1Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4;14-21

Uncovering unexpected potential is one of the truly rewarding experiences of life. It is like finding muscles we never knew we had.

I recently had some physiotherapy to relieve stiffness and soreness in my neck, a condition that arises when I abuse it by sitting too long looking out in one direction from the train window, or spending too much time at the computer. The physio taught me helpful exercises to strengthen some of the muscles of the neck area. In the end though, I was dissatisfied with this treatment, and made my first ever visit to a chiropractor.

His approach was quite different. Instead of concentrating on the neck muscles, he focussed on getting other muscles, such as the back and chest, to back off and allow the lesser muscles groups to play their part. This is an ongoing process of re-education requiring disciplined practice. I think it is working.

It struck me as instructive, when reading St Pauls writing about the importance of each body part playing its appointed role, to see the parallels in my chiropractors approach. What he is saying, in effect, is just like St Paul- "Giving the greater honour to the inferior member. And so, we need to learn to control the powerful trapezius muscles of the back, and the pectorals across the chest, so that they do their proper job, and do not take over from the lesser groups, for which at this time I do not even have a name.

When the more neglected muscles get up and running, everything works better, because everything is playing its appointed role.

There is also an exquisite symmetry here with todays Lucan passage. In this, possibly the most importance utterance attributed to Jesus (at least as far as mission focus is concerned), Jesus proclaims "good news for the poor, release for the captives, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed. The phrases release to the captives and freedom for the oppressed seem particularly apposite in this context.

This leads me to reflect, not only about the physical body and its neglected muscles, but also about those parts of the self that could be contributing to our overall wellbeing and effectiveness if only given the chance. Of these, our emotions, our intellect and our skills come readily to mind.

Much has been said about the importance of being in touch with our emotions, and how healthy it is to allow them the freedom of expression. In a delightful yet tragic song in the musical "The Book of Mormon one of the new recruits starts to tell his young colleagues about his difficult early life experiences. Before he can get too far, they strike up a song called "Switch it off. This is important advice to young Mormons when they start to recall awful experiences and feel difficult emotions- "Switch it off- like a lightbulb. Switch it off.

The trouble is, when one learns to habitually shut down their emotions, they set in train a process that leads to the death of the spirit. Carl Jung taught women and men about the existence of their special "animus and "anima energies, which, when recognised and engaged, enable the female to find a strength of purpose that can break things like glass ceilings, and the male, to learn to engage with others at new and deeper levels of intimacy. Release to the captives

Intellect is another innate ability that can go missing or put into captivity when we mindlessly embrace dogma that makes no sense, but the powers that be insist is true. Part of the enrichment that we can find in progressive theology is the willingness to bring our brains into the debate; to be critical in our thinking, and have a flexible rather than rigid set of beliefs. Liberty to the oppressed. It really grieves me when people lose their faith over difficult life experiences, having been taught and uncritically accepted that God would not allow such things to happen to good people. Theologian Hal Taussig describes five defining characteristics of grass roots progressive Christianity. The second one he calls "Intellectual Integrity Of this approach he says "Christians need no feel they have to sacrifice their thoughtfulness to belong to a community of faith or to risk spiritual experience. If this muscle of the mind has been underutilised, or completely neglected, it is time to set the captive free.

And some of us have skills that would never have seen the light of day if someone had not opened a door to us that we did not know existed, or we had previously been too fearful to go through. For me, one of those doors was Bunnings. But seriously, learning new skills is an incredibly important part of the transformation that occurs when we face losses in our lives, and need to find new ways to operate. Release to the captives, liberty to the oppressed. It is not just about practical tasks, but also, the so-called soft skills of effective human interaction.

It is easy to move from here to look at how these principles work in the community; in the church congregation for example. The trapezius and pectoral people need to learn to share the work with the lesser known muscles, not just to give them a go, but because these so-called lesser muscles have a unique task that only they can do the best advantage to the body. This is one of the reasons why I am not a great advocate for plaques in churches. In the end, every contribution is of unique value.

Take Garry Brown, for example. Garry chose this church some years ago because he saw in its stated values a place where he thought he could be safe. Garry did not become an elder, or join the church council. Garry saw his place on the door, and there he did a great job. Who would have thought that because of his commitment to mission and to this congregation, we would be in receipt of a legacy which is going to make a huge material difference here for many years to come.

I am not going to labour the next point, because we talk about it often; but what incredible good could be achieved if people like the refugees held in detention centres could be compassionately embraced, and usefully employed in the communities that they hoped would provide them with safety and a new life? Release to the captives, liberty to the oppressed.

And finally; we usually say that we have found muscles we never knew we had when we do something that stretches us, takes us beyond our normal fields of endeavour, and leaves us stiff and sore. As a runner, I always welcomed that particular sensation, because I knew that, within limits, that exercise would make me stronger, and more able to do the very thing that made me sore in the first place.

Growth, transformation, liberty in whatever way we experience it, is inevitably found beyond the comfort zone; especially along the roads of endeavour that Jesus walked. When the strong and the weak walk together, both are enriched; both are transformed, both find new life in the cooperative, compassionate interaction.

site managed by freesites