Monday, January 25, 2016

Sermon for Epiphany 3: "First Words"

+ Third Sunday after Epiphany – January 24th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Nehemiah 8:1-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Luke 4:16-30

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

First words are often memorable: the first lines of a classic book, a beloved play, or a favorite song. A child’s first words – mama, dada; I love you – are unforgettable. And we can probably recall a time when the first words out of our mouths made an impression – good or bad – it matters not; the point is the same. The first words are important.

So it is with Jesus’ preaching. St. Luke records Jesus’ first words of his first sermon. And Jesus’ Word is unlike any other word. By his word he calms storms, gives the deaf hearing, heals the blind, makes the lame walk, raises the dead, and forgives sin.

Jesus, the Word of God in human flesh, declares God’s Word for your deliverance.

Luke reminds us this takes place in Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth. But even before Luke gets to the content of Jesus’ first sermon, we have a clue about Jesus’ identity and way of life. For Jesus, God’s Word is his life, yours too. He who is the Word made flesh read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested God’s Word every Sabbath day in the synagogue. The faithful gathered to hear the Word. Sounds a lot like Redeemer. And in many ways it is, of course the pastor sat for the sermon instead of standing.

And though the setting is important, it’s not as important as Jesus’ Words. That’s the main event in Nazareth.

Jesus takes the scroll of Isaiah, unrolls it to just the right place, and then reads God’s Word.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

The first words out of Jesus’ mouth are Scripture. Jesus doesn’t warm up the crowd with a few lame jokes. There’s no motivational speaking. Jesus doesn’t tell the people what they want to hear, but what they need to hear: God’s Word delivered to them.

And it’s a Trinitarian Word as well as a prophetic Word. The same Spirit that descended upon him in the Jordan River at his Baptism pours out of Him like water through his Word. The same Father who sent his Son to be born of a woman anoints him and sends him to preach and proclaim God’s promises.

God is a God of speaking. At creation, the fall, in the flood. In the Egypt, the wilderness, and the Promised Land. Through kings, prophets, and apostles. And now, God, the Word made flesh, is reading his own Word.

Don’t let this little detail be lost on you. Behold and rejoice in the wonder and mystery of the incarnation. The prophet who is greater than Moses, and all the prophets before him, now reads the prophets' words in the flesh. He whom Isaiah foretold now fulfills the very words he is reading. In many and various ways, God spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son.

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

In his one-sentence sermon, Jesus sums up the entire Old Testament. Every word of it points to Him. Anywhere you cut it, the pages of Scripture bleed the blood of Christ. Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ, the Messiah, the long-expected Savior, sent to proclaim and preach good news; to release those in bondage to sin, death, and the devil. And to deliver God’s Word to you and for you.

And yet, Jesus’ Word not only reveals who he is, but who we are as well.

We are the poor in need of God’s rich mercy. We are the blind who are in need of eyes to see and ears to hear our Lord. We are slaves oppressed by disease and the devil, in both body and soul. We are captives of sin and death.

And so too often we use God’s word like a tool, to do with what we want, when we want and how we want. Want to start a program? There’s a Bible verse for that. Want to raise money? There’s a verse for that. Have self-declared a righteous cause? There’s a verse for that. We look for what the Word can do for us rather than what the Word is doing to us. And as a result, place ourselves as lords of Scripture rather than listeners of it, measuring the Word in terms of results rather than repentance and faith.
What a difference our words are compared to Jesus’ words. With our words we slander, lie, curse our friends, loved ones, fellow Christians, people we don’t even know; we make false oaths and break the ones we make; we gossip, lash out with our tongues as whips, and always try to get the last word in. We use our words to serve, glorify, and point to ourselves.

But not Jesus. Jesus’ Word glorifies the Father and gives his glory to you. Jesus’ Word points you to his suffering and dying for you. Jesus uses his Word to serve you.

Where our words enslave, Jesus’ Words set us free from sin and death. Where our words bring hurt and harm to others, Jesus’ Words bring healing and holiness to us. Where our words bring death,  Jesus’ Words gives you life.

Jesus has the last word on our sin, disease, and death – not Satan, not death, not our sinful flesh – Jesus speaks and it’s done. Finished. Accomplished. Fulfilled…For you! You are forgiven. You are free. From the first words of his first sermon to his last words upon his last breath on the cross, Jesus’ Word is your life.

This is what the crowds in Nazareth failed to hear that day in the synagogue. Their eyes saw only the little boy that grew up playing around the wood chips in Joseph’s workshop; they saw a humble, ordinary looking man saying extraordinary things. They were not seeing with their ears. For that is how we truly see Jesus, not by what your eyes see, but what your ears hear…by Jesus’ Word.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.

The Word we hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest here in this place, in our homes, with our families.

The Word that is poured out upon us with the water – as it is today for David – in Holy Baptism. Today Scripture is fulfilled in our hearing and the washing away of sins.

The Word that pronounces liberty to us who were captive to sin: “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Word that fills bread and wine with Jesus’ body and blood given for us. We eat, drink, hear, are washed, and rejoice in God’s Word delivered for us.

That’s why Redeemer Lutheran exists: by God’s Word and for God’s Word. That’s our calling, our vocation. We are to be hearers of the Word, receivers of the Word, and then speakers of God’s Word. We’re sent to our homes and neighborhoods, our family gatherings, parks, practice, and parties. Jesus’ Word is our life as a congregation too.

This is why our life of Christian stewardship is important. It’s not about the money, but about supporting the work of God’s Word.

This is why our work of evangelism is important, for God’s Word is meant to be proclaimed and delivered to those who have not heard.

This is why we show mercy to others in need, physical and spiritual, because God has shown mercy to us; and by showing mercy to others we reveal that we have heard his word.

This is why we sing, ring, play harps, piano, and organ: we rejoice, confess, and shout the praises of Christ our deliverer.

This is why we have Sunday School, Bible class, and preschool: to give, proclaim, and teach God’s Word of life to all, in season and out of season.

Today the Scriptures are fulfilled in you too. You see Jesus with the eyes of faith and hear his Word. Sure, disease and the devil may plague you, but Jesus’ Word is your safe harbor, your light, and life. You are his baptized child. You are forgiven and free from sin and death. You have the good news in Jesus’ dying and rising for you. For today, just as in Nazareth, Jesus declares:

Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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