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Theme for the Week – 24 January 2016

Scripture for the week: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21 (with reference to the continuation of the gospel to Luke 4:30)

Seeking inspiration, I went for a walk. Nothing much happened until I met someone who exclaimed happily about living in Menorca, with Menorquin neighbours. That’s it!  Inspiration comes in surprising ways.

The season of Epiphany is about the manifestation of Christ’s nature in the world, and it would be sad to miss an important point: God in Christ comes amongst us as a neighbour, and likes us as neighbours!

Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in his own synagogue, announcing in effect fulfilment of prophecy, and God’s grace for all people – beloved neighbours. It was to be a source of celebration – yet things turned sour.

Jesus was too familiar to be taken seriously (something that afflicts us still). And God’s grace for all? Surely Israel deserved the grace exclusively as God’s chosen.

This incident has a cliff-hanger ending – literally!  Fortunately, Jesus managed to escape the clifftop, although he did not escape his ultimate fate for having the temerity to be the wrong kind of messiah.

The idea of grace being liberally bestowed upon all is intrinsic to a biblical understanding of the importance of community in understanding the nature of God. Evidently the church in Corinth was still struggling with this concept, and the Apostle Paul found it necessary to draw a picture of the church as a body dependent upon all of its parts working together. We still wrestle with this principle, even in our churches.

We are challenged to ask ourselves what sort of neighbours we are to the God who delights to live in our neighbourhood. And we must ask what sort of neighbours we are to one another – whether we can come to grips with God’s grace being freely bestowed upon everyone, not just the ones we believe should be chosen.

When the temple was being restored by Nehemiah in Jerusalem after exile, a copy of the Torah was found and read to the people – and it made them weep. Does the reading of scripture, especially Jesus’ generosity of love, stir any emotion or action in us? We have a neighbour who likes to live among us, and who would like us to show appreciation by demonstrating that we actually like to live amongst one another – without exceptions!

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