From Yes Minister:
Jim Hacker: The department prepared this. “No loss of amenity” it says.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, Minister, not no loss of amenity; no *significant* loss of amenity.
Jim Hacker: Well, same thing.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: On the contrary, there is all the difference in the world. Almost anything can be attacked as a loss of amenity, and almost anything can be defended as not a significant loss of amenity, which seems to signify that one should appreciate the significance of significant.
Significant is the word that describes our reading from Luke’s gospel, and how we might respond to that:
A significant occasion in the life of Jesus
A significant book, that is, the Bible
A significant challenge for us today.
A significant occasion
This is the time and this is place where Jesus steps up to the lectern and takes the scroll and preaches. This is a key moment in his life. A significant occasion.
This significant occasion happens in a significant place. Nazareth was Jesus’ home town, where he and his family lived and worked. Jesus had run the family carpentry business after the death of Joseph. And here he is, where they’ve all known him since he was knee high to a grasshopper, daring to preach in their synagogue.
And it’s also a significant time. Luke places this story at the start of Jesus’ public ministry, intending his readers to understand that Jesus had come with a mission.
Jesus is reading from Isaiah, to declare his mission. It’s not any old stuff, but a serious offering of what he’s about. A significant message.
And the response from the congregation can only be described as a significant reaction. If you read on a few verses, you’d have discovered that they were so cross they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff!
This reading from the Bible, told to us in a different part of the Bible, is clearly a very significant occasion.
I’d also suggest to you that the Bible is a significant book. Through it we learn of Jesus announcing of the Good News. He offers that well known list:
- bring good news to poor people
- set the imprisoned free
- give sight to those who can’t see
- release the oppressed
I suppose you might describe this as all being about good news which sets people free. I want to suggest to you that Good News which sets people is the message of the Bible. Our reading from Psalm 119 reminds us that God’s Word brings light to the minds of ordinary people. A significant book.
And this significant book we encounter on a significant occasion, and it brings us a significant challenge.
A significant challenge
The Bible needs to be read, and read personally, not just kidding ourselves we read it when we half listen to it being read in church. Do you own a Bible, and when did you last open it and read it? A prison visitor I know regularly offers copies of the New Testament to those who are interested. One prisoner asked for a copy as he thought the thin paper would make excellent roll-up material for his cigarettes, but the man felt guilty about treating the Bible like this, and so promised himself he would read a page before using it to make a cigarette. The prison visitor reports that the man smoked his way through Matthew and Mark and was mid-way through the Gospel of John when he came to a personal faith in Christ.
The Bible needs to be explained. In this church several of us spend time each week preparing worship, and teaching children and young people. As we heard in our reading from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome:
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. The Bible needs to be explained.
The Bible needs to be understood. Our reading from Psalm 119 reminded us that understanding your word brings light to the minds of ordinary people. We can’t just take the words on the page and discover God speaking. We need the Holy Spirit to helps us understand and apply the words of the Bible to us and our situations today, so that we can discover the Good news which sets people free. A young couple went on honeymoon and due to a flight delay arrived at their hotel in the early hours. 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 box room. The manager accompanied them upstairs and asked if they had noticed the double doors, which the couple assumed was a wardrobe. He opened them to reveal a sumptuous room complete with four-poster bed, balcony with a sea view, flowers, and bottle of champagne now sadly warm. Mr and Mrs Glum had spent their wedding night in the lobby of the best suite in the hotel!
The Bible needs to be lived out in order to be real, and for others to see. This Monday, why not take your Bible to work (in print or on MP3, etc) as a tangible reminder that God is interested in every day of your week and as a possible talking point?
The Bible needs to be shared. There are millions who do not have the Bible (or even part of it) in their own language. How lucky we are that we do have the Bible in our language – in so many different translations. The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because, in part, they were pre-occupied with their personal dreams. Let us not keep the Good news which sets people free to ourselves. This is a message for the world.
Today we read a story of a significant occasion, about a significant book, which bring s a significant challenge. Good News which sets people free. How shall we respond?