The Sunday Sermon: January 24, 2021 – 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: Luke 4:16-21
Our journey has begun once again. The wait is over. We’ve had another epiphany. And we’ve renewed our own baptismal vows. Last week we read words from the tenth chapter of Matthew spoken to “the twelve” as Jesus sends them out. Those words are the ones through which we are sent, out on our way in the Way that calls us not to align ourselves with “worldly” values but not to separate ourselves from the world and each other, either; a way that calls us not to hope for the destruction of this world, but to live in it and with one another in order to transform it, and us, all. We Christians so carefully calculate the cost of our discipleship when all we are really called to do is to put our trust in God and God’s future. We asked this question last week: When will we actually do it? And we offered this response: Let’s begin with today.
Pray with me …
We move into the Gospel of Luke this morning, this week. Our reading will end where we have promised to begin: today. Listen for the Word of God. Read Luke 4:16-21. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Apart from the reading of the Isaiah scroll, the first public word of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke as an adult is “today.” The age of God’s reign is here … today. Theologically – seeking to better understand God – we ask: Who in the world is this guy? And anthropologically – seeking to better understand ourselves – we ask: Who are we because of him?
These are profound questions anytime, I suppose, but in light of the lives we’ve been living and the news we’ve been hearing for the last year and the last two weeks, and in light of another historic week of transition this past week, responding in some way or another to questions such as these has become even more urgent. So …
Who is this guy?
Can we honestly and openly talk about Jesus’ divinity and our identity as Christians, “little Christ’s,” given the exclusive tone Christian doctrines of the Incarnation too often take, and given how deeply ingrained our own sense or Jesus’ “otherness” is? Can we understand Jesus as Christ in the language and through the experiences of “today.” Is it possible for us to go beneath the explanations and interpretations found in the New Testament, the early church confessions, and the last 1600 years of tradition to come in contact with the God that flowed through this person Jesus and the God that flows through us, as well? Can we discover the presence of God at work in and through ourselves as it was in him, in ways that lead to forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, and resurrection? I personally believe, and have to believe for the sake of a hurting and fearful world and our lives in it, that we can.
To seek the presence of God in ourselves, is to begin to respond to our second question: Who are we because of Jesus? And what are we called to do because of him?
Jesus taught that a unity already exists between God and human life. He taught that a new dwelling place for God might be not beyond the sky, but among, even within each of us. His most radical teaching came in asserting that in his life – through his teachings and healings, and in the community that shared their lives fully with one another – God and human life are seen to flow together. In the first century, first Paul then the gospel writers and the communities that formed to follow the Way of Jesus were touched by the same Spirit Jesus embodied. And “today” our lives have been touched and infused with this same Spirit.
Isaiah 61, the scroll from which Jesus reads in our scripture this morning, is a servant song. In Jesus’ assertion that “God has anointed me,” anointed me means “made me the Christ or Messiah.” When understood literally, the passage says that the Christ is “God’s servant who will bring to reality the longing and the hope of the poor, the oppressed, and the imprisoned” (Craddock, Fred B. Interpretation: Luke. 62).
That is who we are called to be because of Jesus. No longer can we claim to be Christians, Christ-ones, and say that this work is someone else’s. No longer can we claim to be a disciple of Christ by simply affirming one creed or another about an external God who lived among us for a time two thousand years ago in the person of Jesus. We must claim our own identity because this same God has anointed us to live the same live that Jesus lived then, today.
We are empowered by that life two thousand years ago to imitate the presence of God in him by living fully today. By loving wastefully today. By having the courage to be all that God created us to be today. We must never allow today to become yesterday or slip into a vague someday. Today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. It is not because we should or because we ought to that we, too, bring good news, and proclaim release, recovery, freedom, and God’s favor. It is because we must.
As we come to know the Christ in us, not denying the divinity of Jesus, but acknowledging that divinity in ourselves as well; as we speak of Jesus in language and with concepts that are revelatory in our time and for our lives, we will begin to focus on Christ’s humanness and love of life. And as we do, we will discover that our goodness is defined not by what we deny, by what we resist, and by who we exclude, and is measured more by what we create, what we embrace, and who we include” (Foote and Thornburg. Being Disciples of Jesus in a Dot.Com World).
That is who Jesus the Christ was and is and evermore shall be. That is who we are called to be because of him.
May it be so. Amen
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / January 24, 2021