Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Epiphany Sunday 27 January 2013
Does the outworking of your faith, bring joy to the world? The expectations which surrounded our Lord were immense and he did everything in one sense to encourage them. Some scholars believe that the beginning of Jesus’ ministry happened in a year of Jubilee; a year of liberation, only celebrated ever fifty years, during which time the fields lay fallow, persons returned to their own homes, debts were relinquished and slaves set free. It is in this context of hope and expectation that out of a religious tradition comes one hope, and from God comes another, and Jesus enters the synagogue and asks specifically for the scroll containing the text of the prophet Isaiah. (Clearly our Lord doesn’t do the lectionary…) and in the company of those who know him well, Our Lord reads aloud a proclamation of “the year of the Lord’s favour”, the year which God has appointed in order to show his salvation upon them.
This particular text from Isaiah brings together the expectation of a religious peoples past with the hopes for the future, and reveals God’s active presence in their midst. We know the story, so to us it makes sense and we can put the pieces together; The One anointed by the spirit of God who has authority to proclaim good news, the one who forgives sins and can release prisoners from war, (both the internalised war of the human psyche, and the victim-full wars between nations); the one who spits into the mud and heals the sight of the blind man, the one who opens the eyes of the ignorant, and liberates women and men to participate in the worship of God, the one who keeps company with sinners and outcasts, is with them. In Jesus, God’s ambition purposefully coincides with Jubilee, for in him the Lord’s favour and blessing and restoration for God’s people is at hand and has no limit, no cap, nothing is held back, we are to be liberated from our own self-imposed limits.
Remarkable is the beginning of our Lord’s ministry at a time of radical and practical justice in Judaic society. So all that the Baptist proclaimed of the coming Christ and now Jubilee, must have asked of those religious folk, do you really believe that there will be a fulfilment of what you preach? You have a religion crammed full of expectation, do you believe it will happen? Will you encourage it? Or will you deny it and deny God’s generosity.
Jesus read, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Before this text, Jesus is applauded; he is praised so Luke tells us on that day in that synagogue, but once he associates himself closely with God’s purpose, he is treated like a fool, his hearers lose confidence to embrace the fulfilment of God’s hope and what can be true. And so continues the typical and cynical relationship of the world and even the church with God’s divine revelation, a step too far for some. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
If we can do what God commands, Christianity will be much more than a tradition of nice pastoral care, sherry parties and limp handshakes at the door.
As Christians we are to have a perception into the life of God which as part of God’s restoration of humankind, commands us to bring Joy, Hope and peace to the world and our common life
Do you bring joy to the world? Do you bring hope to friends? Do you bring peace to conflict?
If we are one in the body of Christ, then the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, he has anointed us to preach the Gospel, and so on, and so forth…. And though being bringers of Joy, hope and peace, might be a messy job at times, it is the one set before us (I believe).
I began this sermon by saying that “The expectations which surrounded our Lord were immense and he did everything to encourage them.” The same should be for us as members incorporate of the body of Christ as members of the Church. All of those out there on Oxford Street should have a high expectation of the people of God, for us to achieve much in the name of Jesus.
So, ditch the false humility, stop fumbling through religious text and playing with rosary’s and looking lost, no more empty words of praise while all the time we undermine our brothers and sisters in Christ. No more blessing, without taking seriously that God’s blessing transforms life. No more blaming our humanity because we might get it wrong on occasion, because God has created us to be glorious. No more excuses that we have to keep things this way or that in order to have a quiet and holy life. As a Christian community, a community of faith, people’s expectation of us should be immense, our expectation of bearing Christ to the world should be overwhelmingly possible, and we should do everything in our power through Christ and rise up to the challenge to being the catalyst for transformation that we look more like God intends us to be.
If we are one in Christ then every year is a year of jubilee, the Gospel is good news. We are to be the ones who bring good news, hope, joy and wonder to a world which is obsessed with status and duplicity. The church through God’s power, YOU are to bring life to men and women and children, not to withhold good news from the poor, or take captive those who are ambitious for God, or take away the sight from those who seek to do what it right and true.
We have a choice, do we collude with the worlds view that we are like any other organisation. Or do we strive to heap expectation upon expectation, and seek to fulfil in the hearing of all people, God’s hope for his creation. We have a religion crammed full of expectation, do we believe it will happen? Will we encourage it? Or deny it and deny God’s generosity.
The Spirit of the Lord is on us, because he has anointed us to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”