Church of England Diocese of Birmingham Frankley

Valued, Enabled and Encouraged to Use Our God Given Gifts

4 Jul 2021, 1 a.m.

When Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth he could do no deed of power there other than curing a few sick people. How frustrating for his disciples and the crowds who expected to see something spectacular!

Families and churches should be the places where we are encouraged, nurtured and given opportunities to grow and develop. We look to parents, siblings, teachers and church leaders for approval. They should be cheering us on.

In our home context we should feel safe, able to try out new ideas. We should know we are loved so much that we have freedom to fail. Sadly some homes are places of criticism where it is difficult to meet our family’s expectations.

Sometimes they have been places where we have failed because we haven’t been given the opportunities we need to grow or others have tried to fashion us into the sort of person they think we ought to be rather than the person God created us to be.

Jesus did not meet the expectations of his family or local community. When he taught in his local synagogue, many were astounded asking where he got the wisdom from.

Jesus was judged for his lack of education. He hadn’t been to the most prestigious rabbinical schools. He probably hadn’t been given any further education at all. Instead, he was trained by his step father Joseph to be a carpenter with the expectation he would earn his living this way.

Many of us have not been able to develop the way we wanted to because of lack of educational opportunities, poverty or even our gender.

For my parent’s generation there was the need to go out to work as soon as possible because of the deprivations caused by the Second World War. For me and many in my generation, we were divided by the eleven plus. Those who went to grammar schools were educated to lead and those who went to Secondary Moderns were expected to be practical. More opportunities and grammar school places were allotted to boys. Boys were educated in sciences and technical drawing while girls learnt sewing and cooking.

Whilst in today’s society we are told we can be anything we want to be and are told to aspire to excel, that is not true. From the moment we are born we are surrounded by cultural expectations and expected to fit particular moulds.

Jesus also struggled in his home town because of his family background. Those in the synagogue thought Jesus was behaving above his station in life. He has separated himself from his mum, Mary who was a widow and his sisters who needed his support. As the oldest, Jesus should, in their eyes have lived at home supporting them. Jesus was different to his brothers, James, Joses, Simon and Judas.

Jesus was without honour in his home town within his family, community and synagogue. As a result, he wasn’t listened to and they did not believe in him.

I wonder how many of you were held back by parents. My parents were newsagents and expected me to take on the family business. When I moved away and trained to teach they expected me to both teach and manage the shop. They were lovely parents and though they were disappointed eventually accepted that it wasn’t possible.

All of us are treasure troves of talents and possibilities waiting to be nurtured, enabled and given the opportunity to be what God has called us to be and do what he has called us to do. This is particularly true of our children and young folk.

As I look at you I see potential, hear pearls of wisdom; I benefit from your pastoral care, your skills in music, gardening and administration and so much more. You bring the treasure within you into our church, to all those you love and to our needy world.

The great power Jesus exercised came from God. Constantly in fellowship with his heavenly Father and guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus ministered eternal life to those trusted him. With God within us our possibilities are endless. We find success in him.

Our Lord Jesus Christ forgives us, cleanses us, enables us to have a relationship with God, and he is the one who one day will call us to live with him in his home in heaven. He is the one who makes us whole again, the one who pours his Holy Spirit upon us and enables us to do his work in the world

Instead of welcoming the gift and ministry of Jesus, the synagogue members took offence. Their arrogance and familiarity with Jesus prevented them seeing what God was doing through him. They couldn’t think of him outside the box they had put him in, unwrap the gift and receive his healing and life.

In contrast to those in his home town, Jesus nurtured and developed his disciples. He sent them out in pairs so they could support each other, without money and worldly gifts but with authority, not just to use their own gifting, but also to use the power of the Holy Spirit that God had put within them. “So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”

The word repents means to change one’s mind by turning to God and trusting in Jesus who died for us. When we do so we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to live holy lives and do what Jesus wants us to do.

We constantly need to turn from the things we do wrong, from our unbelief and trust Jesus.

The disciples cast out many demons. We need to get rid of all which inhibits us and stops us being the people God has called us to be, whether it is hate, fear, pride or just a poor use of our time.

The disciples anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. Oil is a symbol of Holy Spirit, a sign of God’s anointing in ministry. Priests and Kings were anointed, not sick people. We are made whole and healed, given dignity and authority by Jesus to enable us to do the work he has called us to.

We all work at some time in our lives, whether paid or unpaid, but we do not necessarily fulfil our calling. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we become more than we can be. Jesus calls us to fullness of life and to bring that life to others.

Here at St. Leonard’s we do not want to make the mistakes the synagogue Jesus grew up in made. May our church be somewhere where all are valued, nurtured, enabled developed and encouraged in their God given gifts.