Third Sunday after Epiphany – Sunday, January 27, 2019

January 27, 2019  

Luke 4:14-21

Today’s gospel is a tough one to work with for a couple of reasons.
First, we are back in the gospel of Luke, having used a reading from the gospel of John last week. Luke and John had different ways of telling the story of the life and ministry of Jesus. Their themes don’t always match. So we move from John’s theme of abundance and transformation (which we heard last week) to Luke’s theme of liberty—specifically liberty for the poor and the oppressed.

Second, today we are only looking at half of a story. The schedule of readings requires that we look at the first half of the story this week, the other half next week. These two halves are radically different. This week we hear the good news part of the story. Next week we hear the more difficult news. I think it is a bit misleading to only talk about the good news this week. But that’s what we have been assigned.

Third, after a few weeks of focusing on Jesus’ family—the ins and outs of his relationships with Mary and with Joseph and with God, his Abba—this week we broaden our view of “family” to include the community he was raised in.

Jesus had been traveling around Galilee, teaching in synagogues. All who heard him “praised him” (Luke 15). His traveling took him to the synagogue in Nazareth.

I have returned to my home congregation to preach, in Rockford, IL. It has been exciting, to stand in the pulpit I saw other preachers stand in, to preach from the pulpit I pretended to preach from when I was a child and I couldn’t see over the top. I always feel a sense of anticipation, both for me and for the congregation. I sense their pride. I fear I will disappoint them.

Without any obvious hesitation on his part, Jesus walked forward in his home congregation and he took the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. It was his choice to do so. It was his choice to walk forward; it was his choice to read, and his choice of what he was going to read.

He chose Isaiah—specifically the passage in Isaiah where it was written:

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.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Drop the mic!

The Hebrew people had been waiting for centuries for the Messiah.
The Hebrew people had been waiting, they had been longing for the Messiah to come.
And now! Now!
Jesus, the kid who grew up in the synagogue, Mary’s and Joseph’s son, read the text from Isaiah making it clear to all who heard it that he was the one. He made it clear he was the fulfillment of their waiting and their longing.

Just to make sure they didn’t miss his point, after rolling up the scroll he sat down (in the posture of a teacher) and told them:

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

Imagine if Rayone had stood before us this morning and read this text and said to us “It’s me! I’m the one you have been waiting for!”

Or if one of our acolytes grabbed the mic and told us he or she is Jesus, returning to the world.

What does this reading mean to us, here and now?
Today’s part of our two-part story reminds us of the humanity of Jesus.
In worship we focus in his divinity—Jesus as our Savior, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.
We worship Jesus, who died for us and then rose, victorious. We praise Jesus, our Sovereign God.

Yet there Jesus stood, the child of a congregation, proclaiming to his hometown that he was the fulfillment of scripture. We must never forget his humanity.

Likewise, we must never forget Jesus’ call: Jesus’ call to bring good news to the poor; Jesus’ call to free those who were held captive; Jesus’ call to give sight to the blind; Jesus’ call to let the oppressed go free; Jesus’ call to proclaim that that moment was THE moment.
The Messiah had come.

Jesus’ call is now our call. We are called to bring good news to those living in poverty. We are called to free those who are captive to sin, captive to those things that bind them, making them unable to receive the love God provides. We are called to give sight to those who cannot see God’s love living in the world, who cannot see God’s love is living in their lives, who cannot see God’s love is living in their hearts. We are called to proclaim the freedom that comes when one knows the truth of God’s liberating power.
We are called to remind every person that this is the moment. We are called to proclaim that Jesus lives in the world now, here, with us.
We are called to proclaim that God Spirit moves in the world now, here and everywhere, giving people strength and hope.

That’s what this first half of the story of Jesus returning to Nazareth tells us.
Next week we hear the rest of the story.

Until then… Amen.