Nehemiah 8: 1-3, 5-6, 8-10. Knowledge of the Bible and God's purposes often fall into decline and get ignored. It was ever thus. Here the scribe Ezra confronts the Jewish people with the scriptures "with interpretation" to inspire the people again circa 6th century B.C.
1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a. Superb description of the universal church as "the body of Christ" with particular emphasis on the profound equality between the constituent members and their gifts.
Luke 4: 14-21. Jesus in effect testifies that He is the Messiah, by quoting the prophesy from Isaiah and boldly proclaiming that it refers to Himself!
People’s knowledge and acquaintance with the word of God in the Bible goes through phases of sometimes being well known and it sometimes becomes lost and discarded.
The scene in the 6th century BC described in the book of Nehemiah is one such scene after the exile when all the people were gathered together to hear not only the raw word of God but also an interpretation of it.
The Bible has always needed interpreting because although God’s word is unchanging, how it is interpreted and lived and believed, and applied changes continually.
In Western Europe as a whole we are living through a period again when the Bible has been largely discarded, little known, read or understood.
It is also subject to a lot of misinterpretation as well by fundamentalists.
Even within the church, people often only have a passing acquaintance with the main underlying themes of love and redemption and the kingdom of God.
We get by on knowing a few favourite stories that we learned as children and our faith runs the distinct risk that we lose our bearings quite easily when we get buffeted by the storms of life.
Mostly it is no-one’s fault as it is very difficult to get good instruction. It is an area I intend to work on over the coming years.
The central message that comes through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians spells out the nature of the church – the universal body of people who make up worldwide Christianity, of which we are a local example.
He uses the imagery of a human body to describe that we are all equal members within that body but with particular gifts and roles allotted to us.
Paul is very keen to assert that for example, my role as the preacher and interpreter of scripture, while necessary and having a distinct charism within the body of Christ, I am not more loved or indeed necessary than the person who makes the tea after services, or serves at the altar, or gives out the books, or visits an ill person in hospital, or is involved in any of the hundreds of ministries that we get involved in.
We are all equally necessary and equally loved.
We are a community so close that we are likened to a body.
Because we are guided by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we are known not just as any old body but known as the “body of Christ”.
No-one can say to another church member “I have no need of you”
Don’t dismiss or disparage anyone for whom Jesus saw fit to die.
Of course, that sentiment is extended to all humanity because Jesus died on behalf of the entire world without exception.
Jesus was fully conscious of his identity and purpose. He read the scroll handed to Him in the Synagogue about an “anointed” one and applied that term to Himself.
In Hebrew anointed is translated as “Messiah”, and in Greek , “Christ”.
To fulfil the work He started, our mission is to preach good news to the poor in Spirit, release to those kept prisoner by fear, doubt, cynicism, suffering and the fear of death, and to free people from both mental and physical slavery.
As members of His body, that is our task, to bring in the kingdom of God where those things become realities.