12 17 17 0070 isaiah 61 origMessage for Epiphany 3 on Luke 4:14-21 on January 23, 2022 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

I bet the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Jesus—they were waiting for a real sermon, some interpretation, a piece of wisdom! They got one sentence. One sentence after all that waiting.

Do you know how long it takes to unroll the whole scroll of Isaiah to get to chapter 61? The scroll of Isaiah was about 24 feet long! He was unscrolling and unscrolling and unscrolling….

• Ch 2 Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore..
• Ch 6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne...
• Ch 9 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…
• Ch. 11 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse…
• Ch 17 An Oracle concerning Damascus
• Ch 18 An Oracle concerning Ethiopia
• Ch 19 An Oracle concerning Egypt

And unscrolling some more….

• Ch 26 Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace because they trust in you…
• Ch 35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
• Ch. 40 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…
• Ch 43 Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine…
• Ch 53 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities…
• Ch 55 For your thoughts are not my thoughts, your ways are not my ways…
• Ch 58 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to let the oppressed go free…

And finally getting closer…

• Ch 60 Arise shine for your light has come..

Ah yes, here it is:

Isaiah 61:
   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.

Then he rolled up the 61 chapters of the 24-foot long scroll.

More scrolling, scrolling, and scrolling it back up!

He handed it back to the attendant.

And sat down.

And then he gave them a one sentence sermon. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” One line. That’s it.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Jesus did use words of course, to teach at different times, but in this inaugural sermon in his hometown, he does not use many. Instead, he draws attention to the power Holy Spirit working through him, being anointed by God to be the good news.

Jesus needs no sermon because he, himself is the embodiment of God. He is the Message—his life, his body, his actions, his way of being, his anointing with the Holy Spirit—it’s all God’s message. Jesus embodies God—he is the Epiphany, the revelation—if you want to hear the message, then listen, watch, and absorb the outcomes of Jesus’ actions:

• The poor have all they need, the hungry are fed
• The blind, the sick, and the lame are healed and restored to fullness of life
• The widows and the women are lifted up, raised to discipleship, and sent to share good news
• Those who are held captive to demons, to sin, to injustice, are released into freedom and wholeness and community!
• Those who are reviled and dismissed and rejected, have a place at the table—enemies, tax collectors, Samaritans, prostitutes—they live on equal footing with everyone else—a level playing field of grace unbounded

Jesus’ embodies God’s vision for the world by valuing life we do not value; Jesus’ embodies God’s vision for the world by loving people we do not love.

Those with power, prestige, education, and influence are welcome as well—but not because we can buy, bully, bargain or earn our way in—the Holy Spirit is an equal opportunity employer and anointer—everyone who signs on to the vision that Jesus embodies can join the party. And we have the joy of knowing that we are welcome and have a place at the table, as all are welcomed—through the unconditional love and grace of our amazing God who sent us Jesus as the embodiment of God’s great vision in the first place.

The Spirit’s anointing falls on everyone who follows Jesus embodying the kingdom of God that welcomes all to the table of love and joy. That’s why St. Luke’s tag line is “where Spirit’s come alive!" If you remember, this tag line is based on this passage from the Gospel of St. Luke and the beginning of Jesus ministry. The Spirit of the Lord is upon all of us who follow Jesus and his ministry to bind up the brokenhearted, to bring good news to the poor, to set free those who are captive and to proclaim God’s favor on all who need to be restored to wholeness and hope. The founders of this church could have chosen St. Mark's or St. James, or St. John's, but they chose St. Luke's. They chose this name revealing this mission at its very core—people anointed with the Spirit who follow Jesus anointed with the Spirit embodying this vision of good news. Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.

Many years ago, when we lived in Kansas City, Dan and I heard Rabbi Zedek at Congregation B’nai Jehudah tell this story. He overheard a family leaving the synagogue after worship, and their young son was asking his parents about what the Rabbi had said in worship. “Didn’t the Rabbi say that God was bigger than us?” Yes, that’s right, said the parents. “And didn’t the Rabbi also say that God was inside of us?” “Yes, that’s also true—the Rabbi did say that.” Then the boy said, “If God is bigger than us, and God is also inside of us, then shouldn’t God show through?”

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus gave a one sentence sermon because he wanted us all to see the God who showed through him. As a community where spirits come alive, as we too, are anointed by the same Holy Spirit, God shows through us to shine in our community that this is place where hearts are mended, the hungry are fed, the lonely are embraced, the sick are prayed for, good news is announced to all, and we are freed from the oppression of sin to love and serve each other and our community with forgiveness and hope.

Our capital campaign helps us commit to a future where God shows through our actions as we embody God’s love in our prayers, our mission, and our outreach into a strong future where people need to see a church that does that what it says—coming alongside them in the challenges of daily life and showing them that Jesus is real!

God is bigger than us. God is inside of us. The Spirit of the Lord is upon you and upon us together to let God show through compelling us to bring good news to everyone who is bound up, pressed down, broken in spirit, pandemic-weary, impoverished, and desperately hungry for good news. We saw this at Congregation Beth Torah yesterday as the Richardson Mayor, and many interfaith members of the Richardson community came together in solidarity with our Jewish friends, including about thirty Muslim neighbors.

How can others see God shining through you by how you lead your daily life, at work, by how you treat people, how you drive, how you watch out for your neighbors, how you treat a stranger of another ethnicity, language or religion? Rabbi Elana is a friend of mine and it breaks my heart when she tells me that she has children in her congregation every year crying in her office because their Christian friends have said they can no longer be friends with them because they are Jewish and not Christian. We have to show up differently as Christians in the world. We have to teach our children to show up as a different kind of Christian in the world. How we behave when we encounter a person of a different religion, ethnicity or language matters.

The Spirit has anointed us in Baptism and fills us again with renewed forgiveness and life through the blessing of Christ’s body and blood, to embody Jesus’ love for world, so that we might join Christ in letting God show through so we can welcome all to the table, so we can show love to all of God's children whether they believe as we do or not. So we can show by our face, our words, our behavior, that we embody a God of love and welcome.

Prayer—God please show us one new person this week where we can let your love shine and show through us. Help us each to be open and on the lookout for your guidance and a new assignment every day for ways to share the good news of your love and hope for all your people. Amen.

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