Luke 4:14-21
The Word in Context

Have you ever noticed as you quietly going about your life that things will happen to take you back to a particular time or place or jog a memory of some event or person in your life?  You know what I mean, when you’re listening to the radio and hear a song that takes you back to your childhood or teenage years.  For you it might happen when you hear a particular phrase or piece of poetry, maybe you smell or taste something that brings all sorts of connections flooding back to you.  These times can be quite powerful can’t they, even emotional. 

The trigger point you might call it, takes us to a particular context, a time or place that we either enjoyed or was difficult for us.  These triggers are important for us, they form a part of our time line in our journey through life and they become access points to our memories and feelings.

Have you noticed how lately many artists are using samples of older songs in their ‘new’ songs?  Last year one that was fairly popular was All Summer Long by Kid Rock where he used the music from Sweet Home Alabama and put his own words to it.  There were several others throughout the year including a couple that took samples from Michael Jackson songs.  This type of thing can also give us triggers and links, even to the point of liking the new song because we liked the one that was sampled in it.

Some people think that sampling is a bad thing, that its ripping off the original artists, some see it as giving honour to them.  It can also give new meaning and life to some old lyrics or tunes.  When we read Luke’s account of Jesus life, it’s a bit like Jesus was doing a bit of sampling.  He took a piece of Old Testament Scripture and having read it out, proclaimed that this Scripture has been fulfilled.  The words which originally came from Isaiah were now being used in a new context, to describe Jesus and what he was doing here.  He took a sample of scripture and spoke it into a new context, he honoured it and gave it new life and even meaning because of the different circumstances.

I’d like to play for you now a youtube clip which does that.  I’d like you to read the words, listen to the music and the way they are sung, then we’ll come back and talk about it.

In the song they set the scene by giving you the context, fear, addiction, the struggles of life, the singer expresses pain and anguish in the tone of his voice and the way he delivers the verses.  Then when we reach the verse, we hear familiar words, they are softer, more melodic, more gentle, there’s almost a sense of peace in the contrast.  Grace shows through in the way the song is delivered.

When we have the words and they fit the context we use them, in the case of the song we just heard and also in Jesus’ case as he quotes from Isaiah.

A similar thing happened when Ezra read from the scriptures, the people heard the words read to them, then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.  Then they received interpretation, Ezra gave it some sense, to enable the people to understand the reading.

In both of those cases the words fitted the context, they were read and then they were explained to the people.  This is the challenge for every preacher, to read the word of the Lord to the people and then interpret it for them according to the context.  For Jesus that meant that he had been anointed to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, sight to the blind and set the oppressed free.  He is the fulfilment of this prophecy.  We will note in next weeks reading however that even though he has proclaimed it the people still have to hear it and accept it.

Sometimes it might take a while for people to hear a message and for it to sink in, so that it becomes a part of them.  That’s why we need to spend more time with God’s word than just on Sunday morning.  When you think about it, on Sunday we hear at the most four readings, all in quick succession.  Then the pastor preaches on perhaps one of them.  Does that necessarily allow us to digest them to the point where they become triggers for us in our journey, to prompt us or to heal us or comfort us?  What we get on Sunday morning is important, in fact vital to our journey, but there is more!

We need to study God’s word at other times too.  This year for the first time I’ve been journaling.  That is as a part of my devotional time writing what I’m thinking and experiencing in my life, prayers, thoughts, frustrations, whatever happens to come to mind.  The journal that I’m using has texts selected from the lectionary for each day of the week.  These have been fantastic for me in helping my devotional time and to attempt to commit them to memory.

There are all sorts of ways, far too many to mention to help us to absorb God’s word.  Luther had what he called the right way to study theology.  That is Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio.

Oratio is prayer grounded in the word of God, scripture inspired prayer that grows out of the word of God. 

Meditatio is meditating on God’s word, taking some of it and rubbing it in your hands like a herb and smelling its aroma or like a cow chewing its cud, over and over again, so that is committed to the heart.

Tentatio is where the rubber hits the road, where suffering, temptation and difficulties come, where God and his word intersect with us and our world.  These things should help us to focus on the word that we have meditated upon and act as triggers to bring the words of God back into our hearts and minds and help us to remain steadfast in faith and protected by God.

When we have the word of God within us through song, hymns, rote learning, reading tracts, however they have been placed indelibly in our memory they are there for us to sample, to recollect, to put to use in the context we now face ourselves in.  God’s word isn’t a couple of thousand year old ancient literature with no purpose today.  It is alive, it speaks to us in our current times, in disasters like cyclones, earthquakes and floods, in the good times like Baptisms, Weddings, and other celebrations.  No matter who we are or what we are experiencing, the Word of God has something important to say to us, if only we will slow down enough to hear and learn it.