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27th Jan 2019 Epiphany 3 Year C – Transformed by the word of God

Psalm 19

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul:

the command of the Lord is true,

and makes wise the simple.

 

10 More to be desired are they than gold,

even much fine gold:

sweeter also than honey,

than the honey that drips from the comb.

There seems to me to be a wonderful invitation in the Scriptures today, that is to let the Scriptures come alive in us. Better still, the invitation is to let the word of God come a live in us.

For us to enter into that invitation we need to move from merely hearing to actively listening. Then taking to heart in obedience the word of God.

The psalmist composing this beautiful psalm is obviously smitten with the precepts of God. He doesn’t seem to be only speaking about the Scriptures which are passed down from generation to generation. He has a bigger vision. He sees in the whole of creation something of God’s word reflected back to God in praise and adoration.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God:

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork;

2 One day tells it to another:

and night to night communicates knowledge.

 

So, part of this invitation to absorb the word of God into our very being is to contemplate the wonder and beauty we see in creation. To listen to the silent words as day to day declares the glory of God. Look up into the sky at night and soak in the words of joy coming from the stars. Contemplation may include knowledge gained as I suggested last week, seeing the things the scientists see, and it may include the words of Scripture bubbling up within us. Contemplation though is more from the heart.

For instance, if we stop to gaze at a mango. And that is the key to contemplation you have to pause, slow down and look. With the mango your mind can know that all the DNA of the tree is encapsulated in this wonderful peace of fruit. We know the seed inside if allowed to germinate a tree will grow that will bear fruit, that will take Carbon dioxide out of the air and produce oxygen. We may also know from the Scriptures of the reference in psalm 1 of the righteous person being like a tree planted beside a stream. The mustard seed in Jesus’ hand may come to mind, and the poor fig tree that didn’t bear fruit. Each of these stories a metaphor of our life in God. But then we go further and begin to recognise that all of creation is somehow present in this fruit with the seed inside. The word God spoke right back at the beginning of Creation is still able to be heard as we gaze from the heart at this delicious mango.

So, keep in mind the invitation today to let the word of God come alive in you includes contemplation of life from the smallest seed to the expanse of the universe.

Tied to this contemplation is listening to the Scriptures. I say listening partly because that is what people have done for millennia. When Jesus was in the Synagogue he couldn’t say grab the pew bible and open it to Isaiah 61. There was only one copy of Isaiah in the Synagogue. Probably only one copy in the whole village of Nazareth. So, people listened. But I say listened also because the invitation calls us to move beyond simply hearing to actively listening.

Actively listening requires imagination and drawing together other bit of knowledge we have acquired over time. Our imagination can take us to Nazareth, to the simple little synagogue with its hard stone seats and the prayers and the psalms before Jesus gets up to read. Our imagination will allow us to see Jesus covering his head, pointing at the words as he reads. Perhaps we have a strong sense of the silence when he finishes and our eyes to are fixed on him as everyone else seems to be. In our imagination we can see Jesus take his seat in the centre ready to explain the Scriptures to us.

Perhaps our mind might already be wondering, was Isaiah just talking about freedom for those who had been exiles under the Babylonian regime or was he also bringing the people of Israel to recall and rejuvenate the year of Jubilee. Did land ever get returned to the original owners on the year of Jubilee. What about slaves serving out a debt were they ever really released. What would Jesus say to the pharisee sitting in the front seat, we all know he has had slaves for years, surely their debt is long paid off.  What about the rich land owner sitting on the other side, he won’t want to hand over half his land to the Benjamin family. He has had it since their granddad died and left their dad and his brothers penniless. What about the blind beggar who normally sits outside, he would love to hear that the blind might indeed regain their sight.

Active listening includes bringing our imagination and our previous learning to bear as we hear the story.  Hopefully then when we hear Jesus say ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’; our hearts will miss a beat. Has Jesus just invited us to be a part of a revolutionary new way of being where freedom, gracious healing and joyful hope are normal. Will our heart start beating again with deep response, yes, yes, yes, I want to be apart of this new way of being, where do I sign up?

Stayed tuned for next weeks exciting episode of the Holy Scriptures to discover how the people of Nazareth responded.

 

Active listening doesn’t stop there. It calls for a response. We can’t just hear the word of God and walk away.

 

What responses are to make to the word of God in our day to day life. Let’s go back to the psalm. One response would be to slow our lives down enough to listen to the heavens declaring the glory of God. Having slowed down enough to gaze with wonder begin to see the soil, the seeds, the lizards, the birds, the trees as God’s loved children. Begin to see creation with the love of God. Begin to see something of God in creation. Slowing down to gaze is the key. Build “slow” into your day.

 

What about Jesus reading from Isaiah, what response might we make? How can we bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, freedom to the oppressed? Jesus is inviting us to live these words out in our day to day lives.  There are layers to bring Good News to the poor. Our food that goes to the Pantry at Chermside, our participation with Rosie’s BBQ in the park is one layer of Good News. Being given food is good news when you are hungry. Another layer is education and mentoring. Those among us who work in schools inspiring young people with possibilities and expanding their potential is a powerful way of ensuring poverty is not something they have to face. However, the way our economy is set up there are always people who go hungry. So, another layer is working with politicians to restructure society enabling education, the opportunities for employment and empowerment to participate.

The other phrases that Jesus read from Isaiah will prompt others to work in the prison system helping people to stay out or regain their dignity ready to come out. In some case working with politicians to change the whole penitential system assuming that keeping people out is healthy and cheaper for all concerned.

Freedom for the oppressed, no doubt will inspire many Christians to stand alongside our indigenous brothers and sisters in the journey towards empowerment and recognition.

I had wanted to find time to speak also about Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. But suffice to say, as we enter into the invitation to actively listen to and respond to the word of God, we have to be ourselves. We can’t all be teachers, prophets, healers, etc. God gifts each one of us and calls us all to serve using our gifts, our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses. There will be opportunities as we start to use our gifts to discover talents and capacities within we never new we had.

I invite you today, to listen to the word of God and discover it to be:

better “than gold,

even much fine gold:

sweeter also than honey”. Psalm 19:10

 

 

 

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