That Something Jesus Wants For Us

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 4.14-21

I went to the Cache Community Connections meeting this week, Wednesday, and they were talking about the nativity scene that they put out on the Tabernacle grounds, and they wanted to expand that decoration of Christmastime. They wanted to make it a community event and they talked about the nativity scene that they have there. Apparently they’ve had a problem with that, somebody kind of steals the baby out of the crib. And they were wondering well what happens to Jesus when he goes out on these little field trips?

Well now, it is almost a month since we celebrated the coming of that cute little baby in the manger. And so it is an appropriate time to ask, well what happened to that cute little baby? What happened to that cute little baby Jesus that we met just a month ago? As we who are parents know, our babies grow too fast.

There are moments when we would prefer that the cute little baby in the humble manger, with the angels singing overhead, would stay a baby. We like that moment, it gives us a glimpse into heaven. The spirit is there, it is a divine moment.

But like our own babies, the one we met in the manger grows up. And he grows up fast. He couldn’t stay in the crib, he couldn’t play in the village forever, he couldn’t stick with the trade of carpentry that his father taught him, he couldn’t even hang out in the temple impressing the religious scholars with his knowledge of the law and the prophets as Luke tells us. He had to leave, he had to go explore, he had to baptized and spend time in the wilderness being tested, all of this because he was about something.

In this story that we heard this morning, these verses from Luke’s gospel, in Jesus’ first sermon that we receive, we discover precisely what this something is. Matthew, Mark and Luke, called the synoptic gospels because they’re so closely tied to each other, all give us the story of Jesus’ return to his hometown and they all three tell us that Jesus is rejected by his hometown folk. But Luke, however, gives us a more full account, and the author places it at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, indicating that Jesus’ sermon there, in his hometown, is special. It is programmatic in the sense that it gives us insight into what he is all about.

Everything that we hear about in the story that follows, everything that Jesus says and does and everything that he does not say and do, is encapsulated in this message that he gives – when he receives the ancient scroll, and he unrolls it and he brings these ancient words to life. This sermon is something. Indeed I would suggest that it gives us insight into the very heart of God.

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, he read, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim relief to the captive, and recovery of sight to the blind. To let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus was definitely about something, whereas our faith can be too often be about little to nothing. Jesus was definitely about something.

That something is changing, delivering and challenging you and me. Yes, you and me. For the “today” in the story, when Jesus says “Today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” that “today” means more than that today long ago in that synagogue far away. That today rings across the centuries and echoes into this sanctuary on this day, January 24, 2010.

Now there is a sharp edge to Jesus’ sermon and we will balance on that sharp edge next week. Next week we will think about why the hometown crowd, so favorably disposed toward Jesus in the beginning, gets angry enough to throw him off a cliff. But that’s next week. You all come back now.

Today, today is for those of us who find ourselves described in the words from Isaiah that Jesus reads. This morning is for those of us who are poor. Yes, poor. This morning is for those of us who are held captive. Held captive by pain or by powers outside our control. For those of us held captive by pride or by addiction to one unhealthy thing or another. For those of us who are blinded by our own affluence, or self-centeredness. Or for those of us who are oppressed by ideology, whether it is our neighbors or our own. Today is for those of us who are weighed down by ill health or by circumstances or relationships or responsibilities in our life that drain us and weigh us down, like a 1,000-pound weight on our shoulder. I don’t know about you, but I can find myself in these words. Jesus’ words, his something, is for us.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

    There is a beautiful piece of seasonal writing attributed to the theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman that you may have encountered in Christmases past. It’s entitled, “Now the Work of Christmas Begins.” Take in these words from the author:

    When the song of the angels is stilled,

    when the star in the sky is gone,

    when the kings and princes are home,

    when the shepherds are back with their flocks,

    the work of Christmas begins:

    to find the lost,

    to heal the broken,

    to feed the hungry,

    to release the prisoner,

    to rebuild the nations,

    to bring peace among the people,

    to make music in the heart.

    Indeed, this is the real work of Christmas. This is the work we discover in faith when we follow the light of Christ, which the darkness has not and will not overcome. In last Sunday’s Scripture passage, Luke records that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about Jesus when they encountered Simeon in the temple in Jerusalem. On account of the angel Gabriel’s visit, Mary knew in the beginning that the child she would bear would be holy, but I wonder if she knew that this would be the character of His holy work? What a proud mother she must have been. What a nervous mother she must have been, watching her Son challenge the status quo as He lived in obedient faith to God, gently shepherding God’s people! Yes, this holy child will lead us – the Church – in finding, healing, feeding, releasing, rebuilding, and bringing peace. His story is ours to discover anew in the pages of the Gospel, the pages we will turn together in worship in the months to come. 

    Although the real work of Christmas is ours to offer another, let us also take to heart that it is also ours to receive as blessing and gift. At times we are lost, feeling broken, or living and praying for peace of mind or spirit. At times we sense that our lives are in need of rebuilding. As the great Henri Nouwen has observed, our own wounds may serve as a source of strength and healing in our own work of serving.

    My heart is full this holiday season. As may be true for you, I am holding joy and sorrow in the same chamber. I rejoice in what I hold dear, in the embrace of my loved ones in the home, and in the privilege of worshiping with you through a variety of experiences this December. I grieve with families who lost loved ones to Covid or other causes in 2020, and most recently, Pastor Derek’s family. I find joy in new traditions and customs that this holiday season has inspired. I long for loved ones who are no longer with us and who I remember especially at Christmas. My faith is wide enough to embrace these differing realities, to hold joy and sorrow in tandem. I pray yours is, too. 

    In faith, we will find, heal, feed, and rebuild, because Christ has first found us and embraced us with His healing presence. He feeds us with His Word and at table, in our hunger for bread that nourishes and lasts. In the grateful words of Martin Luther, “to you Christ is born. For this purpose Christ willed to be born, that through him we might be born anew. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his. See to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you.”

    Dear friends, Christ is born in us, and His love will guide and equip our ministry together in 2021. Pastor Derek and I look forward with anticipation to a new year of ministry with you. Let us follow the light of Christ together!  With joy, Pastor Meg

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