Luke 4, 16-19
Something to read
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
King James Version
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
Beginnings matter. The inauguration of a great new campaign needs to be done in ways that captures the essence of what lies ahead and underlines the significance of what is about to unfold. We, who are so used to advertising and the latest bit of publicity being pumped out at us across a host of different forms of media, know all about what it means to try to catch the public eye.
So here is Jesus and a beginning; a public arrival that sets out a vision which will become an expanding reality as he sets out on his journey. There are three striking things. Jesus is doing this at home, in the Nazareth that nurtured him through childhood. Here’s the local man, the familiar carpenter’s son, standing before his neighbours, friends and family.
That makes it a hard crowd in lots of ways. Those who know us best often have the hardest time reframing who we are when a new beginning happens. Secondly, this is a religious beginning. We’re in the synagogue; the familiar setting of faithful worship.
This beginning is very much about God and what God is up to. And, thirdly, the vision Jesus sets out already exists. He’s handed the scroll of the prophecies of Isaiah, one of the great texts of Hebrew scripture. It’s a liberation manifesto. It links the action of God’s Spirit to the release of those held captive in a host of ways.
So we have a religious setting for a religious mission. But this isn’t a mission about saving souls without concern for changing the world’s reality. Jesus isn’t starting out with a theory about heaven. His agenda is God’s, and God’s agenda is freedom here and now.
Something to do
New Year brings plenty of opportunity for resolutions and beginnings. By now we’re moving on from the first moments of the year. Take fifteen minutes of today. Reread that passage from Isaiah that Jesus started out with. Dwell upon it. Think about what you might do over the next week to help someone else find some sort of freedom. Who might be locked into loneliness who you could be friendly to? Or what can you offer to help those trapped in poverty? Could you donate time or cash somewhere?
Something to pray
As you begin you unfold holy words and find a holy dream.
Help us, Lord of new beginnings,
to find those same ancient words coming alive not only through our praying,
but in our daily living.
Today's contributor is the Rev Neil Thorogood, Director of Pastoral Studies at Westminster College, Cambridge, and author of the Surefish.co.uk monthly prayers