The Third Sunday after Epiphany; Year C (1/24/2010)

The Spirit of the Lord Is upon Me

Lessons:      Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10      Psalm 19 (7)      1 Corinthians 12:12-31a      St. Luke 4:14-21

Prayer of the Day:      Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people.  Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

4:14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 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, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 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. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

St. Luke 4:14-21 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Gospel text appointed for this weekend tells the first half of the story of that day when Jesus preached his inaugural sermon in Nazareth. Matthew and Mark refer to this story in their Gospel accounts, but Luke is the only one who actually tells it.

Luke’s Gospel is a fascinating one. In some respects, it is a bolder, more “in your face” Gospel than the other four. Luke has a deep belief in the social, economic, cultural and religious changes that will come to one who believes in Jesus. Think of the song Mary sang when she visited her kinswoman Elizabeth (Luke 1:46-55), or the preaching of John the Baptist (Luke 3:11-14), or this weekend’s excerpt from Jesus’ own preaching. These passages are recorded only in Luke’s Gospel – not in any of the other Gospel accounts.

From Luke’s point of view, how do Mary, John and Jesus envision his ministry?

  • The proud will be scattered.
  • The mighty will be put down from their thrones.
  • The lowly will be exalted.
  • The hungry will be filled with good things.
  • The rich will be sent away empty.
  • Israel will be saved.
  • Those with two coats will share with those who have none.
  • Those with food will do likewise.
  • Tax collectors will collect no more than their due.
  • Soldiers will not intimidate anyone, and be content with their wages.
  • The Gospel will be preached to the poor.
  • The brokenhearted will be healed.
  • The captives will be set free.
  • The blind will recover their sight.
  • The oppressed will be given liberty...

In his opening chapters, Luke presents a radical vision for what the ministry of Jesus will be all about. It is an incredible picture of a world healed of its brokenness and divisions. It imagines a world where those who have plenty care for those who have want, and all find that their needs are met.

This has been a humbling text to study this week. Just a few hundred miles off the south-east coast of our own country, the plight of our Haitian neighbors has become painfully evident to us. The damage caused by last week’s earthquake is hard to comprehend. The loss of lives and livelihoods, of health and wholeness, is unimaginable. We rejoice with every announcement of another child of God pulled from the rubble. But we cringe at the sight of dead bodies, crushed limbs and starving children.

Without a doubt, our country and others will come to the aid of the Haitian people (and in some significant ways, already have). We will walk with them as they dig themselves out of the debris. As they gradually put their lives back together, our support and prayers will be with them.

We will be there for the next few weeks, as television crews continue to document the horrors. But a larger question is this: will we have the courage and the compassion to stay with them for the long haul? Will we have the integrity to address the fact that one of the poorest nations in the world lies just off the coast of one of the wealthiest nations in history? Will we make a significant investment – a sacrificial investment – to ensure that as we reach out to the people of Haiti:

  • The lowly are exalted?
  • The hungry are filled with good things?
  • Those with two coats share with those who have none?
  • Those with food do likewise?
  • The Gospel is preached to the poor?
  • The brokenhearted are healed?
  • The captives are set free?
  • The blind recover their sight?
  • And the oppressed are given liberty?

An opportunity is at hand to live into the vision lifted up for us by Mary and Elizabeth and John and Jesus. Let us be bold in the attempt, and persistent in our desire to follow Jesus. Today, let this scripture be fulfilled in our hearing. Amen!

Join us in reaching out to touch the people of Haiti. Donate to the ELCA Disaster Response Fund. Help us to bring God’s comfort, healing and renewal to those affected by this disaster.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What was the core message of Mary’s Magnificat , or of John’s and Jesus’ recorded sermons?
  2. How did the powerful and wealthy ones of their day interpret those words?
  3. Why did the helpless and downtrodden draw hope from what they heard Mary, John and Jesus say?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I been wealthy and well, and how have I used my resources to help others?
  2. When have I been in need, and how did others reach out and make a difference for me?
  3. What does this text say about the relationships I have with those who are less fortunate – and with those who are more fortunate – than me?