January 23, 2022 – Epiphany 3
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place 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.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
| Centering Prayer |
I would like to take a moment to
Thank my dear friend and colleague
The Rev. Padraic Collins-Bohrer
For his worship leadership these past two Sundays.
Both of his messages and celebrations of Holy Communion were inspiring to me.
Paddy is at the forefront of thought
Where theology and disability intersect.
He is a leader, example, and friend.
He has taught me much,
For which, I am grateful.
Last Sunday, the Gospel of John reported
That the kickoff of the ministry of Jesus took place
At the wedding in Cana, of Galilee.
It was the mother of Jesus who was responsible for his launch,
For, it was her prodding that led to Jesus turning water into wine.
Just as Paddy mentioned,
The kickoff of the ministry of Jesus takes place
Under entirely different circumstances in the Gospel of Luke.
Jesus had newly been baptized,
The Holy Spirit had descended upon him,
And a voice from heaven spoke,
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (3:21-22)
As if an intermission between acts,
Luke lists the ancestors of Jesus.
At the conclusion of the list, stretching back as far as Adam,
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (4:1-2a)
The conclusion of the temptation launches us into
The start of our passage,
“Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee.” (4:14a)
The Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus
And takes up residence.
Jesus was filled by the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness
Where Jesus was put to the test,
Providing Jesus with strength and guidance.
The Holy Spirit remains with Jesus
As he begins his Galilean ministry.
There is a theme here;
One that is obvious, even to the casual listener.
There is a trend here;
One that should not be ignored.
The author of the Gospel of Luke
is the same author as the New Testament book,
The Acts of the Apostles.
The Holy Spirit is portrayed
as the activity and presence of God.
God shows up; think Epiphany!
God stands up; think Jesus and his ministry of teaching, preaching, prophesying, healing, and casting out demons.
God powers up; giving Jesus the power to fulfill Isaiah’s promise:
To bring good news to the poor,
To proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go free,
To proclaim the year of Jubilee, the year of the Lord’s favor.
God powers up the early Church;
giving the apostles the ability to truly set the church on fire,
Starting in Jerusalem, to Samaria, to all the world: think Pentecost!
Throughout The Acts of the Apostles
The Holy Spirit brings joy, guidance, miracles, and visions to the faithful.
The Spirit works to spread the mission,
To fulfill God’s will,
To expand God’s kingdom.
The Holy Spirit becomes a common experience,
The defining characteristic, of every new Christian community.
Note to self:
We are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord,
or, we are nothing at all.
Note to the pessimists out there:
expect the ground to shake and to hear voices from the clouds.
Note to the optimists out there:
Now is the time
To be an open and willing vassal
For the Spirit to take up residence in your life.
Allow the Spirit to abide in you and to be in you.
Now is the time to allow the Holy Spirit to use you (and me)
to bring Jesus Christ to all the world!
I remember a video clip by the theologian, Leonard Sweet,
Which stated “Don’t invite people to church.
Invite people to Jesus.”
Invite people to Jesus
And let the rest take care of itself.
Amen, brother. Amen.
The Holy Spirit anoints Jesus
To fulfill his purpose
And complete his ministry.
The Holy Spirit answers the
What? Who? and For whom?
Questions about Jesus Christ.
It is through Jesus
That the act of the Holy Spirit reveals God’s
Enduring love for the poor, captives, oppressed and blind.
That which God perfects in love,
Leave it up to humankind to soil and ruin. Yes?
We ruin the prophetic vision of Isaiah 61 and 58 which Jesus quotes
Because we tend to think of ourselves as the poor of this world.
We are not.
We think that we are being held captive by a world that is out to get us.
We tend to believe that we live a life of oppression
because of our faith, beliefs, or values.
We love to play the victim for all the trials and tribulations that befell us, and
We love to point the finger at personified evil himself – the devil.
Get over yourselves!
I’m going to need help getting over myself.
It’s easy to tell others to take accountability for faith and discipleship,
It’s a lot harder for this preacher to confess
My complicit support of the rich and powerful of this world,
My biases and blinders that serve to enable and support oppression and captivity,
My ignorance and coldness that substitute the politics and economies of this world in place of the politics and economies of Jesus Christ.
When it comes to sins of commission,
I would expect that you are much like myself;
We are behaviorally conservative.
We’re followers of the Ten Commandments
And we take the righteous lifestyle seriously.
Yes, there are a few times we have failed,
But, we like to keep our failures to a minimum.
We like to keep our moral failures hush-hush.
Repent, seek forgiveness, make reparations, be restored …
And start all over again.
Wash, rinse, dry, repeat.
The rub comes when we plumb deeper into the life of discipleship
And explore our acts of omissions.
What have we failed to do?
Have we failed to speak up when we should have, and just remained silent?
Have we spoken truth to power, or just let it go?
Have we eaten while others have gone hungry?
Have we indulged in wealth while others suffer in poverty?
Have we exercised privilege even as others wait in lines?
Have we allowed oppression in whatever form it presents itself –
Racism, sexism, antisemitism, islamophobia, nationalism,
Or any other -ism you can think of –
To go unopposed and unchallenged?
Taking ownership of our complicit support
of the corrupt powers of this world
At the expense of the gracious and loving intentions of our God
Is the first step of redemption.
Taking accountability for our own inaction
Is what returns us to the purpose, ministry, and life of Jesus.
Authentic accountability leads us back to a synagogue in Nazareth,
Humbly before the master,
When today he sits, and begins to teach,
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (4:21)
Today! Jesus proclaims.
Real time, we are talking.
The manifestation of God isn’t some
pie-in-the-sky future event we are to look forward to.
Today! Jesus proclaims.
Jesus lifts the poor from poverty,
And fills the bellies of the hungry.
Jesus restores sight,
gives sight, and
gives new insight
Into what God’s kingdom and
What God’s kingdom can become.
Jesus brings release! Jubilee! A second chance.
Salvation has come.
Today, Jesus snaps,
just as he did to Zacchaeus.
Come down from that tree, for I’m going to your house today! (19:5)
“Today! Salvation has come to this house,” Jesus informs Zacchaeus. (19:9)
Today, Jesus replies to the condemned thief crucified next to him.
“Today you will be with me in paradise.” (23:43)
Today! Salvation is now
And you’re “it”!
That’s some amazing grace, right there.
Especially poignant in the Gospel of Luke,
Jesus is characterized as
The one anointed,
Filled with the Spirit,
The one and the same Holy Spirit that empowers
Our Church and ourselves today.
God shows up, stands up, powers up!
Jesus is named as our God who doesn’t wait.
Our God acts today! Immediately, if not sooner.
Presence. Action. and
Our God is one who brings salvation to the table,
Ours to claim, or to be ignored.
Jesus is ours for the taking,
So take him in, and
Lift him up.
Do it, today!