Welcome to worship for this 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, January 23, 2022! We are glad that you are here!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have the order and words of worships, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The sermon is also found on this page after the video itself. You can use the bulletin to follow along with your hymn book, or just follow with the words that will be on your screen.
Also to enhance your at home worship experience, you may have a lit candle in your space and extinguish it during the sending hymn. And you can have something small to eat and drink for communion. As always these are optional, but are meant only to help you in your worship and connection with the rest of the community.
May God’s blessing of unity and fellowship be apparent in your lives this day and always!
O God, give us attentive ears and understanding, that by the power of the Spirit we be moved to speak words and have meditations in our hearts that are pleasing to you, through Jesus Christ our Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
So I’m going to be honest with you, I had a hard time writing this sermon. Not because the texts are particularly hard, or that my week was particularly busy, or my natural tendency to procrastinate was particularly in the way (it was just a little in the way). It wasn’t any of those things this time around, but what made this sermon so hard to write was the fact that, well, sermon-writing is hard. It’s hard to come up with new ways to present these texts that we hear over and over again in church. It’s hard to look at this crazy world that we live in and try to decipher where God is present and working within it. It’s hard to examine the texts and interpret them so they make some sort of sense for us today.
I mean, even after 4.5 years of bible college paired with 4.5 years of seminary and then add almost 13 years of experience of preaching nearly every week, for some strange reason, it still isn’t any easier. I know, in the past I’ve had some decent sermons, some of you have told me so, you know, “not bad, pastor.” But I’m also aware that I’ve had some less decent sermons, as some of you have also told me that as well, you know, “not your best, pastor.” It’ll always be a mixed bag as not every pastor can be a perfect preacher with perfect 10/10 sermons every week.
And it seems that Jesus is no exception here either. *dodge lightning bolts
Last week we read about Jesus’ first recorded miracle, turning water into wine. That gave a lot of people great joy. Today, we read about Jesus’ first recorded sermon. This gives just confusion and perhaps a bit of disagreement and indignation, as we’ll see next week what happens in the story (no spoilers, but feel free to read ahead if you like). I mean this is what is happening here. While we might not recognise this as a sermon, because it’s like one line that would have taken 18 seconds while my sermons are a tad longer and much more dragged out than that, but this was the custom of the day. Whoever was up to preach and teach, would read the scroll just as Jesus did. And after the reading the preacher/teacher would go back to their seat and interpret the text with the people whilst sitting among the people. And so when we’re told how the people’s eyes were fixed on Jesus as he walked back to his seat, it wasn’t about what he read, it wasn’t about food in his teeth or toilet paper stuck to his shoe or his fly was down, it wasn’t even about him taking someone else’s seat which you know would normally cause an uproar in church, but it was because that was just the custom as they prepared themselves for Jesus’ exposition of what he just read.
And his exposition was just that one line, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
That’s it. Not much of a sermon. Maybe he had a hard time preparing too, and his just 40 days and 40 nights of seminary training in the wilderness is starting to catch up to him. It’s like the sermon my friend always tells me to preach when I’m having a hard time, he says I should just walk up there, go to the mic, say “Jesus loves you. Amen.” and then sit down. While that wouldn’t be a bad sermon per se, I don’t think you’d want to keep paying me if that was all I could deliver week after week.
But Jesus sermon seems to be just as basic, as simple, as perhaps obvious. Or at very least, it’s just as short. But it was what was needed to be heard, by those present in the synagogue that day, by those who read this passage again and again over the generations which includes all of you, and quite frankly, by me as I was preparing this sermon. See this sermon in saying that the scripture has been fulfilled reminds us of the anointing that Jesus receives and then passes on to us, to preach good news, freedom, grace, and love to the poor and oppressed.
Wait, this anointing is passed onto us? That wasn’t part of his sermon. Let’s not put words in the Son of God’s mouth, yeah?
Because this calling that is spelled out in the Isaiah passage that Jesus read seems like kind of a tall order. It won’t be easy for any of us to do all these things. It’s overwhelming when we look at this work and think that it has been shovelled it all onto our plates. So us anointed with Jesus to do this? Thanks, but no thanks. Seriously, no thanks.
But the good news is found in our second reading for today, and that is that while yes this is a tall order, we aren’t at it alone. While we might not feel that we’re not skilled or trained or talented enough to do it all, know that there are others in our community and beyond that fill the gaps that we leave behind just as we fill the gaps that they leave. While our initial reaction might be to shun this call and turn and run in the other direction, we are reminded that we are united in the Spirit, energized by God’s love, and uniquely equipped to be God’s specific child in our own unique specific context.
So I know that the world can seem to be a crazy place, especially in this crazy time of pandemic. I know that being a beacon of hope and God’s love is something that sounds down right daunting and scary. I know that our calling to be God’s people might not be something that we really even want.
But I also know that this calling doesn’t come to only us. I know that our mission isn’t to do this alone. I know that while we are unique individuals, we are designed to work together, collectively sharing our gifts and talents, and using them for the greater good as the one body of Christ.
We can be confident in this promise, even when we are intimidated. We can rest assured that the Spirit will guide us even when we feel uncertain. We can trust in the promise that we will not be alone, for Christ is with us as we together, as God’s church, make up Christ’s body in the world, working in God’s mission, building each other up in our shortcomings and faults, and declaring God’s love for a world in need.
So in my preparation for this sermon, as I reflected on these texts and Jesus’ own sermon, I came to the realisation of how my sermons aren’t just me talking. The words that come from this mouth aren’t just from me alone. These thoughts and ideas aren’t always properly credited to their rightful owners. But this sermon, all my sermons actually, are a culmination of our interactions, our collective learning, our joint wisdom to reveal just where this good news resides. And so I am reminded that no matter what the words from my lips are, it’s the meditation of all our hearts that continues to join us together and allows the Spirit to move through us all, empowering us not to be pleasing to God, but empowering us because God has already decided to be pleased with us, through the work and ministry of Jesus Christ in and around and throughout our lives.
So thank you, all of you, for being who you are as the body of Christ. Know that your role, while perhaps small and seemingly insignificant to you and perhaps to others, matters in the bigger picture that we might not always see. At the same time, know that all the other roles that we see in this body matter just as much as yours, just as you matter just as much as them. And above all, know that the love of God shines in you and strengthens you in your role and reforms you as God’s own child forever. We are, by God’s grace and mercy, the one body of Christ, working together to bring about a better world, full of love, peace, and joy, for the good of all.
In this season after the Epiphany, may we continually have our minds opened by the power of the Spirit, that we might see our joint mission and call to be God’s people, equally connected and valued as the one body of Christ in the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.