“..for all the people were in tears as they listened to the words of the Law..” ..tears of joy & gratitude, then & now, at just how near we feel to our God? ..or of disappointment remorse shame at the distance we have placed between him & us? well be surprised & heartened.. it is the latter that gives us the special living relationship with our God..we are “beloved of God”..his pen name..his nick-name for us..”beloved of God”.. ..he sent Jesus not to congratulate any sense, any nonsense, of self success but to redeem our individual failure..my individual failure.. which is why our tears here tonight/ this morning, each of us now so near to God, are warm tears not cold tears..
“..for the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law” ; Lord have mercy “..eat drink, send a portion to those who have nothing prepared..” ; Christ have mercy “..do not be sad ; the joy of the Lord is your stronghold..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..many of you will know of “Banksy” graffiti artist whose latest work on side of garage in Port Talbot sold for over £100,000..some of you will know of “the special one” who in recent weeks has fallen from grace, & given his demeanour could be renamed “the sour one” they are in good company..in gospel we are introduced to Theophilus a pseudonym “beloved of God” he/she is clearly an influential person for Luke to offer to write his gospel & dedicated it to them..incognito perhaps to protect a confessing Christian from perils of persecution, or a sympathetic official from embarrassment of being associated with a suspect dodgy movement called Christianity..Luke keen to set record straight & present facts as he knew them..a true story of emerging life of Jesus..one among many.. this one from Nazareth or Ampleforth..practising Jew well used to being minister of word in his home village temple, reading what was directed 3rd Sun Ordinary Time Yr C & in it he found his favourite text from Isaiah..& what pray is your favourite quotation from the Bible ?..if you could graffiti it onto wall of Parish Hall under cover of darkness tonight what would it say?..& what would it say of the passion in your discipleship to risk it?..in monastery we’ve been doing some homework in recent wks & each of us invited to make a sentence of contribution anonymously..group tasked to summarise contributions took soundbites/phrases..one of monks immediately said “that’s from Bede” my graffiti ..the sour one or the special one?..you will all have an opinion..for Jesus’ Luke his homily on passage in Isaiah amounted to huge challenge to me..one sentence!..“this text is being fulfilled today even as you listen” I spend 7/8hrs week on homily, trying to draw up an account of events that have been taking place among us in this faith family as they were handed down/ told to me by those of you who are eyewitnesses & ministers of the word.. you who were there to see it happen, or heard of it & then spoke convincingly & heart- warmingly of it to others..& each weekend I share it with you Theophilus ; you “beloved of God” & believe me ”beloved of Bede”..”I have decided to write an ordered account for you” Luke's meticulous care to bring together all that is best & true into one gospel of very good news “the whole truth” then our editor in Catholicism “the special one” cuts & pastes it..notice he gives us 4v Ch 1; leaves out all Ch 2&3 & shares only 7v Ch 4..what did he leave out & why?..feels a bit like red Brexit battle bus &its graffiti “£350m a week for NHS”..remember? & is it true..was it true?..& having whet your appetite for edited out bits, I leave you to look it up in your bible, tonight, before “Call the Midwife”; a fine & appropriate title for you & I in these still fresh days of new year; you & I midwives..we were there just a month ago at the manger were we not?.. not just to spectate but to help bring to birth child Jesus; we each had a role in bringing real Christmas to birth & to life didn’t we?..remember?..& was it true & is it true?..& with that experience blessing & responsibility, we are commissioned to go out from here onto front line, & help others who are “with child”, whose lives radiate from within an expectancy in faith belief & spirituality, a first timer or a fourth timer, each time it is new & different “the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me” three “me’s” ; inspired anointed & sent..24 yrs ago on retreat in Fort Augustus Abbey..an afternoon walk high onto mountains & a spectacular view 20 miles down Loch Ness..I breathed & prayed in moment..turned to leave & on rock face someone had been before me..in white paint, in letters as tall as me, they’d graffitied a message “Christ is alive”..an inspired vandal..20 yrs ago as PP Bamber Bridge visiting stalwart of parish in hospital dying of cancer..I’d visit last thing at night; his wife there throughout..his solace came in prayer & action “Anne, please cream my feet” a sacred moment of relief/healing & anointing “a beloved of God”..37 yrs ago family of husband wife five girls saw graphic images of a famine on BBC news..at end sat prayed & decided to help..to sell their one luxury; a caravan..next day Dad took it to dealer, negotiated sale, bought 7 berth tent instead & took £3000 balance to bank & asked it be sent to the disaster relief fund..”fulfilled today as you listen; & he sat down” [ 3rd Sun Yr C Lk 1;1-4;4;14-21]