A little Christmas gift to everyone in Fishponds and beyond this Christmas Eve 2020!
This year, instead of the usual Christmas fair at St Mary’s, we are holding a Christmas Raffle. The prize is a giant Christmas hamper, packed full of Christmas goodies. Tickets are £1 each and are available in person from Mary Ewing or by using PayPal via the button below.
The draw takes place on the 21st December. Please note this raffle is only availablke to those living withing 5 miles of St Mary’s.
Sermon preached by Rev’d Lizzie Kesteven.
Today we begin to look at a new gospel. Every year they rotate, and this year we get Mark. Mark’s gospel is the shortest, possibly the punchiest, some suggest the sternest, and it is almost definitely the first one to be written down.
In a time when there is lots of talk in our own world about risk, and how to manage and mitigate and balance that, then Marks gospel is perhaps a blueprint for risk. Writing it down was a risk and it would have taken courage and conviction.
It was probably written between 60 and 70 AD. It was at a time when Christian communities were starting to pop up in all sorts of places across the Roman Empire. Saint Pauls work as a missionary, from his letters to many different places, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus suggest that Christian communities had started to grow. Mark was writing in the centre of this world. If he is the same Mark that we hear in Acts and also later mentioned in Colossians and the letter to Timothy, then this Mark knew Paul. He also by other accounts knew Peter. Mark was writing in Rome. A place where in very recent years Saint Paul and Saint Peter had just been executed. Christianity was now seen as a threat, perhaps only mild and irritating, but nevertheless a threat to the Roman Emperor. Enough for the first wave of Christians persecutions to begin. Nero had a particularly nasty habit of using Christians as burning torches to light up his parties.
Mark was writing in a risky time.
And in order to just make it really clear to people that he was a man of courage and conviction, he begins by making a very dangerous statement. He begins by saying
“The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.
It could be a fairly neutral start to a gospel yet at the time the only other person who was linked to that phrase was Augustus Caesar – who when he decided to re jig the whole calendar system based on his own birthday , -sent out a decree because it was believed that
“The birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the gospel for the world…”
The similar phrase and wording was chosen deliberately by Mark. It wouldn’t have gone unnoticed, by Christians and Emperors alike. It is as if we are meant to hear and read that first line and take a sharp intake of breath.
Mark has just literally signed his own death warrant in the first 13 words of his gospel.
He was a man of courage and conviction.
He doesn’t stop their either. His first opening phrases for us all are ways in which he affirms his faith and belief. They are like a mini creed. He speaks of Jesus as good news, he speaks of Jesus as the Messiah, he talks about Jesus as the Christ. He then brings in the prophets and their words about preparing the way for the Lord and making the paths straight.”
We are in no doubt that Mark was letting us know, and telling the people of the day that this was not just any other story, or any other person. But that Jesus was the Christ who the Jewish people had been waiting for thousands of years.
It’s pretty pokey.
Strangely the rest of Marks gospel often has Jesus telling the disciples not to tell anyone who he is whenever they get ever so close to suspecting that he might be the Son of God. Mostly in the rest of the gospel Mark talks about Jesus being the Son of David – it’s a very human story. A very human Jesus. It’s a very humbling story. Yet here at the beginning. We get Marks ungarnished truth.
So why? Why write it down in the first place? Why did he need to?
Maybe as time passed it felt more urgent to have a written form of the words and stories people were learning. Perhaps he feared that it would be lost if it wasn’t written down. Perhaps the Christian community was growing enough that it became a time when they needed a clear and clarified version of Jesus Christ’s story, so as not to get muddled.
Whatever his eventual motivation. What we have in Marks gospel is a person who wanted to be clear about who Jesus was. And at that time it involved risk.
We don’t live in a country that makes it dangerous to share those words. Some Christians still do. Yet there is a way in which I feel encouraged by Marks example of courage and conviction. He was prepared to risk everything, so that other people might hear about Jesus, and not just hear but respond, through faith to become part of this small underground and persecuted community.
And although in this time and in this place here in Fishponds it is not a life threatening thing to be a Christian. It is still counter cultural. Christians are a minority and increasingly so. Therefore some of the things that we might rub up against – incredulity or ridicule, dismissiveness or even bafflement are ways which mean we have to dig deep and ask ourselves – what is this all about? What does this mean for me?
As we creep in anticipation towards the cradle, towards that stable, to peer inside and see that manger with that whole picture of shepherds and magi, Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus (a story that Mark doesn’t actually have in his gospel!) but as we do that – where will my courage and conviction be to say like Mark – that this event – this moment – changed the world. Not just to coo at a crib – but to worship and adore as so many carols put it. To look at the child and know that he grows to be the man who then teaches, heals and speaks of a world that is being invited to turn to God and understand and know that love, connection and relationship that is possible with the Creator of the world.
This week I wondered if we might encourage each other to pray for one other person. Just one. Keep them in mind, store them in your heart, think of them when out on a walk or when doing the washing up. Intentionally and unintentionally keep them close this week. They might be someone you know really well, they might be someone who is a Christian, they might not be. They might be someone you have only a passing acquaintance with. And then wait. Wait for the Holy Spirit to tell you what to do next. You will all have very different experiences of that. But something will happen. You will know what to do with that – and I suspect that you will need both courage and conviction.
That is the extraordinary gospel that Mark starts us on today – I pray that we and others around the world delight, give thanks and rejoice in the words that he had the courage and conviction to write down.
Sermon preached by Rev’d Lizzie Kesteven.
Mark 13 – 24-end – Watch. Wait. Be Awake. Be on your guard. – Signs of the time.
1 Cor 3-9 – Thanksgiving – God is Faithful
I had an unexpected phone call on Thursday evening. I looked at the number on my mobile and didn’t recognise it. Normally when this happens it is someone asking me about an accident that I haven’t had. And depending on my mood at the time I either play along, or just get grumpy with them. As the call on Thursday was unusually late I braced for this sort of encounter as my finger swiped left to answer.
Yet to my surprise the woman on the end of the phone didn’t ask if I had crashed my car recently, or fallen off my bike or slipped at work. She introduced herself from a charity – Transforming Lives for Good – and offered to pray with me. Now maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, being a vicar, at this – but I was. Not many conversations start like this. Sometimes they might end in prayer but its rare for prayer to be the core purpose of the call. And yet there it was on a dark Thursday evening as we chatted about the charity and I excitedly explained how we had just received some funding to partner with them, that all they wanted to do was not check in about how the bid was going, or hassle me about progress, or give me another impossible deadline. But just to pray with me. It was a refreshing and rather beautiful moment. It was as if God was reaching down and bending close for a moment.
Today is Advent Sunday. It is the beginning of the Church’s New Year. We start a fresh new season at the beginning of advent. A season of prayer, fasting and penitence, similar to Lent, as we watch and wait for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. Advent literally means “coming”. Or as is sometimes whispered and sung in the Aramaic “Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus.”
So if it’s is the beginning of a season, the start of a new year. The time when we begin a different gospel – its Mark for this year – then why do we seemingly illogically start in the middle? Chapter 13 – And not with the beginning? Why do we hear Jesus speak about the “end times” with predictions of darkened days, when the moon will not give light and stars will fall from the sky”. It doesn’t seem like the best beginning for a New Year and Season. When I am looking for order and chronology, I am met with cosmic chaos that seems far removed from the baby in the stable that I am trying to think about.
Yet perhaps on reflection we need to start at the end, in order to make our way to the beginning. And the readers and listeners of Mark would have picked up the clear voice of Isaiah. The predictions and prophesies of the end times were a way of also signalling that there is to be a new beginning. New beginnings are often found in the seeds and the remants of a shift, or shattering of the status quo and the ordinary patterns. The Hebrew people throughout the old testament tell of a story of suffering, followed by salvation. Of an Egypt followed by the Promised Land. Of captivity in Babylon followed by a return to Israel. The prophets of the old testament, be it Isaiah, or Eekiel or Amos would tell of these times, and use similar cosmic images and symbols of stars and sun and moon to signal a shift, a change – something new.
Jesus points to the fig tree and also the owner of the house to tell his people to be alert at this time of uncertainty and shift. And that is the overarching message of Advent – be awake – watch and listen for God. It is likely to come at the most unexpected time.
Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth brings us words which sound a different tone. They are right at the beginning of his letter – words which are full of thanksgiving and encouragement. They speak of enrichment and have a firm confidence in a God who is faithful. It is a heartening start to what turns out to be a challenging letter. Yet combined with the Gospel this morning the two passages collide in a way that should give confidence to all today.
God is faithful. The story of God tells us of that faithfulness. It does not shy away from the difficulties and challenges and suffering that life might bring, and this world is currently experiencing a great deal of that. It might feel that we are in a shifting world right now, with the sun and the moon and the stars being mis-aligned. The chaos of the world feels close.
Yet God is faithful. God was faithful to the cry of the Hebrews in the time of the Pharoah and to the Israelites as they wept at the rivers of Babylon. God was faithful in the sending of Jesus Christ to walk with us, to live with us, to be one of us. And God remains faithful today. Yet in the turbulence and the often overwhelming nature of today, I sometimes miss that faithful God. God tapping at the window in the corner saying over here – and yet my head is stuck down looking at the ground.
I was tempted to ignore that phone call on Thursday night. I was in the wrong sort of mood. I was sceptical about who it might be and what they might want from me. Yet God spoke in the darkness, and lit a candle with the simple connection between one human being offering to pray with another. Seperated by distance, but connected through prayer – God stooped low and bent towards me and spoke words of calm in the chaos that seemed to surround.
As the nights draw in, and the days become shorter and the nights longer, as the darkness descends. Then I was reminded that it is only in the dark that the true majesty and healing of a lit candle can do its work. That in the chaos – God is faithful and calls us to look at the light. May we watch and wait for the light of Christ this Advent.
Saturday 5th December 7.30pm
To register e mail firstname.lastname@example.org
£5+ Entry per team*. Anything given is split between St Marys and their charity of 2020 – Mencap.
Great family fun to start your festive season. Bring a glass of your favourite tipple and a mince pie to your screen to join the fun.
Grand box of Mince Pies for the Winning Team
*People are welcome to contribute more if they wish. Please pay via PayPal or bring your donation to church
Sermon by Rev’d Lizzie Kesteven
Ezekiel – 34 – The Good Shepherd
Matthew 25 – Sheep and Goats
I suspect that I may not be alone when I tell you I have spent some time this week watching Series 4 of The Crown on Netflix. The Crown begins back in the 50’s and follows each new generation of royals and different parts of their stories. Series 4 which has been much anticipated is now in the 80’s and finally for me the series has caught up with a time in life that I actually remember. There is something rather fascinating about following the life of the Monarch and her family, even if it is as we are reminded its a fictional account, rather than a documentary.
Perhaps it is apt that this popular series about the Royal Family, a story which looks at power and kingship, at authority and rule, is back on the TV at the same time as this final festival in the churches year that we celebrate today.
The festival of Christ the King, is always the last Sunday before Advent. Advent, next week marks a new time in our seasons, a new year, a new beginning as we turn towards the crib and prepare ourselves, body and soul for Christmas. Yet today, this last festival of our year, the festival of Christ the King is a relative newcomer to the table. It was established as late as 1925 by the then Pope. A time in history when political powers were jostling over people and land, post the carnage that the First World War. It was then, and remains as today a reminder to us of , a rather brassy political statement by a Pope. A salutary poke to all those in leadership around the world, that there is only one ultimate authority and judgement that the church recognises and that is the Kingship of Jesus Christ.
It is also apt perhaps that the readings that we are asked to respond to today are ones that take a hard look at how we treat other people.
The prophet Ezekiel is always a good place to start any evisceration of those in power….and he does not let us down today. Ezekiel was also talking in a highly charged political environment and the prophet is not shy at going to town on his critique of the leaders of the day. They are held up as people who have not cared for their flock of sheep well. It speaks of those who have been greedy and taken what they needed and wasted what was left. It speaks of a sense of individual regard above that of what would be right for everyone. What does he say
“You pushed the sick ones aside and butted them away from the flock”
That is pretty damning.
So Ezekiels prophesy says that a new shepherd will come and lead the sheep. His words are ones which are definite and unshakeable. The Sovereign Lord himself will lead the flock to new pastures. He uses the words “I will” repeatedly – and it gives a sense of reassurance to those who are struggling, and that reassurance leads to a place of hope.
“I will bring them back…. I will take them out of foreign countries….I will lead them back to the mountains….I myself will be the shepherd of the sheep”
When the people cannot do it. God will.
It would have been these words and images that sprang to mind as people listened to Matthew’s gospel and account that we have today. The pictures of sheep and goats are straight out of Ezekiel. Matthew’s community, of Jewish converts would have known Ezekiel well. They are being given no doubt that the Jesus of Nazareth who has led a motley crew around Galilee for three years is presenting himself as leader of the sheep – as the new shepherd – and in that way the ultimate authority on heaven and earth. They were dangerous political words to write in 70 AD and they were dangerous images to draw to peoples attention in 1925 when Christ the King Festival was begun. They still carry that edge and threat.
And yet acting on them – is precisely Jesus point. This is how to live. This is what I have shown you. Just as in the breaking of bread at the last supper Jesus Says “do this in remembrance of me” – here we have the words – “Do this and you do it for me” – and they are just as powerful. They form the backbone of the social gospel. They are still as revolutionary and all inclusive. DO this for anyone and you do it for me. Not do it for someone who looks like me, or thinks like me, or likes the same cat meme on facebook like me, or just the person that makes me laugh, or whose company I might enjoy. Its easy doing nice things for people we know and love. But Jesus says –
“Do this for anyone of the least important of these members of my family, you did it for me.”
The forgotton, the naked, the vulnerable, the hungry, the convicted, the sick, the despised. Those. And of course during his lifetime Jesus has been everyone of these. None of those experiences are things unknown to the Soveriegn Lord, whether that is in a stable, as a refuge, as a prisoner in front of Pontius Pilate or on a cross naked.
I have often been fascinated by the different images that come to be associated with different gospels – Luke is an Ox, John is an Eagle, Mark is Lion. I think that the images make is so much easier to identify the different gospel writers in stained glass windows, or pictures.
Matthew is the human face. And in that case here at the end of this church year, on a festival where we celebrate and affirm as Christians that Christ is the King – then how right perhaps that we have these very human faces in our gospel reading.
They put us right up close to others and what being human can mean. We cannot remove ourselves from the human faces that we see everyday. Perhaps that is why the pandemic is so challenging to our human way of life – because we are called to step into rather than away….We are called to be with others rather than apart.
It is the being with others, as God chose to be with us, that Jesus’s life, death and resurrection calls us to. There is a bigger picture or large strategies and overarching policies that can be implemented and that will help many – be that the critical reform and funding of our health, prison, and education systems. The need to continue to be generous in the sharing of our resources with others from around the world through generous management of our foreign aid budget.
Yet also on a much more immediate level we are asked to look at the human face, of the people around us and consider their immediate need. Are they hungry? Are they thirsty? Are they sick? – What can I do this day with one of these people? And when we do – then we meet the human face of Jesus Christ. It really is that simple. That revolutionary. That political. That Godly. Amen
Sermon Preached by Diane Simms 10am at St.Mary’s Fishponds
Readings: Psalm 77 and Luke 15:11-32
Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so
Today is Bible Sunday.
They say that the hymns we sing have a deep and lasting influence on our
faith – on what we believe – about God and Jesus.
As a child, back in my Sunday School in the Church of Ireland we used to
sing this hymn. At the time I had no idea that the words were forming my
faith, the faith in Jesus I still hold today.
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so
This simple children’s hymn captures in a few words the vital message of
the Bible. Which is this:
The Bible is the story of God’s love for me – and for you.
And Jesus shows us exactly what God’s love is like.
Another important point about this little hymn is that it teaches that the
Bible is trustworthy. It is a reliable source of information about Jesus and
God. I know Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so.
Martin Luther, the theologian who inspired the Protestant Reformation
held a high view of the Bible as the doorway to God’s grace through faith.
Luther expressed this in a three-part saying: ‘Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide,
Sola Gratia’. By Scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone – we are
saved, through Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the reason we celebrate Bible Sunday. The truth is – we follow
Jesus Christ and not a book. And yet, we call this book the Holy Bible
because it it bears witness to something miraculous – the Word Of God
taking on human flesh in Jesus Christ.
Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
The story of Jesus’ love begins in Genesis at the very first moment of
Creation. In the Nicene Creed we declare that Jesus is ‘of one being with
the Father, through whom all things were made’. Jesus is the co-creator,
the eternal word, God’s Voice. The voice that cried out: ‘Let there be
light!’ John echoes this view of Jesus as God’s voice at the start of his
Gospel when he refers to Jesus as the Word – the source of life and light.
Jesus is much more than a Word in print. He is the living Word who
speaks and acts. He heals and saves.
In recent decades Bible scholars have become enthralled with
understanding the Bible as one integrated narrative from Genesis to
Revelation. They view the Bible as the dynamic drama of God’s love in
action. God’s love is revealed through his wonderful deeds. The Anglican
Bible Scholar, Tom Wright, who was a previous Bishop of Durham,
describes the Bible as a five act play stretching from Creation to New
Creation. Here is rough sketch of his view.
Act 1 is Creation: In Genesis we meet a Good God making a good world. God who says ‘Let us make human beings in our likeness.’ The Bible begins by telling us that we are wanted. God didn’t have to make us. He loved us into existence and we have a purpose in reflecting God’s image in the world by caring for creation and each other.
Act 2 is the Fall, told in Genesis chapters 3-11. Humans rebel against God. They try to go it alone and build their own empires.
Act 3 is the story of Israel which stretches all the way from the call of Abraham through Moses and the Exodus, the Promised Land, the Exile in Babylon, and Return to Israel – up to the birth of Jesus.
Act 4 is Jesus – putting Israel and the nations right with God, through his living, suffering, dying and rising to new life .
Act 5 is the unfolding of God’s New Creation. Equipped with the Holy Spirit we in the Church are God’s partners working with him to bring hope and healing as we anticipate God’s New Heaven and New Earth.
This is the overarching story of the Bible – the story of God’s salvation which we love to hear again year after year at the St.Mary’s Easter Vigil service. The Exodus foreshadows the Resurrection. The dramatic crossing of the Red Sea tells of God’s rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s liberation of the whole of humanity from the slavery of sin and the sorrow of tragedy.
So where does faith come in? We latch onto faith by finding our place in God’s story of salvation. Where we are each coming from and where we believe we are going. I wonder where you found yourself in today’s Bible readings: yourself, your family, this church or community and our current world?
As we listened to the first half of Psalm 77 we heard the Psalm writer expressing a sense of disorientation. She dared to accuse God of forgetting her plight. She longed for life to return to the way it was before. But even in her sharply worded questions in verses 7-9 you can see that she knows that God is gracious, compassionate and merciful and she rightly expects to God to show his true colours.
This rant to God is called a lament and here in England, if we are nice polite people, we don’t take naturally to it. But we should! In these months of disorientation we can use the prayer of lament to shift our troubles and worries out of our heads and place them instead before God.
Jesus himself used the prayer of lament in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And like the writer of Psalm 77 getting things off our chest leads to fresh hope and trust. We turn from looking down and inwards and saying “Poor me!’, to looking up and outwards to God. The turning point in Psalm 77 happens at verse 11. ‘I will remember the works of the Lord and call to mind your wonders of old time’.
As I already said – the Bible is a record and reminder of God’s acts of saving love in the past. We can hold on to those mighty deeds to keep us going in the present.. With good memories to cherish, lament can turn into gratitude. And gratitude for small mercies brings hope of bigger ones. Look, we are here together in church with a choir that is singing and an organ being repaired. Thanks be to God!
A couple of weeks back we prayed words of St.Augustine – in one of my favourite collects. He says this to God: ‘Our hearts are restless, till they find their rest in You.’ The writer of Psalm 77 goes on this journey from restlessness to rest, from dis-orientation to re-orientation. By remembering God’s help in times past, she recovers her attitude of gratitude and a sense of peace.
And finally let’s return to the Prodigal Son. I chose this reading for Bible Sunday because it is the Bible story supreme. A parable told by Jesus about God’s love. In this parable the storyteller and the story merge into one glorious harmony.
When people ask you why you go to church, you could simply say… ‘Let me tell you a story Jesus told..’ When you know this story by heart, it becomes so easy to show people the one true God Christians believe in. I might say something like this:
We have a God who knows we make reckless mistakes (like the younger son) – we’re mean-spirited (like the elder son). In our hearts or with our feet we leave home, get lost and drift away from our Father’s love. But then, perhaps someone close to us, something in us – God’s Holy Spirit – nudges us back to our senses. This reality check, this feeling of remorse, tells us things are not right and slowly we turn and we turn until once more we see clearly the face of our heavenly Father. He is running to meet us down the sidetrack we got lost on, with a smile on his face, eager to lead us back home. This God of second chances starts forgiving us and straightening us out. And as we glow in the warmth of his love our mean spirits and hard hearts begin to melt towards others who have wronged us. And we celebrate coming home to God where we belong together as God’s adopted children.
Let us pray
Storytelling God, you unfold the creation and call a people and send Jesus to draw us into your story and make us your companions forever. Be near to any who feel they’ve lost their way in these days and lead them home to you through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Saturday 31st October 8.00 P.M – St Mary’s Big HALLOWEEN QUIZ
In Aid of
This event will be held on Zoom
Suggested donation to Christian Aid – £5 per adult participant
Teams of up to 6
To register and receive joining instructions and further information, please e mail
Join us for a great night in with the added excitement of spooky questions.
Coronavirus affects us all – we need to support our neighbours across the world.
Sermon preached by Rev’d Lizzie Kesteven
Today is the day that the church has typically over the last 1500 years recognised as the day to celebrate Saint Luke. He is perhaps one of the more familiar saints to people as he is the writer of one of the Gospels.
Luke is a bit of a mixed bag. It would I think be fascinating to meet him. We hear about him when Paul writes his letter in Timothy – a rather sad account of everyone who has deserted him and how only “Luke is with me”. However, that small snippet has been the basis on which most people believe that the person of Luke who wrote the gospel was a travelling companion of Paul’s. And this makes lots of sense, because Luke is also meant to have written the whole of the Acts of the Apostles – a detailed account of Paul’s journey.
On the one hand Luke is a meticulous writer. Known often as a Historian. I love his first sentence in the gospel – where he basically tells us that the reason he is writing is to give an orderly account. Inferring that those who have written before haven’t done that – he is rather scathing perhaps of Mark’s gospel which he ironically uses a fair amount!
“Many people have done their best to write a report”
Yet to be fair to Luke he has had a little more time to compose his words. He is detailed and precise in doing so. He writes a gospel of considerable length, then followed by Acts his sequel which takes up together nearly a quarter of the New Testament. He was amongst other things a prolific writer.
Yet this Historian perplexes me because he is also the most majestic of story tellers. It is in Luke that we get the story of the Prodigal Son, and that of the Good Samaritan. It is in Luke that we hear of the detailed unfolding of the events of Jesus own birth. It is with Luke that we walk the way of the Emmaus Road after the resurrection – where his story telling combines to retell the whole story of salvation. Luke tells us about Jesus and who God is with the most amazing stories. For a historian he is a pretty formidable creative writer.
Luke is also known for being the Patron Saint for Doctors and why you can often see him depicted in pictures and windows with a medicine box of sorts in his hands. Interestingly many people have noted how one of the strong themes that Luke brings to his writing is that of healing, not just physically but of Jesus bringing emotional and spiritual healing to those who ask. It is Luke whose gospel speaks strongly about Salvation being from Christ –and the word Salvation means to be “made well”.
Yet strangely perhaps– just as the Historian of Luke meets with the Story teller – so the Doctor in Luke meets with the Artist. As Luke is also the patron saint of Artists and Painters. He can be seen in the pictures of holding a classic pallet in his hand often painting Mary, who man believe he knew and met.
I wondered then – why it was that to celebrate this Saints Day that the church choses to hear from Chapter 10 of Luke. The sending of the 72. Why not have one of the unique stories – why not have the shepherds or the Emmaus Road. what is it about this account of the sending of others that is pertinent. We are because it’s Luke, drawn into what that might have been like for those who were asked by Jesus to go with no purse of bag or sandals even. That reliance on God – and the peace that brings to the households that you might encounter.
Maybe it’s because of that strong sense of peace and healing that is evoked in the passage and not just the encouragement of the 72 but the power of being able to heal the sick. For me it is that word that is key – The passage speaks of empowerment. Handing over of Power. Passing on of Power.
Now power is an interesting thing.
How we use power? Who has power? Who is powerless?
And in many ways Luke’s gospel centres on themes of power. He is the writer of Marys Magnificat – the raising up of the poor. He is the writer of the Samaritans and the tax collectors and the prostitutes. He himself was probably an outsider – a Gentile – and it is from this place that he writes. In fact there is a lot that Luke writes about Power and Gods’ desire in Jesus to see a power shift. Shift from those who have it to those that don’t. For the world to see Gods power and spirit and healing and peace to be possible for all people and not just a few.
We have seen in the last 9 months some of how power changes and shifts. Different groups of people have come to know the power of their voices. We have seen a shift of emphasis and status from bankers to nurses. We have also seen how people cling to power or use the power they have for their own benefit. There are power struggles happening this weekend between regional and national and devolved parties and powers, between nations.
Luke stages the gospel and the good news as the story not just of salvation but of empowerment. To those who felt they had none. We do not know who made up the 72 – but by any reckoning of Luke it will not have been the powerful. And yet in this God, through Jesus, gives them all of his own. He sends them in his name, with his power to spread the good news of peace and healing and to tell people that the Kingdom of God has come near. One of the compelling reasons that Christians can be confident of their conviction that Jesus is Lord, is the very fact that he became powerless. Knowing he was God, meant that only God could give it away.
This week perhaps then I would encourage us in Saint Luke’s words to think about power.
What power do we hold? What power are we prepared to give away? What would we like the courage to say or do? Who might we empower? Who might we raise up?
How might we also go light footed and open hearted to our neighbours and friends to whisper the words of peace and healing that God empowers us with and say – “The kingdom of God is near to you”. Amen