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Anointed to preach

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This is the Gospel of Christ.Praise be to thee O Christ, for this thy Holy Gospel.    
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer.  AMEN.  
Today is the day that many churches across the world mark as Bible Sunday.  As a church we support the Bible Society, which promotes this day and calls upon us to respond in two ways.    
Firstly, we are encouraged to support the main work of the Bible Society, which enables the spread of bibles to other parts of the world.  This means translating, printing and shipping bibles to places where they are not available freely, if at all. (1)  
This is tremendously important work.  Having access to the scriptures in your own language means that people can begin to understand God's love for them and his plan for their life.  Having the Bible in your language, shows that God's love is for you too, and millions of people have yet to hear that message and to understand it.    
This is not always easy work.  There are many countries that restrict availability of the Bible.  It is banned, and confiscated as dangerous contraband.  Those who have one hold it secretly and pass it from hand to hand, eagerly reading and discussing it    
In this country, I think we can grow blasé to the effect the Bible can have.  It’s that book on the shelf, the one from Aunt Maud.  It’s that book they read in church.  It’s that modern translation that is not like when we were young.  It’s that book that sounds nice, but we can’t really understand.    
But it’s dynamite!  It’s freedom.  It’s liberation.    
It always was.  Down the centuries it has been banned by opponents, and even sometimes by the church.  For hundreds of years it was kept only in Latin, with translations into the vernacular being banned.    
But it was dynamite from the very start, because it is God's Word.  Many a prophet in the Old Testament was cruelly treated or killed because of the words he spoke.  Those words were written down for future generations to learn from.  Often timeless, the messages contained within were heard fresh by each generation.    
But if Old Testament prophecy was challenging, then the New Testament blew people away.  Jesus unlocked the scriptures of old, and fulfilled so much of what had been promised in those scriptures.    
Today's New Testament reading is a perfect example of that.  Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, words that must have seemed somewhat empty until that day.  But Jesus brought them alive.  God's spirit was now at work in Jesus, and would be passed on to his church.  Men and women were being anointed to pass on this good news.    
It was indeed radical -- far more than we realise at first reading.  Good news to the poor; freedom for the prisoners; recovery of sight; released from oppression.  No wonder the Bible is suppressed in totalitarian Communist countries, where the state rules everything.    
But the surprise is that it was just as subversive in the time of Jesus.  Surely the Jews would welcome this news.  Yet as soon as Jesus finished speaking the crowd drove him out of the synagogue and took him to the edge of a cliff to push him off.     
We mustn't forget how radical the idea of freedom is.    
I said that we should respond to Bible Sunday in two ways, and the first way was to help to distribute Bibles in other parts of the world.  But the second way is that we need to pay fresh attention to scripture ourselves.  We need to listen to that radical message for ourselves.    
Freedom for prisoners doesn't only mean politically subversive people living under oppressive regimes.  It is so much more.    
It means freedom from all the things that oppress us.  It means freedom from the straitjackets that we place on ourselves.  It means freedom from having to conform to the world's expectations.  It means freedom from our addictions and habits.    
It means freedom from guilt.  It means freedom from the oppression of sin.    
It even means freedom from poverty for the whole world, if we let it mean that.    
If we preach this message today, we would still be pushed over a cliff, as Jesus nearly was.  This sort of freedom, freedom to live as God always intended us to live, frees us from the controls that the world would put on us, to keep us bound in an impossible prison.    
Freedom is still radical, and the message of freedom needs to be preached in every country, including this one.  We can start by living in that freedom for ourselves, and as we read Scripture, so we open the locks that bound us.  As we practice Scripture, we open the locks that bind other people.    
This is the year of the Lord's favour, time to enjoy God's kingdom on earth accept others free to do the same.    
Lord God, pour out your Spirit upon us, and plant your word within us.  Guide our reading of Scripture, our learning and our living in freedom. Amen  


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