Sermons 2007
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Epiphany 3C Luke 4:14-21

If you have ever visited a Jewish temple or synagogue, you know that for Jews, the scriptures are regarded as particularly sacred. And the public reading of scripture is regarded as a holy event. The scrolls containing are kept in the Ark of the Torah, and are brought out to the lectern as part of the worship service. Some in the congregation will step forward and ritually kiss the scrolls during this time. In some sects of Judaism the scriptures on the scrolls are considered so sacred that human hands are not normally allowed to touch them – the lector uses two ivory wands to keep place – the ends are often carved in an miniature pointing hand.

There are a number of reasons for these customs. Foremost is the conviction that the scrolls contain the word of God in the salvation history of God’s chosen people. And so the Scriptures are to be cherished, sacred, especially revered. The history of the Jewish people, too often violent and tragic, contributed to the importance of the scriptures. Jews were forced to leave their homeland by the Romans in 70 AD, an exile that ended only after nearly 1,900 years had passed, with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1947. In that exile, Jews were persecuted in nearly every country where they were. We are all too familiar with the Holocaust and the deaths of six million Jews at the hands of the German Nazis. Because they had no homeland, because their places of worship were often desecrated or destroyed, Jews clung to the one thing that they could carry with them wherever they went: their sacred scrolls.

Christians do not revere the physical writings as much. We have our lectionary inserts, which are tossed out as soon as church is over. We engage Scripture actively – the ancient collect instructs us to “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” what we are reading in our inserts and Bibles. My grandmother’s King James Bible was so marked up that one could hardly read the text – which she pretty much had committed to memory anyway. It’s easy for us to be a little "ho hum" when the lessons are read in worship. We have read and heard the words so often that they tend to lose their fresh vitality. But we know that reading from the Bible is something central to our worship so we do it.

I wonder what it was like that day when Jesus came back to his home town and went to the synagogue to worship. The word was getting out about what he was doing. He had begun teaching in the synagogues of neighboring towns, and people were excited by what they heard. He was making a name for himself. Now he was back in the synagogue he attended as a boy and as a young man.
Synagogue worship in the time of Jesus was somewhat informal. The service was prayers, reading of scripture, comments by one or more adult males, and alms for the poor. An invitation to read and speak could be extended to anyone. The reader stood to read the scripture and sat to gave his commentary or sermon.

Luke's Gospel tells us that when Jesus stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and read
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. (Lk 4:18-19)

Regardless of how the congregation listened to the scripture, it was what happened next that got everyone's attention. Jesus rolled up the scroll and sat down and "the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him." It was the hush, that comes when the conductor raises the baton, when the batter watches the first pitch of the game. Jesus looked out at the waiting congregation, waited, and then said what none of them could ever have guessed he would say: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

When Jesus declared his mission in that synagogue at Nazareth, he was addressing all the ills that plague humanity. And not by himself – he committed us also to the great issues of our time: poverty, disease, war, political freedom, racial and ethnic hatreds, the survival of the planet.

At its best, the church helps us recognize that all of life is holy, not just what happens when we worship. Worship prepares us to put our faith into practice in the world of work and commerce and education and family life.
What comes at the close of worship? Blessings we call benedictions. In some ways it's the most important moment in worship, as we are sent forth into the world with God's blessing. Our final benediction is a charge: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!"

An old story is told about a man who came to a Quaker meeting and was puzzled because everyone was just sitting there in silence. After waiting patiently for a long time for something to happen, he finally whispered to the person sitting next to him: "When does the service begin?" The answer came back: "When we leave."

It's still true. Our service begins when we leave this place and take with us God's Kingdom. We go, and his spirit goes with us. And the Scripture we take with us is this:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because he has anointed us to bring good news to the poor. He has sent us 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.


Adapted from Kenneth Gibble, “Religion Beyond the Church Walls”, SermonMall for Epiphany 3C