So today is a day to celebrate: we’re celebrating Esmae’s baptism into the church, and I know we’re celebrating Ella-Rose’s second birthday , too. It’s a day to give thanks to God for beautiful daughters and wonderful friends, and all the good things God gives us in life. It’s a day to be with other people, a day to think about the needs of others, and a day to recognise that God promises us strength to help us be our best selves.
We heard the bit of Luke’s gospel where he tells us the story of Jesus going back to his home town of Nazareth, to start teaching and healing. It should be a day of great celebration – local boy makes good. Jesus reads the bit of the book of Isaiah which says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has sent me to being good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed”.
Jesus is setting out his stall – God has sent him to tell everyone the good news of God’s love and to make the world a better place.
We didn’t hear the end of the story. You might imagine that the people of Nazareth would be pleased – Jesus has come to do good things, to tell them good news, and he’s going to spend the rest of his life helping other people. But instead of starting the party, the people of Nazareth grab Jesus and almost push him off a cliff.
On this occasion, Jesus just walks through the crowd and leaves them alone – but we know that in the end, after only 3 years of his teaching and healing, Jesus will be killed on a cross.
So what does Jesus say that gets people so angry at him?
He tells them that God’s love is there for them when life is tough – but they will need to be honest about when they need God’s love.
Jesus declares that’s there’s
Good news - for the poor
Recovery of sight – for the blind
Release – for the captive
Freedom – for the oppressed.
So God is with us and blesses us on a day of celebration like this. But Jesus says that we need to be ready to see that God’s love is there for us when we need it most – when life it tough, when we’re ready to admit our mistakes, when we’re at our lowest & feel trapped.
Perhaps Jesus’ neighbours were wanting to hear their local boy say that Nazareth was so special that God had come to be with them. They wanted a feel-good message. But instead what they get is a message for when they don’t feel good. Jesus tells them that God is with those who need him most – God is specially with those who are ready to admit they haven’t got life sorted out yet.
And so that is good news for Esmae – God’s love is there for her whenever she needs it in life, in all the ups and downs. But it’s good news for all of us. God’s love is here for you.
If you’re ready to admit you need help, ready to ask for more strength, ready to ask God for love, you are welcome to come and eat the bread & drink the wine of communion.
Communion reminds us of the love of God shown in Jesus: a love so great that Jesus was prepared to die for us, and a love so great that he came back from death to live forever.
This is a love which is always there, always offered, and always gives strength.
In our celebration and in our need. Amen.