Third Sunday of the Epiphany – January 24th, 2016.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be found acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

First of all, I wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year from me and my family! May God bless us and keep us as we move forward in this year that from here does not appear to look too prosperous!

Yet our readings today speak of tears and joy and being in the year of our Lord’s favour. I would bet that you are wondering how this can be!
Nehemiah sends Ezra, the priest to find the Book of the Law of Moses and with the reading of it; with the proper interpretation by the priests, they understand it and they weep! They are told, “this day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”  They are told to go and enjoy and share the food and the wine with those for whom nothing was prepared for the joy of the Lord is your strength!
Psalm 19 is a song of thanksgiving for the silent but daily rising of the sun and the setting of it which shows us God’s unending presence in our days. Then it tells what happens when there is a wise ruler who follows the law (again reference to the Law as in Nehemiah). The last part tells the results if one connects closely with God, going on to the final verse which is one used very often to ask for God to be present in the words of a sermon, as I have today, with a slight moderation of course. C. S. Lewis found this Psalm to be “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” It is very beautiful and familiar prose.
Our readings continue on to the second one in 1st Corinthians where the emphasis is on the body and how with many parts it works as one. This referral from Paul is of course a reference to the church and how she is formed as one with many members who contribute all their gifts to make it a strong and viable whole.
Once we get to the Gospel reading from Luke we are told about the presence of the Holy Spirit once more in Jesus’ life. As he turned water into wine last week at the wedding in Cana, he is turning his common scripture reading from Isaiah on a Sabbath morning in Nazareth into the launching of his ministry on earth.
He read thus:
18“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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus knew that from this day forward, his life would not be the ordinary one that he had been living. His ministry was set and his mission proclaimed!
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a Lay Readers’ retreat day at the Church of the Epiphany in Verdun. This is where my sermon changed from Friday to the one that you are hearing today. The day was hosted by Rev’d Brian Perron who lead the Morning Prayer, where our own Lay Reader, Hugh Mitchell read the Nehemiah passage.   Do you think that being at the Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany was a coincidence? After yesterday, I do not. Our host, Rev’d. Brian lead us through all the things that are out there in the City of Montreal that are missions where the poor and marginalized are and where the “good news” is alive and in evidence. I think that Hugh and I were the only Lay Readers who live in a rural environment present in the room. But as Rev’d Brian spoke and encouraged our fellow Lay Readers to participate in our “Anglican” missions. I sat there, thanking God for the Regional Ministry that we share and where amazing things are going on! We all have brought our gifts to this table and this Region and our churches are doing wonderful and inspiring work within our communities which was going on already when we came together as a Regional Ministry in July of 2015. That was only under seven months ago! We are a role model for the future and have the authority of the scripture to do this work as well as the authority of the Synod of the Diocese of Montreal. Imagine what the future will bring to us.
I attended the Service of Prayer for Christian Unity at Arundel on Wednesday and there were representatives from the churches in the North and the South of our Regional Ministry. It was a very cold but sunny day and we had Archdeacon Ralph and Rev’d. Nick together to celebrate. What a wonderful afternoon it was.
So today, I want you to celebrate your gifts and celebrate our blessings of Ralph and Nick and gifted Lay Readers and Lay Assistants and all those who participate in the community outreach that happens within this Regional Ministry. Pray for us and our continuing service and thank God that the Holy Spirit is present and working in our areas even when the news on the radio or television is not uplifting or encouraging every day. We have the gifts that God has given us and when we use these gifts we know that we can do wonderful and amazing things. Amen.

Thank-you Lord for this time together and for the opportunity to share the “Good News” of Christ as his ministry and mission began in this world so long ago. May we go forward this week in your continued love and care in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.