Epiphany3 C 2022
Today Scripture Has Been Fulfilled Luke 4:14-21
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let me begin by asking two questions. 1. Do people today still make New Year’s resolutions? Yes. I think people still do. And so, the second question is this, “How have the New Year’s resolutions lasted thus far into January?” Or are they on the back burner?
Already into the New Year I hear phrases such as “Someday I will lose weight.” “Someday I will start exercising.” “Someday I will take that dream vacation.” “Someday I will, and you fill in the blank.” And we do nothing to help make that future come true.
The word “Today” is an important word for Luke. Luke uses the word 12 times in his Gospel whereas the word “Today”occurs only 9 times in the other three Gospel put together.
For example… Luke writes “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you.” “Today you will be with me in paradise.” In the Zacchaeus story, Luke writes “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must stay in your house today.”
In our text this morning we hear “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
For Luke “today” is a moment of radical change. However, most people do not like change. In fact, I would say that most people are allergic to change. That is not how we have done it in the past. In congregations all over America,I think we would find that God’s people avoid change as much as possible.
Christians even try to live in the past. “Remember the good old days” we shout out. “It worked back then so it must work today.”
Yes,history is important. And we need to look back and learn from our mistakes and our successes. But we cannot live in the past. We live in the present. It is not 1950. Or 1970. Or even 1999 anymore. We live in the year 2022.
On the other hand, we also avoid making changes by dreaming of what the world will be like tomorrow. Someday the prisons will be empty. Someday the oppressed will beset free. Someday poverty will end. Someday all people will have heard the Gospel.
Yes, God will do all this, and so much more, so we do not have to do anything today to help the oppressed out of their plight. We can sit back and relax, because we know that one day God will take care of it.
It has been suggested that the greatest threat to congregations today are past successes that no longer work in our post-modern society. Even so, we do the same things over and over again, hoping to revive the past and change our current situation.
It was the same thing in our first reading today. Nehemiah’s dream was not just to see the walls of the city rebuilt, but also to see the city dwellers’ lives renewed. In his eyes, the people had grown careless, weary, jaded, and cynical about their relationship with God.
The people were doing the same thing over and over again and feeling frustrated and worn out. Having just recently returned from exile, the people needed to hear the Law of Moses with fresh ears and a contrite heart.
The people needed to hear that the Lord their God was active and present and doing something new. The people needed to hear that change was upon them and that things will not be like they have been in the past.
In our Gospel reading, the hometown folks in Nazareth needed to hear the Word of God with fresh ears too. When Jesus returned to his hometown, He went to the synagogue as was His custom, and the hometown folks handed Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to read.
Jesus then 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 bind, to let the oppressed go, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And with all the eyes of those in attendance upon Him, Jesus said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
And the people became angry because Jesus quoted “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” but left out the second half of the verse from Isaiah with reads“and a day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus had just turned a text of judgement into a text of mercy.
What is the matter with this boy, they must have wondered? This is outrageous. Doesn’t He know how we feel about this text? The messianic age to come will be a golden age for us and a day of vengeance of our God.
The hometown folks did not understand that the Lord their God was active and present and doing something new. The hometown folks did not understand that change was upon them and that things will not be like they have been in the past.
God’s Redeeming Activity will be for all people, and not just for the hometown folks. And this made the people in the synagogue furious. In the verses that follow, we are told that the folks were filled with rage. They got up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl Him off the cliff. But He passed through the midst of hem and went on His way.
And so, the question that needs to be asked is this: How do we react when we hear that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing?” After all this scripture is still being fulfilled in our hearing “Today.” Yes. God is with us today and God is doing something new.
Isaiah foretold: “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.”
Jesus then said: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Next Sunday we will hear how the hometown folks responded to this Good News and learn how they felt about participating in God’s Redeeming Plan. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, you sent Jesus to proclaim your kingdom and to teach with authority. Anoint us with your Spirit,that we too may bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, and proclaim liberty to the captive; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.