This week only at St Stephen’s (because of the ice on Charlcombe Lane) I will preach on the Gospel of Luke 4.21-30. It’s the passage straight after what is called ‘Jesus’ first sermon’, which was last week (one of my favourite passages, Luke 4.14-21). This Sunday is usually celebrated as Candlemas, or the Presentation in the Temple – which has its own readings, so it’s great to have the chance to look at this follow-on passage. Jesus begins the narrative with the congregation in the temple being amazed at his wisdom, but within a few short verses it is baying for his blood. What has he done? Just telling a couple of stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) has put him in deep water.

Next week Jane will preach on the miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5.1-11) in which the disciples catch nothing until Jesus tells them to go out into … deep water. Jane is still going through the process that will lead to the possibility of her being selected to train for ministry as a priest. She is progressing well along this path of excitement and trepidation, so do continue to pray for her.

Luke is a supreme storyteller: if we could read and understand the original text we would marvel at his skilful use of language and scintillating narrative and imagery. Even so, we can trust his writing, and seek to understand his use of story in the context in which we find ourselves. Having just finished welcoming the new-born king into the world, we have but a few weeks before we start to immerse ourselves in his passion, death and resurrection – so this is a key time to reflect on what his life on earth means to us. Luke challenges us to look outside our usual expectations and preconceptions about Christ, to venture into deep water. This is both dangerous and adventurous and, as with all honest reflections on scripture, deeply rewarding. Jesus calls us to follow him into his way of living with no hard or soft borders, radical, loving, and full of possibility. And how does our response lead us to be – in our own life, in the church and in the world? So much to learn, such wisdom to draw on, and fullness to live.

Here are the two Gospel passages so that you can look at them before you hear the sermons. In the first, the italics are last week’s passage.

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.’ 
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 
Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Next week …

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Hope you can get to hear the sermons.

Philip