Jesus reads the words of Isaiah and takes them as his own mission statement - 'today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing " he says. It is a scripture that talks about good news for the poor, release to the captive, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.' Now most of his listeners would have counted themselves among the poor and oppressed, so no wonder they were pleased...
So Jesus's message, his interpretation of the text of Isaiah, was not just rousing and inspiring, it could be read as a call to revolt. Such a revolution of course would have been very unwise. The authorities were expert at destroying and making an example of all such young rabble rousers and it is in this political context that Jesus's eventual crucifixion is to be understood. However we choose to interpret it, there can be no doubt at all that Jesus first hearers would have interpreted his words in a political as well as a spiritual sense, and his bias to the poor and the oppressed cannot be denied.
So what about ourselves? What is our good news for the poor today? What is the gospel message that we as the parish of St. Luke have for our city and world, as individuals and as a community?To what acts of revolution, quiet and not so quiet is God calling us in our turn? For make no mistake, as Paul points out on his letter to the Corinthians, we are now the body of Christ in the world, and it is in and through us that the good news to the poor is now to be proclaimed.
Well yesterday we met to consider the next steps in the fulfilling of our Mission Action Plan. Many of you were there and I am sure we can all agree that it was a great morning - positive, productive and pleasing to us all, and rounded off with the most delicious Afghan feast prepared for us by the refugee catering group who are beginning to use the hall at St. Luke's. In terms of the gospel imperatives of good news for the poor and liberation for the oppressed we began to address a few things that will shape our ministry in the next year or two. Clearly the St. Luke's site, already perceived as a bit of a beacon of hope in our city, can do more, with the possibility of helpful joint actions around the larder, the idea of a regular clothing, book and plant sale and the development of community gardens all being proposed as ways to engage and help the poorest in our own community, while simultaneously raising funds that will both sustain our ministry here and contribute to our work with some of the world's poorest in Nepal and the Solomons.
This is good - this is us working together in mission and ministry in the broadest sense. When we co-operate together across the whole parish, making use of all our many gifts, we can do an astonishing amount by the grace of God. So now we need to pray and continue to ask God to show us the way forward - little step by little step. Someone compared our growing children's ministry as being like growing a bonsai - it may be small, it may be very slow, but the growth is bringing beauty and fullness all the time. And all of us need to be alert to the prompting of the spirit to see where we can be most effective.
This is part of what is meant by recovery of sight to the blind. Jesus I am pretty sure was addressing that remark to the Jewish leaders, whom he describes in other places as blind guides, but it applies to us too. All of us who exercise leadership in this parish, in ways small and great, need to take responsibility for seeing - for seeing those who are in most need in our community and reaching out to them. This can be an internal matter. Nothing is more hurtful than to feel oneself invisible in a church community, and this is where our pastoral care of one another is so important. Let no one be overlooked among us. It is also increasingly for us as a parish an external matter. We need to be looking for the ways in which we can be of service to our wider community. Some were asking yesterday if we can help with the MDA programmes that are addressing the resettlement of refugees, and the short answer I received from Eddy yesterday was 'yes definitely'. So if you have a heart for the refugee community and some time to spare, especially on Fridays when they will use our hall for their Fabulous Friday programme then please feel free to go along and help.
The gospel as Jesus proclaimed it is not complicated. It is about providing hope to the hopeless and courage to the desperate. In our world according to Oxfam this week, the 62 richest people earn as much as the 3.6 billion poorest people. Many still survive on less than $2 a day. As Christians we are called to proclaim that that is not okay, both in word and in deed. It is about simple things like contributing to our fundraising for Rinzi and the Solomons and ABM, about adopting Fair Trade coffee and tea around our worship centres, about putting our resources material and human to the task of supporting those who have least. And it is about prayer. Prayer that our eyes may be opened and remain open, that we may have the passion to show compassion to all in need. In the name of Christ who opened the eyes of the blind and set the captives free. Amen.
by Penny Jones, for Epiphany 3 Year C, Sunday 24 January 2016