Sunday, 27 January 2013

To whom it may concern

GospelLuke 1:1-4,4:14-21 

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

  Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.
  He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

A Gospel of beginnings.

After the anticipation and joy of Christmas, Luke now has the time and place to introduce his carefully researched, crafted and ordered account of the Good News. We can only imagine how this precise scholar gathered his Gospel; Mark's account; the mysterious 'Q' of Jesus' accepted sayings and the many variations of embellished oral tradition come together to create the longest book of the New Testament. Beginning with the fullest Nativity account through to the Ascension, Luke pays the closest of details to Jesus' life amongst us; the journeys and the travails, the most personal and idiosyncratic nuances of individuals. And he does this all for one person; Theophilus.

Luke hasn't been commissioned to do this; he states that the decision is his; he has made this journey of discovery in more ways than one and he has chosen this one person to receive the best of his understanding and teaching so that Theophilus may come to know Jesus more deeply. it is a labour of love.

Now across the centuries, in this liturgical year,  we are offered the best that Luke has to offer; his account is for one who loves God - the meaning of Theophilus. Are we 'One who loves God'? Are we waiting to receive this gift of faith?

Another beginning; Jesus may feel that he has come a long way. Whatever drew him away from Nazareth towards the Baptist and his time in the desert has circled him back again, with continuing success, to his home town. Beginner's luck, it seems. Under the appraising gaze of the community, Jesus speaks of promise for those who are not worthy; for those who would not be allowed in the synagogue; for those who have been waiting for so long - the year of favour came only every 50 years past many people's lifespan; a year of legend; a year of longing.

Jesus fulfills the longing; he is the living year of favour. He comes to the poor, the captives, the blind and the exploited with healing and freedom and blessing and the exuberant generosity of the Lord.

But who is longing? Who are the people who will find themselves blessed, over and over again?
Pehaps not many standing there in the house of prayer. Not those who imagine themselves worthy nor those who feel able to judge; not those who have walked past the poor; denied the captive or trod the weak underfoot.

At the beginning there is only Jesus; the gift of the Father. In times past I have imagined myself standing with Jesus and reading these words; imagining that my ministry will make a difference; that I have also been sent. The Gospel never puts us in the place of Jesus. We are on the other side of the lens; we are with the 'others' and here, at the beginning, we have to decide just which 'others'.


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