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Weekly worship: Sunday 26 January

There will be no gloom

Harvesting

Isaiah 9: 1-4, Matthew 4:12-23

Isaiah 9: 1-4

This is a passage that is more familiar to Advent but in so doing it often gets confined to verse 2. It is a great verse bursting with brilliant light but it is surrounded by equally hopeful and inspiring sentiments that are much needed in our world today.

Coming to the end of a long January there is much to be said about dwelling on the ending of gloom, the great light shining, the increase of joy and rejoicing and the breaking of the yoke of oppression.

Each verse in this short passage offers another way for the weariness of the world. These were words of comfort to the captive people of Zebulin and Naphtali, bound by poverty, hunger and injustice. People who cannot see a way out of the suffering and despair.

It is a much needed reminder to look to God in their time of need rather than other sources of strength. It is a much needed source of hope for those first listeners as it is for communities suffering the consequences of conflict and climate injustice with across the world today. Communities caught up in protracted conflict of the hell on earth that is Yemen, the devastation wrought on Syria, the trauma inflicted on communities in the DRC and those still dwelling in makeshift camps in Bangladesh after being terrorized from their homes in Myanmar.

A far cry from the January blues, these are the communities for which we need us to work with them for that day when there will be no gloom and only joy heaped upon joy.  

Matthew 4: 12-23

Jesus withdraws to the territory Isaiah has named in the passage above and so fulfils prophecy. This has already happened twice in Matthew’s Gospel and will be repeated refrain throughout. Jesus’s geography fulfils prophecy and so carries a deeper meaning. Geography matters.

His withdrawal comes on the heels of having been in the Judean wilderness for forty days and nights. That might have been enough withdrawal for anyone but this distancing is not a retreat but a move to regroup and gather his people around him.

And the men he chooses to surround himself with are men who knew what it was to endure, to work hard to make a living and who also knew the power and profundity of the sea and the natural world. Theirs was a wisdom not found in books of high religion.

The world around them would make up the palate of parables that Jesus painted with. And with this support crew he brings the full geography of Galilee together, the sea and the land. Both matter. This is a context that Isaiah also makes significant in his prophecy: ‘he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.’ (Isaiah 9:1-4)

Jesus’ ministry placed an importance on the local context but his ministry reaches far beyond it to the nations. Think global, act local, geography matters. It is a sad fact of the world today that the geography of where someone is born bears much weight on their life expectancy and life outcomes. And in this age of climate emergency when the sea and the land and all that dwells therein are under threat we do well to pay attention to the significance of geography, near and far.

Prayer

Jesus, hope of the nations,

Fill us with the immediacy of the disciples

Aware of the urgency of the day and hour

Willing to respond with all of our being

To the privilege of following you.

Amen.

Points for prayer can be found in the weekly prayer diary