Welcome, Cheviot churches! We worship together on the Third Sunday of Epiphany
Our services this week are at 10am at Yetholm and 11.15 at Morebattle.
How good and how lovely it is
to live together in unity
Unity is like the dew, falling on holy mountains
With it comes God’s blessing, life forevermore
Hymn 739 – The Church’s one foundation
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
For the richness of your creation,
For different colours and scents,
For different birds and animals,
None the same, yet part of one creation.
Generous God, we praise you.
For the richness of your world,
For different places and peoples,
For different songs and stories,
No person the same, yet part of one humanity.
Generous God, we praise you.
We praise you Lord for creating a world of wonder and beauty, of diversity and difference.
Teach us to live in harmony with you and our world.
God of grace and unity,
we confess we can be divisive when you have called us to unity, quarrelsome when you call us to seek peace, and critical rather than caring.
Forgive us when we mistake our familiar traditions for your truth.
Show us how we can witness to your love
through working and worshipping together.
Jesus came to bring Good News to the poor and freedom to the oppressed. We live as loved, forgiven and free people through the grace of God!
Readings – 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a
Hymn 522 – When Jesus saw the fishermen
Faithful God, we thank you that we are an indispensable part of the body of your church. Help us as we start the week ahead to walk more closely with you at our side, safe in the knowledge that your fatherly love and care knows no bounds. Amen
I feel tremendously privileged in my ministry to have been involved with so many different people in so many different places in the world, but I have one slight regret. Not a big one, but I am conscious of it. I have never preached in the village I grew up in. I preached as a student in a number of congregations in Ayr Presbytery, but never in Auchinleck. I feel sorry about that, and I am always a little envious of Jesus having that opportunity. That said, if we go on with the reading, as we will next week, we discover that the congregation’s reaction was to throw Jesus over a cliff, so maybe it is better not to go back! A prophet is never welcomed in their home town, etc!!
Jesus had been driven by the Spirit into the desert and had been tempted. He had had this time away, reflecting on what his ministry would be, and he came back to Galilee refreshed, invigorated, full of the Spirit. Luke in his Gospel has Jesus preach in Nazareth, his home town. As I mentioned last week, first things matter, and for Luke, this set the tone for Jesus’ ministry, for he preached from Isaiah 61 about the Spirit anointing him to bring good news to the poor, bring release to the captive, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and proclaim the Year of Jubilee, when there would be an evening up. For Luke, this was Jesus’ manifesto, what he felt was important.
Jesus was in Nazareth, and it was the Sabbath, so he went to the synagogue, as was his custom. He was given the opportunity to read and to preach. I don’t think he was given much warning, unless they had spoken to him the night before, so he had to think on his feet. One commentator I looked at assumed this was the first time that Jesus had preached in Nazareth, but I don’t think so. He had grown up there and he was now 30 and obviously very gifted. I would have thought that he would have been offered the opportunity to preach before, but nonetheless people would have been quite excited to hear him. They knew him, they knew his family.
He was given the scroll to read (there were no books as such; the Scriptures would have been written on a number of scrolls). When I was living in Tiberias, archaeologists discovered the ruins of a synagogue at Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, and amid their discoveries was a stone table with the grooves to place the ‘scroll for the day’. It was from Jesus’ time, and it was exciting to imagine him preaching there. It was the same in Nazareth – he was given the scroll, read from Isaiah 61, then expounded the message.
His message was not about WHAT God demands, as much as WHO needs attention and compassion. Jesus had grown up with Exodus and Deuteronomy and with the prophets; God was speaking out for the poor, the unseen, the afflicted, the rejected, the overwhelmed and those on the margin. God’s salvation was for everyone, and no-one was excluded. This was encapsulated in Isaiah 61 with the announcement of the Year of God’s favour, the Jubilee, when debts would be cancelled and wrongs made right and a sharing of all God’s bountiful gifts.
For Luke, that was Jesus’ priority, and he lived it out in his ministry. Jesus was with the blind and desperate and grieving. He speaks of God’s desire that people live in total rightness and full humanity. Jesus places himself right in the middle of God’s agenda for the whole world. What’s more, he calls us, as his followers, to ask who needs attention and compassion in our world today and embrace his manifesto of liberation and hope.
Hymn 263 – God of freedom
Prayers of Intercession
Creator God, you made each of us in our uniqueness,
and together, all of us to bear your image in the world. Accept our gifts, unique as they are, and bless them for the sake of your Son, Jesus.
God of life, God of love.
You created us and set us in relationship with each other:
In families and neighbourhoods,
in churches and communities,
in cultures and nations.
We give you thanks for the rich gifts of arts and culture,
of home life and community celebration
which bring meaning and encouragement to our lives.
Help us contribute our gifts
to the traditions and imagination that sustain the best of our common life
from one generation to the next.
God of mercy and forgiveness,
You call us to live together in peace and unity.
In this Week of Prayer for Christian unity,
we pray that your Spirit will create understanding and co-operation
among all who bear Christ’s name.
Help us share our gifts with each other
so that churches within our community may flourish
and our common mission will find new energy after months of challenge.
Lead us to reach out to those of other faiths and no faith
so that, together, we may be a blessing in the world you love.
God of healing and hope,
We pray for our neighbourhoods and our nation.
Where people are divided and bitterness turns into resentment,
show us how to work for reconciliation.
Inspire our leaders at every level of community life
to work together for the care of the most vulnerable
and to restore the goodness of our common life
as we recover from the effects of these months of pandemic.
Make us generous citizens and careful stewards
of the land you entrust to us together.
God of justice and mercy,
We pray for the world you love, the world Christ died to redeem,
so deeply divided by religious and political animosities,
by ancient bitterness and current conflict.
Encourage world leaders to work for peace and understanding,
especially in places torn by violence,
and areas still struggling with the effects of the pandemic,
by poverty, hunger and the effects of natural disasters.
May the hope Jesus embodies encourage us all to work for positive change.
God of courage and comfort,
We remember those of our congregation and community
in need of your special attention today....
Use us as agents of your healing and hope. Amen
Hymn 511 – Your hand, O God, has guided
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us!
We have been called,
we have been anointed,
we have been given a task.
So go out from this place, carrying Good News to the world: news about freedom from oppression and healing for the afflicted.
May God's blessing from Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen