The Rev’d Canon Jenny Wilson

Luke 4:14-21

In the name of God, creating, redeeming, sanctifying… Amen.

Two weeks ago in our reading from Luke’s Gospel we witnessed the scene of Jesus’ baptism.

We saw Jesus baptised, embracing the ritual so deeply needed by frail humanity to cleanse from sin and to set free for fullness of life. Jesus who was born into a human family, who experienced a human childhood and young adulthood, in this scene, steps further into humanities’ shoes by being washed in the waters of baptism.

After Jesus’ baptism, as he prays, the Holy Spirit descends upon him and we hear the words

You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

Jesus prays and then the spirit comes and he is given the identity out of which he will live and heal and teach and die and rise again.

After this, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returns from the Jordan and is led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he is tempted by the devil. We have skipped this scene at this time in the liturgical year as we will contemplate Jesus’ time of temptation on the First Sunday of Lent. But we do need to spend a moment now pondering what Jesus found in the wilderness. In his encounter with the devil, and the three temptations he underwent there, Jesus found what being God’s beloved son does not mean – being God’s Son is not about putting God to the test, or performing miracles to satisfy physical hunger or worshipping anyone but the God who he knows as father. The time of temptation taught Jesus who he is not.

Returning to the synagogue in Nazareth, to the town where his earthly parents brought him up, Jesus finds in the words of the prophet Isaiah, who he is.

In that synagogue, Jesus stands up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah is given to him. He unrolls the scroll and finds the place where the following words are 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.

Jesus, God’s son, is about liberation. One scholar puts it this way. “Wherever human life is impoverished, imprisoned, impaired, it will become enriched, free and enabled. All this will be done by the power of divine favour. Son of God is not a title of privilege. It is a call to transformative action.”[1]

Jesus found in the temple his manifesto, his call to action. Jesus, God’s Son is about liberation at all times for all things.

This morning, we find ourselves in our cathedral surrounded by posters. These posters shed light on the work of Anglicare, the social justice arm of the Anglican Church, the church in which we as a cathedral community find an aspect of our identity.

Anglicare’s statement of mission says the following, “AnglicareSA provides care and support with a voice for disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our communities.”

If we walk slowly by these posters we will see that this care and support, this giving of a voice, happens in many different situations. The work of Anglicare, the Godly work of all who work in this organisation, and all who pray for it and give financial support to it, is so often with those who are vulnerable, frail, outcast, homeless, the young whose parents cannot care for them, those who do not always have the strength to speak out.

We cannot mind about all the situations portrayed in these posters. Our hearts are not as big as God’s heart. But if “wherever human life is impoverished, imprisoned, impaired, it will become enriched, free and enabled” by Jesus’ presence, we as the Body of Christ have a part to play. If “woven into Jesus’ life is a call to transformative action,” then that call is addressed to us too.

We cannot mind about all the situations portrayed in these posters but as children of God, we will find that God has made our hearts to care about some of them, perhaps one of them. It may be that we give a little of our time to supporting those who need help with food or money. It may be that our hearts go out in a transformative way to those children whose parents cannot care for them. It may be that we have skills such as financial expertise that we can offer to those who are struggling with finances. Anglicare in this state has over 700 volunteers, some from our cathedral community, who feel strongly about poverty and homelessness, and help make a difference in these areas.

What of our own manifesto, our own mission statement, at St Peter’s Cathedral?

Each week our order of service has written on it the following words:

St Peter’s Cathedral strives to be a Christ-centred, sacramental, inclusive, thinking, mission-oriented, faith community.

The Cathedral resides on the lands of the Kaurna people, whom we acknowledge as the original custodians of the Adelaide Region.

Each week, we remember, when we read these words, that the land on which our cathedral resides has a deep spiritual connection to the Kaurna people. This weekend, known as the Australia Day weekend, our public holiday marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip. A response to these events must be complex. It may be that our hearts wrestle with these complexities, that this is the place where we hope to make a difference. I have not forgotten sitting in a theology class in a subject about the Trinitarian nature of God when the lecturer, Denis Edwards, one of this country’s finest systematic theologians, read us a dreamtime story and told us that we ignore these texts at our peril. He seemed to be saying that the stories of meaning of those who lived on the land we inhabit for such a long time and still live here must be treated as stories of deep meaning. I have not forgotten sitting in a diocesan synod when we were discussing the way forward for a reconciliation action plan. A guest speaker was with us. An indigenous woman spoke with passion about the experiences of her people, telling us that her children ask her why things don’t change, and then she paused and looked at us and said, “When I give these talks, people’s eyes glaze over”. I’ve not forgotten her saying that, because I knew she was right. About this, and so many of the areas of injustice in our world, our eyes do glaze over.

Jesus’ eyes didn’t though. His eyes didn’t ever glaze over. He saw and knew and lived and stood alongside all who were poor in any way, all whom life had diminished. For …

The Spirit of the Lord was upon him
   had anointed him
     to bring good news to the poor.
The Spirit of the Lord sent him 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.

Jesus heard God’s voice naming him Beloved and he went into the wilderness to find through his experience of temptation there what being God’s Son did not mean; he found with great clarity who he was not meant to be. When Jesus entered the temple and opened up the scriptures he was found who he was. One whose eyes never glazed over in the face of impoverished, imprisoned, impaired life. One whose solidarity and compassion with those in need, brought life and freedom, enabled thriving.

Blessed by Jesus’ spirit, may we too hear God’s voice naming us, “Beloved”. May we too find Jesus’ presence guiding us through times of temptation, helping us to turn away from who, as God’s children, we are not. And may we find who we are, who we are called to be, those whose eyes, at least in company of some who are struggling, do not glaze over.

[1] John Shea The Relentless Widow p29.