Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!


Septuagesima
January 29, 2013, 5:25 pm
Filed under: Sermons

A sermon preached at All Saints, Clifton, Sunday January 27th 2013

“God our creator, who in the beginning commanded the light to shine out of darkness.” We have just prayed these words in the Collect; appropriately enough, because (whatever the numbering of Sundays in our modern lectionaries) this is the third Sunday before Lent, anciently called Septuagesima, and the Old Testament Lesson at Mattins used to be the story of Creation in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… and God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear how, at the beginning of his public ministry, our Lord visited Nazareth and was asked to read the Lesson at Synagogue on the Sabbath day. The passage was from Isaiah, where the prophet says that he has been sent in the Spirit of the Lord to bring good news to the poor, and recovery of sight to the blind. At the end of the reading he sat down- the usual way in which teaching was given in the synagogue- and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled.” A new light was to shine out in the world, a spiritual light, which would enlighten the minds of those who were prepared to receive it. Sight, and hearing: “The eyes of all were fixed on him… This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” We see the Light by listening to the Word.

With an early Easter this year, the foreshadowing of Lent gets mixed up with the after-echoes of Christmas. Next Sunday was shall be keeping Candlemas, the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, forty days after his birth. This too is a feast of light, taking up the words of Simeon in the Nunc Dimittis: “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” The old theologians spoke of God having two books, the Book of the Scriptures and the Book of Creation. We might say there are two Lights, that of natural reason and that of revelation. Even the Book of Creation, read by the light of natural reason, can teach us something of the intentions of God. The Book of the Scriptures, read by the light of faith, teaches us far more.

God’s Word is good news for the poor; liberty to captives, sight to the blind, healing to the sick and new life for the spiritually dead. We must welcome that news, and let it have its full effect in us. But then we must in turn become proclaimers of that same news to other people. In the Collect we prayed “that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, shine into the hearts of all your people, and reveal the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.” That will only happen if people can see it effective in us. That is why, in the Postcommunion prayer, we shall ask God to help us so to live out our days that we may be signs of his wonders in the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He also said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Let us shine out.

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