Come Holy Spirit fill us with your wisdom to hear and see, may we being inspired by your Holy Word, be moved to service in love – in the name of God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen
The word “significant” suggests something is important, conveys meaning and demands attention.
Today, this “Bible Sunday”, we are going to consider three main points:
A significant occasion – in the life of Jesus
A significant book – that is, the Bible
A significant challenge – for us on Bible Sunday
This significant occasion was a landmark event in Jesus’ life and it happened at a significant place
Nazareth was His home town, where He and His family lived and worked.
Jesus had run the family carpentry business after the death of Joseph.
Home is the hardest place to live out your faith – and prophets never get much respect in their own neighbourhood – as Jesus acknowledges in Luke 4:24
Luke places it at the start of Jesus’ public ministry, following on from His baptism and the temptations in the desert. – It was a significant time for the new teachings of this Rabbi
The link with the Holy Spirit, coming upon Jesus at His baptism, found in the previous chapter (Luke 3.21-22)
Then Leading Him into the wilderness (Luke 4.1-2)
And now the claim that the Spirit of the Lord has anointed Him to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4.18) is not accidental.
By placing this at the start of his public ministry, Luke intends his readers to understand that Jesus had come with a mission.
The reading from Isaiah 61:1-2 (with a phrase added from Isaiah 58.6) is used by Jesus to declare His program. And it is a significant message
It has been called the Nazareth manifesto, as it outlines His mission.
A few weeks ago, Ontario held a Provincial Election in which political parties published ad's which:
- explained what they would do if elected
- promised their program
- set out their agenda
Political parties usually have a slogan that captures the heart of their campaign.
Perhaps an enterprising PR firm would look at this quote from Isaiah and suggest… ‘Freedom for all’… as a summary of Jesus’ message.
The change in the congregation’s attitude to Jesus is astonishing. One might say it was a significant reaction
They move from amazement (4.22) to anger (4.28) in the space of a few verses.
And their anger was such that they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff (4.29)! (for those that have either read ahead or know this story)
What caused such a reaction?
It would seem that it was Jesus’ suggestion that God was equally concerned about non-Jews was what prompted their fury.
The Jews of Jesus’ generation wanted a Messiah for themselves who would challenge the Roman occupation and bring freedom and blessing to the Jewish nation, as God’s chosen people.
This Scripture reading reminds us that God’s plan is that: through His written Word people might be set free. It was a significant lesson
This is not confined to one specific group – this message of hope is for all people everywhere.
We must avoid the mistakes the people of Nazareth made by seeing Scripture as something for our personal blessing while being closed to the needs of others.
We should also avoid spiritualizing these verses simply to mean people who are spiritually poor, blind and imprisoned.
The Bible addresses the whole person and this includes their moral, physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
It also addresses national and global issues of justice and oppression.
God’s written Word spells freedom in the broadest sense of the word…
A young couple went on a honeymoon and due to a flight delay arrived at their hotel in the middle of the night.
In the morning they complained to the manager that their room was ridiculously small, had no windows and was furnished by a single bed settee.
They’d booked a honeymoon suite but been given a room the size of a walk-in closet.
The manager accompanied them upstairs and asked if they had noticed the double doors, which the couple assumed was the closet.
He opened the doors to reveal a sumptuous room complete with four-poster bed, balcony with a sea view, flowers and a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket.
Mr. and Mrs. Glum had spent their wedding night in the foyer outside the best suite in the hotel!
Psalm 119 reminds us to enter into all that God has for us through the Bible and not to be content with staying in the foyer:
‘Your teachings are wonderful, and I respect them all. Understanding your word brings light to the minds of ordinary people. I honestly want to know everything you teach’. (Psalm 119.129–131)
Our second main point for today is that the Bible is a significant book
The good news of Jesus Christ comes to us through the pages of the Bible.
The Nazareth manifesto (taken from Isaiah’s prophecy) represents the unveiling of Jesus’ program.
This reminds us of the power of God’s written Word to:
- bring good news to poor people (verse 18)
- set the imprisoned free (verse 18)
- give sight to those who can’t see (verse 18)
- release the oppressed (verse 18)
Jesus announces a period of God’s favour (verse 19) when all (irrespective of race, status or gender) can receive this liberating good news.
Some note the quote from Isaiah 61 omits an important phrase: ‘…and the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isaiah 61:2).
Is this an indication that Jesus is announcing a period of opportunity (‘the year of the Lord’s favour’) before ‘He will come to judge the living and the dead’, as we recite in the Apostles’ Creed?
This message that spells freedom comes to us through the pages of the Bible.
The Bible has been banned, burned and written off and yet survives because it is the written Word of God.
Our reading of it reminds us: ‘Your teachings are wonderful, and I respect them all’ (Psalm 119.129, CEV).
Do we treat this book with that kind of respect?
Do we acknowledge that ‘understanding Your word brings light to the minds of ordinary people’ (Psalm 119.130, CEV) as Psalm 119 states?
And can we pray the same prayer as the psalmist who wrote:
“I honestly want to know everything you teach” (Psalm 119.131, CEV)
The final Key point for today is that our Lord provides us with a significant challenge
Today is Bible Sunday and along with other Christians meeting across Canada we are reminded of the challenges that God’s people face.
The challenges come to us in various ways. The Bible needs to be Read, Explained, Understood, Modelled and Shared
The Bible needs to be Read
It needs to be read personally – not just when we are in church
An if you are need of ways to fulfill that, you can grab one of our daily devotional booklets found in the Narthex
Or you can Sign-up for the Daily Bible reading guide online at www.biblesociety.ca – where you can get a huge variety of resources – even get a daily reading emailed right to your inbox (which is something that I find helpful in my personal daily devotionals
Or if you would like a copy of the Bible, please speak to me after the service as I have some copies that I would be most happy to give you
The Bible needs to be Explained
Bible Sunday reminds us of the importance of praying for those who teach and write about the message for Scripture.
In our own congregation, here at Farringdon, we have two groups that meet weekly
We have our Ladies that meet in the Parlour on Tuesday evenings at 7pm
And we have a daytime group that meets Tuesday mornings at 10am
Both groups are open to newcomers at anytime
We read, discuss and explore commentary on the upcoming Sunday’s readings
Everyone that attends can tell you how they grow deeper in their understanding both during Bible Study and then subsequently Sunday morning resonates more profoundly
If you want a better understanding of what we do – speak with Roger, Mavis, Shirley, Ross, Arlene, Marion, Kelly, Cyndy, Janet, Susan,Wendy, Janice, Marilyn or Jody
Then there are those who carry a big responsibility in teaching children and young people to understand and apply the Bible.
In the world Church we remember those who are called to preach and teach the message of the Gospel.
Let us remember those called to these responsibilities and recall the words of Paul:
‘How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord?
The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.’ (Romans 10.14-15, CEV)
The Bible needs to be Understood
Psalm 119 says: ‘Understanding your word brings light to the minds of ordinary people’ (Psalm 119.130)
This reminds us of another significant challenge we face.
We need the work of the Holy Spirit to interpret and apply the words of Scripture.
As Jesus declared:
‘I have told you these things while I am still with you. But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.’ (John 14.24-26, CEV)
We are called to pray for people from all walks of life and discover the liberating power of God’s written Word.
The Bible needs to be Modelled
Christian truth is to be lived out by those who claim to believe it.
We are challenged to be people of the Book.
And on this Bible Sunday we are reminded that we may be the only Bible people our circle of contacts may ever meet.
Listen to some wise words from Graham Tomlin:
‘…unless there is something about church, or Christians, or Christian faith that intrigues, provokes or entices, then all the evangelism in the world will fall on deaf ears.
If churches cannot convey a sense of ‘reality’ then all our ‘truth’ will count for nothing.
Unless someone wants to hear, there’s no point shouting louder.
Churches need to become proactive arresting places which make the searcher, the casual visitor, want to come back for more.’ (Graham Tomlin, Provocative Church SPCK, 2002, pp.10–11)
The Bible needs to be Shared
There are millions who do not have the Bible (or even part of it) in their own language.
We have the opportunity to put the liberating words of Scripture into people’s hands (and in some cases their ears)
Our Mission committee, on your behalf, has for years supported the Canadian Bible Society financially to support the vital work of the Bible translation around the world.
During World War Two, American troops invaded the Japanese island, Okinawa.
They found it in a state of turmoil with social and moral collapse.
Advancing across the island they entered a village named Shimbakuku and found a community that was orderly and peaceful.
The surrounding fields were well cared for and the village was a model of order in total contrast to the squalor they had seen elsewhere.
An elderly man told the commander that 30 years earlier a missionary had visited the village en route to mainland Japan.
He didn’t stay long – but as a result of his visit two men became Christians.
He taught them some hymns and prayers and left them with a copy of the Bible in Japanese.
He urged them to study this book as it would help them and their community.
With no further teaching or Christian influence for three decades, these two men saw their village transformed.
When the troops arrived they found no drunkenness, divorce, brothels or even a jail!
Shimbakuku was an ordered community surrounded by chaos, crime and fear in similar villages.
A war correspondent, Clarence Hall, reported the story in his field reports.
He quoted his driver who witnessed the village first hand:
‘So this is what comes out of only a Bible and two old men who want to live like Jesus!
Maybe we’re using the wrong kind of weapons to change the world.’
The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because, in part, they were pre-occupied with their personal dreams.
Yet we are reminded that this message of liberation is for the world.
What part can we play in this?
We can help other experience the Bible to be Read, Explained, Understood, Modelled and Shared
Today we thank God for the Book that spells freedom.
How will we respond to the significant challenges it poses? 
 www.biblesociety.ca/biblesunday - This sermon is written by Rev. Ian Coffey. Ian is the Director of Leadership Training at Moorlands College, Dorset, England.