thought, something happening in our heads. If we are fearful and anxious that will be manifest in what we do and say and think.
It can seem so complicated but today we are hearing about the Good News. And the Good News for you and me might today be simple, might come down to a single sentence, a single line of conversation.
Proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour. That’s how Jesus starts out we hear this morning. That question about our own proclamation for this year. Proclaiming Good news, release, recovery, freedom a new beginning, a time of blessing. This is what those who follow Jesus were born to do, Baptised to do. Let’s think of the person, the people who need to hear this news today.
So many complicated things going on in our heads.
I think it can be valuable, important, maybe vital to pause and reflect, pray, discern about how we are seeing things from our perspective. What may, in this year of the Lord’s favour need to shift?
I’ll give you an example of how perspective can be challenged.
We’ve been going to the Barrier almost every year since 1992 when our children were born. We bought a bach then that ticked 2 of our three boxes. We could just afford it. It was near a beach. A place of beauty. But it didn’t quite tick the easy to get to box. But as the song goes 2 out of three ain’t bad. Mind you there were 30 commercial flights out there each day last Monday.
But going back there each year always brings back memories.
I can remember quite a few years ago we were picked up by a taxi van to take us to the airport. And in the back of this van there was this strange sort of moving shuffling noise. And I looked down and I saw in this box this huge brown creature that looked like nothing else except perhaps some kind of alien thing. And I say to the bloke driving the van what on earth is that thing in the back of the van and is it dangerous.
And he says nothing to worry about mate that’s my pride and joy. And I say well what it is. And he says that’ mate is a packhorse crayfish. And I said what you do with something like that. Ride it into town, use it as a biological weapon. And he says no I'm going to stuff it actually. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever caught.
And I thought you actually intentionally go after those things. And now you want it as a trophy on your wall. I can’t imagine what would do more to reduce in house value than to have a stuffed ferocious looking gigantic weta on steroids in my home.
But for him this was beauty.
I sit in a van and hear that someone sees the world and especially packhorse crayfish in a very different way; A minor thing. But it reminds me of the particular way I see the world, and how that might not be the same as someone else. I need to accept the reality that someone else can see beauty and have pride in something I can’t.
The words we listen to, the words we tell ourselves the words told to us by others has a profound effect on how we will see and think and live at the start of this new year. Here news of how the most powerful democracy in the world is being undermined. At a personal level how many of our conversations rotate around stories of the devastation caused by the virus?
And yet, as we follow Jesus our fundamental calling is to be people of the Good News. It goes beyond being optimistic, it goes beyond being positive.
Scripture tells us that in the beginning, the beginning of the first year, ever, was the word. We hear of this thing called God’s word in the very first instances of creation. And the spirit moves and brings forth creation.
And now today, Jesus speaks a word, he says,” The spirit of the Lord is upon me”, Jesus said, at the start.
Proclaiming Good news, release, recovery, freedom, a new beginning, a time of blessing. This is what those who follow Jesus were born to do, baptised to do.
To change our thinking, to change our words before we can bring change for ourselves and our world.
Jesus knew how hard it was for people to change the way they thought about themselves, each other, God. That’s why he used language that said we need to be born again. We need to die to our old selves. The sacrament of Baptism expresses those things and that’s why Jesus was so important. We get trapped in destructive ways of thinking and acting that our scriptures call sin. And that’s why repentance is so important. The past mistakes do not define what is possible for us and our future.
The Good News. The words that create the reality. We have all been in a situation where you have heard words that have changed things. Changed the way you saw the future, changed the way you see the past. The conversation. the telephone call, the letter. We know what words can do.
Jesus read in the synagogue and said.
Today Jesus says this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
That challenge here that upset so many of the hearers. We are not meant to go away from here without making a decision. Something needs to be fulfilled.
You have to decide about your relationship and action towards the oppressed and blind and broken hearted the captives and you have to decide now. Make up your mind. Whatever happens after this moment a decision will have been made. What is the Good News we need to bring? That decision you make now will say everything that needs to be said about our faith, about heart, about your priorities and about your hopes, about your dreams and your beliefs, about the kind of world you live in.
A few years ago, before Christmas, people were delivering a lot of food parcels, and wonderful things. We were also delivering presents to the children of men and women in prison. The earlier stages of the angel tree.
One of our members discovered that a family living next door to one of the prisoner’s family had nothing. 4 children, a mother a bit of food, a small amount of furniture.
He spoke a word. I don’t know what he said to the mother. But he spoke a word that said we need to do something. This isn’t right. This has to change. And a few days later he was able to deliver a significant amount of food and other goods from us.
It’s so easy not to speak a word. There is a risk. Things just don’t stay the same. I invite you to hear God’s word today - you are loved, you are forgiven, you are given eternal life, you don’t need to be afraid. You are offered this extraordinary freedom as a gift. That joy and a peace that scripture says passes all understanding, in other words a joy and peace not dependent on the news, or the conversation, or how things are going for you today, but a joy and peace on which you can base your lives is offered as a gift for us to say yes to.
For too long we have been thinking in the same old hopeless way.
So hear the Good News for you. Jesus says you are loved, forgiven, set free, released. Pray for the spirit. Speak a word. Become part of a new creation.
And today. We hear of God’s spirit to move, to change our views of ourselves, our world, we begin to formulate new words to say to ourselves, to our world.
So think of someone. Someone who longs to hear a word. Longs to hear some good news.
Pray for them. Speak to them. Be that person, that word that opens up a new future for them.
Let’s do a simple exercise. Think of someone. Anyone really. Or perhaps someone in particular who you know is not facing a particularly hopeful 2021. Someone you know. Maybe someone you’ve heard about. Maybe for those down at the Waikeria Prison. Or someone overseas.
Think about some words you could pray, or say to them that might offer some encouragement or hope or build up their confidence just a little. Perhaps when you get home maybe a call or an email and say I was thinking about you today and I just want to offer you these words of encouragement. I’m thinking of someone now. I’m going to do that.
Would you like to share in our purpose and mission? We believe that good relationships, open discussion and a genuine desire to seek God’s calling allows us to grow as people and a community together.