Reflection for Quinquagesima (Sunday before Lent) 2021

You Raise Me Up

The content of this Reflection is a summary of the contributions of church members who shared insights and ideas during the Zoom Study Time in the second week of February.

A Gospel Reading from Luke 4.16-22

“16 Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath. And when He stood up to read, 17 the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. Unrolling it, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 20 Then He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him, 21 and He began by saying, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of Him and marveled at the gracious words that came from His lips. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” they asked.”

It Looks a Bit like a Church – but it’s not!

It’s a synagogue – in fact, it’s the old Spanish and Portuguese synagogue on Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester; not far from Victoria Station.  (The family of the singer Elkie Brooks attended this one)    The man is standing on a platform called the Bima.  He’s reading from a Hebrew scroll which lives in the huge cupboard, called the Holy Ark or Aron Qodesh.  It’s top centre on this picture.  Little  has changed since Jesus spoke in the Nazareth Synagogue in about 28 AD!

The Reading from the Isaiah Scroll

In Study Time this week, the groups discussed the  scope of Jesus’ message, and decided that we also are the poor, captives, blind and oppressed!  So many people today feel a sense of emptiness; a sense of being trapped in a life that they had never planned; having no insight into what life should really be, and, for many, that feeling of being hemmed in by others.   Here, Jesus, declares Himself the ultimate rescuer. The One to pick us up, and carry us from darkness into His own Kingdom. In the Study Time, others suggested that the Lord has also called us to be co-workers in the same rescue mission.  Others added that He can also equip us for the job!

The Puzzled People of Nazareth

As  the villagers of Nazareth listened to Jesus, they were fascinated by the depth of His message; the expressiveness oh His words; and His assurance that these words were actually coming to life there and then.  They already knew Him – He was Yeshua bar-Yusef, the Son of Joseph.  Both He and Joseph were simple builders – so where was Jesus getting this power and authority from?

“Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”

A Strange Lesson from School

My secondary school had its own swimming baths.  In the sixth form, because we still had to do PE, I opted to learn about Kayaks in the school pool.  Our teacher was an ex-Royal Navy PT instructor.  On one occasion, he told us to sink out kayaks in the deep end of the pool.  We all then climbed out and looked down at the boats eight feet below the surface.

Mr. Starkey then told us to work with a partner to refloat a kayak.  We dived in, swam down, and taking an end each, tried to raise the boat.  It was impossible.  It seemed to weigh a ton!

The instructor called us together and taught us the method.  We were to take a big breath, dive in, turn the kayak cockpit down, then to breath into it.  After several trips to the bottom, our kayak began to stir, raising an inch. We continued, and surprisingly soon, the kayak was floating on the surface!

Many years later, this became a picture of how the Holy Ghost seemed to be working in me.  Even when I was inundated and incapacitated, the Spirit would come and breathe into me, again and again.  In this way, He raised me up, and enabled me to be much more than my DNA, my upbringing, my education, and my professional training had ever prepared me for – I was afloat and available for God to use me.

Jesus promised glorious rescue – where was Jesus getting this power and authority from………?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me…..”

Luke isn’t simply giving us an account of that day in the Nazareth synagogue.  In some way, he seems to be saying: study the Lord Jesus, because in many ways, the pattern and direction of His life will be yours – even the anointing with the Holy Ghost!

The Core of Quinquagesima – The Collect in the Book of Common Prayer

“O LORD, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth: Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee: Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”

This ancient prayer encourages us to call on the Lord for the power of the Holy Ghost, the source of love, peace, and everything we need to be a blessing to others.  He will give us the strength to go beyond anything we could ever have imagined.

This is the stirring music we finished this week’s Study Time with…… You Raise Me Up

As we contemplate the diverse and extensive needs of all those around us, whom we love, may the Lord Jesus anoint us, that we, like Him, may be equipped with that most excellent gift of love.  May we cry to the Lord:

“You raise me up to more than I can be!”