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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  • Sabbatical

    Well my friends, this is my last point of contact with you for the next three months, barring unforeseen circumstances. I am taking a sabbatical this summer, granted to me by you (through a congregational meeting some time ago). Clergy sabbaticals are designed for rest, recovery, and restoration. It’s a healthy thing to do, of course, and the Presbytery of Utah recommends that congregations grant their pastors a sabbatical every seven years (serving the same church, that is). It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been here in Logan for eight and a half years.

    The end goal for such a time is to provide pastors with opportunity for spiritual and mental rest and restoration, to help re-energize pastors, and to prevent burnout. Pastors have a fairly high rate of burnout, but providing time for spiritual, mental, and physical self-care is one of the best ways to prevent such things.

    It’s not only about rest, however. I’ll be studying and engaging in some healthy spiritual practices too. I will be worshiping at other churches each Sunday to experience the ways that other congregations praise the Lord, so that I might observe and consider new things for the ministry life of FPC Logan. I have a small collection of books I plan to read, including Canoeing the Mountains (a book about Christian leadership in uncharted territory) and One Long River of Song (recommended by someone at FPC), and a few others that I hope will inspire good preaching and pastoral leadership when I return. These readings will go along with daily scripture study. Due to the Covid pandemic I didn’t attend any continuing education conferences last year, but I plan to use part of this sabbatical time to so some individual continuing education. There is always something more for me to learn about my role as your pastor. I look forward to sharing some of this with you upon my return to First Presbyterian Church in September.

    Summer Worship—

    A reminder to you all that during the months of June, July, and August worship will be at 9am and 10:30am. If you show up at 11 you’ll miss half of the sermon!Masks will be required until Session determines otherwise, and worship will be in Bruner Hall for both services (this allows us to space out our seating). I have carefully chosen guest preachers for you on the Sundays that Pastor Meg won’t be preaching. They range from experienced pastors to seminary graduates, but I fell they will all bring a wonderful message to you each Sunday. Please give them the warmest welcome when they help lead worship.

    We have a system in place to live stream worship to YouTube, but there are a few technical challenges with this that I’ve been trying to work out over the last month (with audio and live streaming the video). If you choose to worship from home and the live stream is not available on Sunday mornings (because of some technical difficulty), we will try to post the recording for your viewing on Monday morning when the office is open. Please extend us some grace with this. I think it will all work out, but it’s not always a simple process and complications arise.

    Praying that you all have a wonderful, Spirit-filled summer. I’ll see you soon.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all, —Derek

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