Sunday, January 27, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
This third Sunday after the Epiphany, after the revelation of that first Christmas, we hear a powerful message. In Luke’s gospel, after Jesus’ baptism, he was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. There he stayed for 40 days and was tempted by Satan. Our account today immediately follows his return from the wilderness. Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and began teaching. People were quickly noticing him and talking about him with praise and admiration. Our story today is really a two-part story. This week – today – we’ll focus on part one. We will focus on Jesus’ decision to read from the prophet Isaiah. “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.” The people in the synagogue that day had heard these words before. They were words of promise and hope. But what did they really mean to them that day? And what do they really mean to us today? Are they simply words from a prophet centuries ago that don’t apply to us today?
It would be understandable to think that way. There are still so many poor in our community and our world. People are still captive physically and emotionally. Sickness and disease are still present. There’s so much oppression in our country and in the world. And yet the words of the prophet Isaiah say, he is anointed to bring good news and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus challenges us to look at these words through new eyes.
We may be going through difficult times, but the good news is that the Holy Spirit is active and present among us as well. Thousands of years ago, when crowds of people gathered to hear Jesus and were hungry, it seemed like there was not enough, but God is a God of abundance and fed over 10,000 with only five loaves and two fish. At the wedding at Cana, the wine ran out, but all was not lost. Jesus filled huge jars of water into an abundance of fine wine. And Jesus raised the dead, and the early disciples performed miracles, and these signs didn’t just stop thousands of years ago. They are still happening today through people that God has anointed with the Holy Spirit – people like you and me. There may be evil in the world, but the power of the Holy Spirit is more powerful. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He, Jesus the Messiah, was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and anointed to bring good news to the poor, and to set oppressed people free. And we, through our baptism, are united with Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit to do the same. The work of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing process that continues across generations, throughout the centuries, throughout time.
It continues through us, the Church, the body of Christ. And as St. Paul says, we must be a unified body. There are many parts. We all have unique God-given gifts, but together the Holy Spirit works through us to continue the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. And today as we will later participate in the congregation’s annual meeting, we will focus on God’s mission for this congregation. It is not our mission; it is God’s mission. A mission that began with Jesus, continued with 12 ordinary apostles, and grew into the Church today. It is not our church; it is Christ’s church. We aren’t called to dwell on the past, but to learn from it, and to take that information and focus on what God is doing today. Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” He is challenging us to really listen to these words, these words of hope and promise, and see that through Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they are continuing to be fulfilled today. We, the people of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church are the ones who are called to bring good news to the poor through the ministries we do. We are called to help release captives and let the oppressed go free through the work of social justice. We are called to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
When we focus on Christ’s mission, we as the body of Christ can do amazing things through the power of the Holy Spirit that lives and moves through us. We may face challenges, but through creative thinking and wisdom given to us by the Spirit, God will move us in directions we never dreamed possible. And like the heavens and nature itself we will proclaim the glory of God not only through our words, but more importantly through the kind of lives we live. When we speak and act in love, and compassion, kindness, and mercy, we proclaim God’s glory. We are anointed for this work of the Spirit, and we are empowered to do it with confidence and joy.
I’d like to close with a poem from Howard Thurman entitled, “The Work of Christmas.”
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
This is the work we are called and anointed to do today. Amen.