Hello – Local Week

Readings for this week June 19 – 23
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – Who to Tell First

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 4:16-30

This is, for us, one of the most well-known passages of the gospels. Jesus stands in his home town synagogue and reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming the myriad mighty ways God will rescue the poor, blind, lame and oppressed – and then tells them that it’s coming true today in his own person. A manifesto for the world.

But let’s not forget that Jesus first of all brings his message to his home town, to his neighbours, the people he has known and seen every day of his life growing up. These are the families that live in his neighbourhood, the customers he would have interacted with, the people he has grown to know, and love and play with, grieve with and journey through life with.

The gospel of Jesus is for all, a message of love and hope for the whole world – for all creation – and we must never lose sight of that, wherever we go and whatever we do. The message and the love are for all. But as Luke shows us here, it is also for the locals. Jesus knew this and made his first programmatic statement of who he was and what he was going to do in front of his neighbours. This message is for our neighbours too. They are, like we were, the lame and the lost and the oppressed that God has promised to set free. It’s a message for the world as a whole, but also for our neighbours in particular, something that they should be able to see in the lives of us – their neighbours.

Questions to Consider
What do you think of the crowd’s reaction to Jesus? Why did they try to do what they did? What does this mean for us?

Prayer

Lord God, may we never forget that your life-changing, world-changing love is for the people who live right next door. They matter too. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Foreigner Among You

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34

The Law contained many provisions for the care of the outsider – however that outsider might have been defined. As well as prohibitions against certain actions and behaviours, as a way of distinguishing the Israelites from the surrounding pagan nations and highlighting their holy character, the Law also contained instructions on caring for outsiders – again, as a way to separate the Israelites from the surrounding nations and as a way to show their upright character before their God. Looking after others, even those outside the national family, was seen as an integral part of what it meant to identify as God’s people.

Right from the beginning God was careful to make sure that there was provision in his Law for the care of the widowed, the orphaned, and the alien, the foreigner. And he made sure the Israelites knew about it too. It wasn’t hidden away somewhere in an appendix, or a footnote, or on a secret scroll that only the priests knew about. It was right in the middle of the mix with everything else they were called to do as God’s people.

In our neighbourhoods and on our streets there are those who have been labelled as outsiders, who have not been given the respect that so many others are given as a matter of course.  But God has always had a place for them and his people are the ones charged with making sure that they are welcomed into our communities and given a full and active part to play in our neighbourhoods.

Questions to Consider
How are you welcoming the ‘alien’ and the ‘outsider’ into your neighbourhood? How can you more intentionally do this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, help me reach out to those new to my community, my city and my country. May they always see your welcome to all embodied in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Open Homes

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 10:38-42

Jesus spent a lot of time in people’s homes. He taught people – often the ‘wrong’ people – to open their homes to others – often the ‘wrong’ others too! But the personal, intimate spaces of hearth and home were where Jesus did a lot of his teaching to the fledgling community of his followers. Post-Easter, his followers continued to meet in people’s houses. Although in many places there was still some connection with the local synagogue (and for a while believers in Jerusalem still worshiped and prayed at the temple), the focal point for gatherings was people’s homes. Often meeting in the larger homes of the richer Christians, early church communities would gather for their fellowship, meals, prayer and worship in each other’s houses. To invite someone into the community invariably would mean inviting them into your house. Yes, there were sometimes problems. Paul had to admonish some of the Corinthians for instituting segregation during mealtimes (the richer first) and also for inappropriate behaviour at the table. But the expectation, the reality, was that opening your home up to others was how the church operated.

Are we being open with our homes, or do we only see our homes as a refuge for ourselves, the last place we keep from others? Are we inviting others – friends and strangers – into our homes, to a place at our table, into our places of warmth and comfort? This is where relationships are made and strengthened. Jesus modelled it, the early church imitated it – are our homes focal points of fellowship in our communities?

Question to Consider
How could your home be a focal point of community and fellowship in your neighbourhood?

Prayer
Almighty God, may I be welcoming to others, always looking to invite others over my threshold and into my home. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – The Community Sorts It Out

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Ruth 4:1-12

We all live our lives in a community, however much or little we actively take part in it and offer ourselves and our lives to that community. In falling for Ruth, Boaz, who was looking after Ruth and Naomi after their arrival in Israel following the deaths of their husbands, found himself with a little problem. Ruth’s former husband had some land in the area that is now for sale. A relative of the family has first rights to buy the land, which he agrees to do (see Leviticus 25:25). But according to the law, buying the land meant also marrying the widow. Here was a complicated problem that needed delicate sorting out so that all parties would be happy, including the want-to-be-married Boaz and Ruth. And the community is where the problem-solving ends up taking place.

And so they sorted in out at the town gate, with the town elders. Sitting down face to face, with the village elders witnessing the exchange, talking and sorting out their problems in a public gathering of the locals. Here we see local community in action. There was an issue that needed sorting and so this small community went ahead and carefully and openly dealt with it.

Boaz was part of the community – his life took place in this community, with these people. Decisions he made and actions he undertook would have an impact on others – these others – and he was committed to involving the community in decisions that he knew would have an impact on the community. He knew this was what living his life in this community meant.

Question to Consider
How can you involve your neighbours in the issues in your community?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I seek to see ways in which my neighbourhood community can solve problems and address issues together, in conversation. May I seek the input and advice of my neighbours. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Paul the Neighbour

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 18:11

We often think of Paul as the great missionary traveller, continually on the move around the Mediterranean, visiting cities and towns, sharing the gospel, debating with people, before moving on to the next port of call. And this is true. For someone with limited modes of transport (boat, donkey or horse, or his own feet) Paul must have been one of the most well-travelled people in the ancient world. But he also stayed put for significant periods of time: 18 months in Corinth for example, or a couple of years in Ephesus. In many places he stayed, put down roots, and connected with people.

It was to places like these where he worked and lived side by side with people, that he would later, in his letters, write of his love. Many times he talks of the time he spent with them, how he misses seeing them and how he constantly prays for them – and even prays that God may grant him the grace to be able to visit them again. Much of Paul’s theology wasn’t worked out in ivory-towered isolation, far removed from the situations and events that called forth his written letters as responses. It was forged in the heat of relationship, in the heart of community, as people worked out what it meant to follow Jesus and love each other. The worshipping communities Paul helped found weren’t ones he planted in a matter of days, before moving on to somewhere else with barely a backward glance and only a random letter or two of follow up a few years later. They were communities where he embedded himself and became a neighbour to those already there.

Questions to Consider
How long have you been living where you are now? How long do you see yourself staying there? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, help me be a good, interested and active neighbour. Help me stay committed to my place and my street and my neighbours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)