‘Are we willing to hear?’ – 23rd January 2022 – 3rd Sunday of Epiphany – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

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22 01 23 3rd Sunday of Epiphany Eucharist

22 01 23 3rd Sunday of Epiphany Eucharist

The Readings

1 Corinthians 12. 12 - 31a

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.


Luke 4. 14 - 21

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org


The Sermon
By Kath, Reader at St Mary's

Well here we are on Sunday morning and thankfully, I’ve actually got a sermon to share with you. Initially I set out to write it on Tuesday evening; I like to leave a day or so between a first and final draft if possible so I’m critiquing what I’ve written from a slightly fresher perspective. To begin with, I didn’t foresee any particular difficulties as I’d been mulling over some ideas during the previous few days, so with the electronic communication device fully charged, I settled down to write. And nothing came! I tried several times to focus and compose, but nothing came. I started sentences several times but had to scrub them because they weren’t right. For some reason I couldn’t even bring to mind the ideas I’d been thinking about that had seemed so promising. Eventually, after about three hours I gave it up as a bad job and hoped for better success next time, confident that God would give me the words, as he always has, but being human, it was a bit worrying. Then I remembered something Melanie, our former vicar used to say, “If something feels forced then it’s probably not right”. With that in mind, the following morning I went back to the reading from Luke and just as I was considering ditching it in favour of the one from Corinthians, which has a more obvious message, something made me stay with Luke. As I read, suddenly parts of it started to stand out and I began to realise why my first ideas were not quite working out.

The passage is part of a story I’m familiar with; Jesus returning to his hometown, going to the synagogue and reading out a passage from the prophet Isaiah, but I couldn’t help wondering why our reading stopped in such an odd place; effectively half way through this particular story. Then I realised how this emphasised what Jesus was saying to the congregation after he sat down and perhaps as they looked at him expectantly, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. The question that came to my mind was, how willing were these people to actually hear what he was saying? If we read on we see that at first Jesus is well regarded but as soon as he starts to say something that they don’t like, the people turn on him and probably intend to kill him which is pretty extreme. This set me thinking in a wider context, how willing are any of us to hear when the message or the person delivering it are not to our liking? I’m sure we wouldn’t do them harm, after all we’re reasonable people aren’t we, but there are all too many examples in the news on a daily basis where some people and groups are determined to punish and even kill others with whom they do not see eye to eye. I’ve watched and listened to many programmes where people from different view points are totally unwilling to listen or to hear what each other have to say or to evidence that casts doubt or contradicts what they believe. They are so invested in their belief that they seem almost unable to hear anything that might challenge it. This can happen in relation to just about anything including matters of religious faith, politics, work, money, climate change, relationships and life in general. But what does it achieve? Certainly nothing good or worthwhile and probably a lot that is damaging and diminishing to everyone’s quality of life including their own.

It’s tempting and maybe all too easy to want to occupy the moral or intellectual high ground and to feel angry and frustrated with people when they behave in this way, to see them as ignorant, bigoted, bad or just plain stupid and dig in our own heels but that would put us in danger of being self righteous and judgemental and these are not desirable qualities in anyone. If we’re to make any progress surely we have to be willing to listen to and hear what others have to say in order to understand why they think as they do. Perhaps if we do this, they will pay us the same courtesy and truly listen to us. Instead of getting impatient, look upon taking the time and trouble to hear properly as an opportunity to broaden and deepen our understanding and of finding friends rather than enemies. We may even find ourselves having a change of heart or mind which is a strength not a weakness when it happens for the right reasons. Bear in mind, no one likes being misunderstood and how many disputes and wars start with misunderstandings followed by an unwillingness to listen again to what the other party is trying to say.

When it comes to our faith and our relationship with God, we need to ask ourselves how willing we are to hear when he calls and to find the courage to act upon it. Speaking from my own experience I know that it isn’t always easy or convenient to say yes but it is richly rewarding in many ways, even if our material world may not set much store by these. Similarly with scripture, hearing what it has to say to us often requires effort to go beyond superficial impressions and always requires openness of our hearts and minds but again it is richly rewarding as it can guide us in all aspects of our daily lives. Life and faith are not separate!

Going back to where I started, with my attempts to write this sermon. I’m glad I didn’t just force myself to go on with my first ideas. I’m glad that I took the trouble to hear the message in Luke’s Gospel and change direction because I learned a lot from it. I hope you found it useful too.

The Prayers
Prepared by Joe.

With thankful hearts we bring our prayers to our
heavenly Father.

We pray for the Church of Christ, for Bishop Pete and Bishop
Sophie, our Archbishops Justin and Stephen, all here who lead us
in worship and prayer, and all those whose time and talents are
given to St Mary’s, St John’s and St Mark’s. All of us are part of
the body of Christ; may we all find our particular gifts within the
body, and may we all show love and respect to all part of the
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for all those in authority, and those who have influence
in the world, that their power and influence be used
compassionately for the good of all. Bring clarity of thought and
vision to those who make and implement policy. We pray that all
leaders value truth, justice and compassion above personal
power and pleasure. At this time we particularly pray for a
peaceful resolution of the tensions around Ukraine.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for our community here in Walkley, and for the city of
Sheffield, and for our neighbours and friends. As the restrictions
of the last 2 years gradually disappear, help us to remember
those whose health means that they still must take special care.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for the aged and infirm, and those sick in mind, body or
spirit, those that need your grace and blessing. We pray that
God’s power and spirit will strengthen them and bring them the
healing and peace that belong to Christ’s kingdom.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

We pray for those currently close to death, and those
accompanying them on this final part of their Earthly journey.
We pray for those who have died, recently and in the past, and
those who mourn. We particularly remember Glenda Burchell,
recently departed and faithful to God, and pray for her family.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

By name, we bring Lenny before you in our prayers.
Finally, Lord, we silently bring before you those special to us, and
also those issues and concerns that we have in our own lives.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Rejoicing in the communion of Mary, Mark, John and of all the
Saints, let us commend ourselves, and one another, and all our
life, to God. Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of
your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.