Sunday, 3 February 2019

And so it begins… (part one)

Luke 4: 14-21. A sermon preached on January 27th in Earlston following infant baptism.
Today is a new beginning for Jacob and his family; as they brought him here for baptism, they are declaring for all to hear that to call on God for blessing is important; they are setting up a new relationship for their infant son, even though he is barely aware of it, he now belongs to God’s family; he receives God’s promises.

Today’s gospel reading is the first of two – come back next week to hear what happens next!
It also contains arguably the shortest sermon ever: “today this has come true in your hearing.” That is it.
There are two things to say on reflection of this passage: 
let the Bible preach itself, as Jesus did; 
then believe it is coming true.
Hmm… maybe you are expecting a little more of me this morning?

Jesus returns home. What are people’s expectation of him now? Will they be expecting some profound insight from the boy who grew up among them? Is there a gentle sense of pride towards one of their own? What would Jesus’ own expectations have been on returning home?
Could a more profound passage have been given to Jesus to read and expound on?
This is the liberation theologian’s dream passage and with the Jews in the middle of an occupied territory, to hear these words of exodus-like freedom from the lips of one of the village sons might have sent hairs standing on the back of each person’s neck. What comment will he make?
What dangerous gospel is he going to exclaim?
What Jesus offers either convinces you he truly does have profound insight, more than anyone expected, or he now thinks he is better than everyone else.
“What you have heard, is coming true.”
What? That’s it? Where are the eloquent words and deep insights you have gleaned from this passage?
But, The Word becomes flesh, always. This is yet another moment where there is no satisfaction in being able to describe things, and wax lyrically on how things will be.
In our hearing, in our presence, in our being, these words come true. Jesus nails his colours to the mast and sets out his stall with a simple (profound) sentence:
“These words have come true in your hearing.”
Without witnessing to the poor and the imprisoned and the blind, we are not living the gospel. This manifesto of the Reign of God is taking the hopes that have been building up over the centuries through the prophets, especially Isaiah, whose words these are, and then opening them up and setting them free. The hoping is over. The fulfilment is here.

In our hearing…
It keeps coming back to this. Not that they are true, or that they have been fulfilled, but that this has happened in our hearing as if this is the proof.
You’ve heard it happen with your own ears. Now believe it.

It is Jesus’ call to his disciples, more than that given to the fishermen on that beach and tax collectors at their tables.
It is Jesus’ call to the church and every faith community to hear the gospel, this gospel, and make it so in our presence.

Next week, we will hear how his friends, family, community reacted to his profound sermon.
But this week, as we stand witness to the baptism of baby Jacob; as witness again, God’s love, manifest in a child, we again need to hear the Good News…
Jesus came to bring life and freedom
To bring challenge and hope
To open eyes and ears, so that all may know God’s manifesto:
Here’s how it is translated in the Message version:
God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”

Taken like that, who could argue?
Freedom, sight, forgiveness, pardon…
These are all things we want; these are all things that God wants for God’s people.
For all people.
Not just those in the know
Not just a chosen few…
But all God’s people.

As Jesus read from scriptures
And then proclaimed that God’s manifesto was being fulfilled, a new era began.
Jesus mission started: he was sent to bring Good News for all people
For those who had begun to follow him it was electric.
For those who had known him all his life… well, you’ll have to wait until next week for part two!

As Jesus proclaims the gospel news to each of us again today
In our hearing…
We have a choice.
Hear the good news and believe it; respond to it.
Or, carry on as before…
It’s up to us.
God calls
Are your ears open?
Can your eyes see?

When church becomes like home, and we become too comfortable or complacent, may God inspire us with the Spirit.
When our congregations become a closed-doors community, that keeps strangers out, may God inspire us by the Spirit to open wide the doors.

 The Church of Scotland is facing something of a crisis, right now.
Right now the church itself needs to hear again this message of hope and inspiration:
We are here to listen again to God’s manifesto:
For all God’s people
All the time

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