It’s great that we can celebrate God’s creation this morning; though I’d imagine that it might be difficult for us to declare like Isaiah that this is ‘the year of the Lord’s favour’. Unless of course, we’ve come here today hoping to forget about the real world for an hour or so.
Hymn StF 726 - Come to us creative spirit
God, I am here, in this space, on this day, to worship you, to seek your voice, and to
be inspired, encouraged and challenged to go out into the world full of your presence,
as your hands and feet.
Come Holy Spirit, and fill me afresh.
Look at your feet.
Notice the scraps and marks on your shoes or slippers, or if your feet are bare notice
the lines and wrinkles. Wriggle your toes and notice how that feels.
Look at the ground your feet are on. Is it a carpet? Or wood? Laminate or something
When you are ready, offer this time of worship to God
Creator God, thank you that my feet are on holy ground. As I sit here I choose to offer
the time to you. I long to meet with you on this holy, ordinary ground.
Prayer by Abi Jarvis ( twelvebaskets)
Hymn StF 117 – Sing praise to God who reigns above
OT Reading – Isaiah 61 vs 1-4 & 8-9
Gospel – Luke 4 vs 14-21
Hymn StF 103 – God is love: let heaven adore him
Sermon - Martin Weir
‘He has sent me …. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Is 61 v2)
It’s great that on this Climate Sunday we can celebrate God’s creation; though today I’d imagine that it might be difficult for us to confidently declare like Isaiah that this is ‘the year of the Lord’s favour’. Unless of course, we’ve come here today hoping to forget about the real world for an hour or so.
Yet, we’re all too aware of how the world looks to us just now. It’s sad for us and the people involved directly that there is so much upheaval in our NTV Circuit. Looking at the community around us, there’s a cost of living crisis which means that too many people are worried about how they, and their families, are going to keep warm and fed this winter.
We see that the war continues in Ukraine continues. There is famine in Somalia. Many remain homeless in Pakistan following flooding. Climate change is an ever-present threat over the livelihoods of people especially those in poor countries. And so, all over the world people are forced to leave their homes to escape violence, injustice and poverty, suggesting that the goodness of God’s creation that we celebrate so readily is not being protected well enough or shared fairly.
So perhaps we have come here today with heavy hearts. And here’s the preacher reminding us that Isaiah said he had been sent to ‘proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’.
The complexities of life present very real challenges to us and, much as we might wish it, there are no simple answers. But I hope that we know deep down that Isaiah is right; that despite the doom and gloom; all years are years of the Lord’s favour. So, for a few minutes let’s try to recognise what this means.
Thankfully there is still much for us to be encouraged by as we remind ourselves of the goodness of God’s creation, so we can again give thanks to God for the wonderful way that his creation provides and enthrals us, despite the challenging circumstances that we face.
And, as well as recognising the goodness of God’s creation, we know that all is not well with that creation. So, we are challenged to ensure that the benefits of creation are shared more justly and in a way that respects creation. So that we can indeed proclaim ‘the year of the Lord’s favour’.
What is the year of the Lord’s favour?
The third & final part of Isaiah (chapters 55-66) contains prophecies that are set in the post exilic period; that is to say, the time when the people of Judah had been released from exile in Babylon (540-520 BC). They had returned to Jerusalem to find the city & the Temple in ruins. They themselves were impoverished, and economic hardship was severe.
Whereas earlier prophecies of Isaiah had reflected the pain and humiliation of exile, these prophecies are much more positive in tone, as they look forward to a time of prosperity and blessing when Jerusalem is rebuilt under God.
The prophet Isaiah claims that he is anointed by God (like a king or a priest). Anointing was a sign that God had chosen Isaiah and given him authority to speak in the power of God’s spirit; and to bring a message of good news to those who were newly returned to this wasteland.
Central to that message (in verse 2) is when he proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour. This refers to the year of Jubilee, which according to the Law of Moses should occur every 50 years, when a ram’s horn was sounded as a sign of Jubilee. This was the time for society to re-adjust; to return land to its original owners, when debts were forgiven, and slaves & prisoners freed. It’s a special year of grace which communicates something of God’s heart for his world. That he wants people to be free to overcome disadvantage by having grace for each other, rather than living in a society that perpetuates poverty and wealth inequality.
In verse 8 the prophet says ‘For I the Lord love justice’; God wants his people to love justice too, and to advocate such a message. ‘Their descendants will be known among the nations and all who see them will acknowledge that they are a people that the Lord has blessed’.
This is God’s vision for Judah’s future, which Isaiah describes as ‘a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour’, when the people will be ‘oaks of righteousness’ displaying God’s glory through their lives. As they rebuild Jerusalem, God will work with them so that they will know his justice and transform what was a broken place into one where life can flourish again. This would have been a really encouraging message for them to hear.
It’s a familiar story in our world today, of too many people unjustly displaced from their homes because of conflict, persecution, or natural disasters that may have their roots in climate change; wondering where to begin when everything is lost?
Recently, through Rotary, I met with some Ukrainian refugees at the Hope Centre in Beeston. Their stories are difficult to imagine, and as I heard from their hosts, the difficulties don’t end with coming to the UK. But they feel that here they have hope because people care, and they seem determined to make the best of what they have.
In post exilic Jerusalem the prophet brings hope; that there will be a future for those people based on God’s justice. And then our gospel reading reminds us that in time God would raise up another, a new anointed one, filled with his spirit, to fulfil this vision.
Jesus had been baptised & had spent 40 days in the wilderness to explore his mission, and now he emerges as the Messiah, the anointed one, filled with the power of God’s spirit, and ready to begin his public ministry.
Nine years ago, in Nazareth, I visited what purports to be the synagogue where Jesus read aloud those words from Isaiah to the congregation. And then, astonishingly, he declared to them that there, on that day, right in front of them, he was fulfilling that prophecy. What must that have felt like? Jesus declared that in the Kingdom:
Those who are poor both spiritually & materially will be enriched by God. Those who are captives to sin, to the law or to social stigma will be set free. Those who are blind to truth or to God’s love will see.
This is no longer just a 1 in 50 year jubilee, but a once & for all event where Jesus had metaphorically blown the ram’s horn, and released God’s grace for all time.
This then determines Jesus ensuing ministry which involved healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sinners, and thereby removing the social-economic disadvantages that many faced. And by releasing them, he was enabling them to live fruitful lives, enjoying God’s creation.
‘He has sent me …. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’
So, how do we respond to Isaiah’ declaration? Especially in the context of a complicated world with competing interests, where justice and loyalty are compromised, consensus all too often considered a sign of weakness, and where climate change threatens the stability of peoples, economies and countries?
Well of course, there is no simple answer; so I’m not going to try to give one. It’s something we all have to reflect on as disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, the anointed one.
We have all been chosen, commissioned, blessed with his spirit and his grace to further his ministry. Jesus has challenged us to bring good news to the poor, release the captives, recover sight for the blind, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, because we have a God who has done just that for each one of us, through his son, Jesus Christ.
And so, for example, we hold a Climate Sunday where we celebrate the goodness of God’s creation , and in so doing we show our desire for climate justice where we ensure that we declare that the goodness of God’s creation should be protected and available for all, so that people might rise above the challenges they face and have hope of fulfilling their God given potential. And we promise to act, as individuals and as a church community, in ways that promote the kind of justice that God expects.
And I’m sure that there are all sorts of efforts that we all make (however unheralded) to involve ourselves in repairing what is broken; rebuilding places that are destroyed, creating environments where people can start to flourish. What that might look like is something that you can chew over together along with your Sunday lunch. There are few simple answers, but many questions.
‘He has sent me …. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’
Reminding ourselves, in our current circumstances, of the gift of creation reminds us that there is a bigger picture of the wonder and goodness of that creation. This wonder and goodness is something that we should seek to celebrate even in the hardest of times. These gifts remind us that God’s generosity is a constant, it never varies, even as times and people and places change. It is always there for us whatever our circumstances.
And we are reminded that God loves justice, and he demands that those gifts so freely given should be shared fairly to enable all his people to fulfil their potential to his glory.
Thanks be to God. Amen
Hymn StF 255 – The Kingdom of God is justice and joy
Hymn StF 81 – Now thank we all our God
Lord Jesus Christ,
Thank you for being a God of justice, love and mercy. I ask that you help me to live
after your example, to be a model for those around me.
Holy Spirit, fill me anew, that I might have the words to speak of your love, and that I
would demonstrate that love through my actions.
Blessing by Tim Baker (twelvebaskets .)
These are the Worship at Home versions of the In Person Services, led by our Minister :-
Each Service has the videos of the songs and a transcript of the Sermon or reflection.
The Song references (StF) are from the Singing the Faith song book.
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