Luke 4:16-22 • November 6, 2016
Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
This is the second week of our fall worship series Fearless Generosity. A worship series that focuses our attention for a short while on stewardship, which hopefully will cause us to be focused on how we live as stewards of God beyond just the four weeks of this series. After all, for followers of the risen savior of the world Jesus Christ, stewardship is not something we do only if we can fit it into our busy schedules or something that we use as a bargaining chip with God that we hope will give us a little extra credit in heaven when we meet Jesus face to face or about the church getting our hard-earned money out our pockets and bank accounts.
Stewardship is as simple as breathing – which is the breath of God.
Stewardship is also as complex as believing that this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. Hearing that should lead to change in our life, in our community, and in every part of God’s good creation. Change that I believe God is still calling us to experience in spite of all the ways we choose to ignore God’s call through Jesus.
Simply stated…for followers of the risen savior Jesus, stewardship is the way in which we live out our faith in the world today. Period.
Our stewardship focus this week is Fearless Service. Our focus this week is also on saints in our congregation whose earthly journey concluded in the past year. It seems quite appropriate that we celebrate the communion of saints on the same day that we celebrate the many ways that the communion of saints – which is all of us by the way – are active and alive in and through Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
One day in the synagogue, Jesus read a passage of scripture from Isaiah. When he finished, he continued as any other teacher would have done, with an interpretation. Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
What do you think this meant to the people who heard Jesus that day? There were many who had been thrown in prison or oppressed in any number of ways. It doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to know the stories of Jesus healing the sick, comforting the outcast, caring for those in need. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In Jesus day, the entire nation of Israel was oppressed. The Romans were in control. While the Roman empire allowed relative freedom of religion, the taxation systems and laws legislated and enforced by the government were oppressive. The land of Israel had not had what anyone would call a “favorable year of the Lord” as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed. A proclamation that Jesus was now fulfilling. The community had definitely not experienced the favor of the Lord in recent history.
Jesus was claiming that the prophecy of Isaiah had been fulfilled by Jesus in part through this gathered community’s hearing. My guess is that this probably caught the community a little off guard. If they weren’t paying attention to Jesus yet, they most definitely were now.
Jesus was not addressing political, economic, or even medical issues. He was addressing spiritual wholeness. His claim was to be God’s chosen one to bring good news of salvation to the spiritually bankrupt. He would free those in bondage from the downward spiral of sin. He came to shine the light of the truth of God’s will to those who were blind to that truth. He came to release those oppressed by corrupt religious leaders and allow them freedom of true worship to the one and only God. And through all this, the Lord’s favor would rest once again upon God’s children.
In your own life of faith what does the year of the Lord’s favor or the communion of saints or scripture being fulfilled in your hearing mean? What difference does it make in your life? What difference does it make in the life of your neighbor? Whether you know that neighbor personally or not.
In a few minutes we will light candles and remember saints from Good Shepherd who now rest from their earthly labor.
Saints who lived out their faith proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. For the rest of my life, I will remember and miss the Sunday morning hug from one of these saints. A hug that I believe helped proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor through countless acts of sharing Christ’s love in fearless service that encompassed every part of this sister in Christ’s life of faith.
We will remember saints who courageously participated in the life of the communion of saints on earth. I remember one saint who fearlessly served to break down systems and stigmas and people in authority who thought that the abuse of women and children was ok. A saint who believed that mental health and our care for the mentally ill were issues for the entire community to address. Issues that none of us can ignore.
We will remember saints who believed that this scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing. Saints who then stepped out in faith to give of their time, their money, and their life in fearless service to their neighbor at all times and in all places.
And as we remember the saints in our life who are no longer serving with us on earth, I hope and pray that we allow them to continue to shape us and empower us to live lives in fearless service. After all, the God we serve is the God of the living – today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.
One of the more significant figures in church who has impacted and shaped my understanding of service as a child of God is Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero. In his book The Violence of Love, Romero wrote a short little poetic piece called God of the Living. I close with Bishop Romero’s words today.
“This is the beauty of prayer and the Christian life:
coming to understand that a God
who converses with humans
has created them
and has lifted them up,
with the capacity of saying
“I” and “you.”
What would we give to have such power
as to create a friend to our taste
and with a breath of our own life
to make that friend able to understand us
and be understood by us
and converse intimately –
to know our friend as truly another self?
that is what God has done;
human beings are God’s other self.
He has lifted us up
so that he can talk with us and share his joys,
He is the God who converses with us.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, enjoy your conversations with God this week. And through those conversations, I hope and pray that you are fearless in your service to others in Christ Jesus’ name. Amen.