Reflection for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to tell the poor the good news. “ From the Gospel for today, Luke 4:14-21.
“If I die, I die but I won’t be controlled.” The words of Meat Loaf, who has allegedly died of Covid, having refused the vaccine.
Today marks the Third Sunday of Epiphany, the season which ends the twelve days of Christmas and reveals the glory of God in human form in the world. It begins in a manger, outside the town and amidst animals, with the good news being told to poor shepherds. The visit of the Magi, who were Zoroastrians and Gentiles – people of a different faith – reveals that the Christ-child is not for the Jews alone. The voice heard at the baptism of Jesus reveals him to be God’s beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased, and the turning of water into wine at a wedding in Cana is a further sign of God present amongst humanity.
The Gospel today has a revelation from Jesus himself. He has returned from the wilderness and has already begun to travel around and teach in the synagogues, now appearing in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he was brought up and nurtured in the faith. He is handed the scroll of Isaiah, from which the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to tell the poor the good news,” then receive a different resonance as Jesus reads what has been called the manifesto for his ministry. The passage refers to the Messiah and Jesus tells his hearers that the scripture has been fulfilled that day – a revelation of his own choice and timing. This later leads to them trying to throw him off a cliff, so incensed are they to hear what this local lad is claiming. As one of the recent temptations he had faced was about him allowing angels to catch him if this happened, this is an early test of Jesus’ resolve and the way he sees himself and his ministry.
Jesus’ manifesto is also the blueprint for those who follow in his footsteps and one of the temptations for his followers today is to assume that our own priorities and preferences are God’s, too, and that those who disagree with us are wrong rather than different. It has been said that many Christians are willing to serve God – but in an advisory capacity! In this incidence, Jesus is not so much being controlled by the word of God as discerning who and what he is about if he is truly to be his Father’s Son.
By contrast, it seems that Meat Loaf’s father was a violent alcoholic who could not cope after the early death of his wife and whose actions caused his son to distance himself from him. His father’s influence apparently affected Meat Loaf throughout his life and it seems that his desire not to be controlled may have actually contributed to his death – though he survived longer than others who followed the same rock and roll lifestyle! Perhaps the pandemic and Meat’s death amongst so many may enable us to realise that we are not as in control of our destiny and circumstances as we sometimes think – or that we’re looking in the wrong places to find what we seek in life.
Jesus’ reading in the Temple takes place in Galilee, well away from the religious centre of Jerusalem, as does most of his ministry – his death, resurrection and ascension will also take place outside the city. To glimpse God in our world today, we will also find the light in unexpected places and discern how to reflect the light as its growing reality dawns upon us. In this week of prayer for Christian Unity – taking place in the midst of the separation and the loss of control that some perceive is being created by the pandemic – that can mean a change of approach and vision as well as intent:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de St. Exupery.J
Every blessing/Pob Bendith