Luke 4:14-21 • January 27,2013
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus. Amen.
Last week we heard the story of Jesus’ first act of public ministry from the gospel of John. Jesus’ hanging out at a wedding, turning water into wine. This week we return to Luke and hear of Jesus’ first act of public ministry according to Luke’s gospel. For Luke, it doesn’t take place at a wedding. In this gospel it takes place in the synagogue. And Jesus is not simply attending worship, quietly hiding in the back row pew as any good Lutheran, I mean, Jewish man would do on the Sabbath. Jesus is invited to read from the scroll and in so doing, the words that he reads from the prophet Isaiah set the stage in motion for the rest of Luke’s gospel – a gospel that we will spend a significant amount of time walking through in the next ten months or so.
There was an important speech offered in our country this past week. Did you hear it? It’s important, because it’s a speech that’s only offered every four years. You may or may not have listened to it or care one way or another about its content. It was the inaugural address of President Barack Obama. And just a few weeks ago North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple offered a similar speech called the State of the State to a joint session of the North Dakota Legislature. In both of these speeches, leaders of our civic life offer us insight into their vision, dreams, and hopes for our communities. Regardless of your feelings about these political leaders, the words these speeches contain are important. They’re not just words randomly picked out of the air. They are words that are carefully crafted and assembled to offer their vision to all of us who live together in community – whether that community is North Dakota or the United States.
Many theologians consider our gospel reading today in the fourth chapter of Luke to be Jesus’ Inaugural or State of the State address. In Luke’s gospel, these initial words of Jesus reveal his identity and vision for all of God’s children and for God’s community. Jesus concludes this first address by saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus words here are important. One can’t help but recognize that they must contain some significance for us who seek to follow this Jesus. And as we follow this Jesus, it’s not important to just hear these words. Because in hearing these words, we are called into relationship to live in community and sent into the world for action.
Pastor Dan Erlander describes the scene this way in his book Manna & Mercy, “In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus delivered his inaugural address. He opened the scroll to Isaiah and read about ‘good news to the poor’ and ‘the acceptable year of Yahweh.’ This was jubilee language, land reform language! After reading, he announced that this text was being fulfilled in their hearing. Could it be true? He was proclaiming the good news that God’s reign of justice and mercy, of land restored, slaves freed, and debts canceled had begun. Could it be true?” [pg. 43]
So what do you think? This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, so now what? What does this fulfillment look like? Not 2,000 years ago. Today. Not 50 years ago as many of us long for the good old days. Today. And not in predictions of a distant future that none of us can see no matter how much we think we can. Today. What impact does this fulfillment have on our life and the world today?
But let’s pause for a moment and refresh our memory as to what Jesus says is actually being fulfilled. I know we just heard it a few minutes ago, but if you are anything like me, you may have already moved on to thinking about where you’re going to eat after worship. The scripture that Jesus reads is from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus proclaims, “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as you hear these words take note that they are only good news if you are willing to admit that you are not the greatest human being to ever walk the face of planet Earth. Or are willing to admit that everything in your life is not always put together perfectly, even though you have become very good at pretending like you have everything together all of the time.
Professor David Lose challenges us this week by stating, “God offers words of comfort, but such words only mean something to those living with discomfort.”
In our gospel reading today, Jesus is ushering in the Kingdom of God. Ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to the poor. How are you experiencing poverty today? Jesus is ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to those who are captive. What do you need release from today? Jesus is ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to those who are blind. What are you failing to see? Jesus is ushering in a kingdom bringing good news to those who are oppressed. What longings for freedom do you have today?
This is not just a superficial kind of “good news” for people who call on God when they think they need a new car in their garage or that they deserve that really expensive new pair of shoes in the store because they’ve been working really hard lately. Are we worshiping today to fulfill our own expectations – which are usually pretty self-centered. Or are we worshiping today ready and open to receive the spirit of God that is showing up. Showing up with news so good that it lifts us out of every poverty; news so good that it breaks the chains of everything that is possessing us and holding us captive; news so good that all our blindness is destroyed by the light of a savior named Jesus.
Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Those are important words to hear today.
One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, offers an insight in one of my all-time favorite books that she wrote called, Plan B: Thoughts on Faith. Her thoughts on faith helped as I walked with our gospel reading this week.
Anne writes this in a chapter called Let Us Commence. “First find a path,” she says, “and a little light to see by. Then push up your sleeves and start helping.
You don’t have to go overseas. There are people in this country who are poor in spirit, worried, depressed, dancing as fast as they can; their kids are sick, or their retirement savings are gone. There is great loneliness among us, life-threatening loneliness. People have given up on peace, on equality. You do what you can, what good people have always done: you bring thirsty people water, you share your food, you try to help the homeless find shelter, you stand up for the underdog.” [Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott, pg. 307-308]
Brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus says that it’s fulfilled. Today. So now what?
- The importance of the word “Because.” A sermon for Epiphany 3B (christiandifferent.wordpress.com)
- Having God and letting Christ (junjunfaithbook.com)
- “Today” This Passage Is Fulfilled in Your Hearing (biltrix.com)