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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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

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

    Derek

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