This week we jump back into Luke’s gospel (Luke 4:14-21),
And hear a story about every seminarian’s worst nightmare…
Going back home to preach at the congregation or synagogue you grew up in,
Because they know all your baggage…
Like for Jesus when he, as a boy, ditched his parents and stayed behind in Jerusalem after the Passover, it took them 3 days to find him!!!
Maybe he got into trouble for being out camel tipping as a teenager,
Or a short and disastrous relationship with the Rabbi’s daughter.
I don’t know…
I’m kidding of course but there is some truth to the anxiety.
Because your home congregation knows your baggage,
And we all have baggage, lots of it.
So, imagine the scene here, it’s important to give it context.
It’s the Sabbath in the local synagogue in Nazareth, there would have been only one.
Joseph and Mary know Jesus is coming home so they contact the volunteer coordinator and get Jesus scheduled to be a lector, a reader.
And when he gets up to read the place falls silent, all eyes are on Jesus.
This is Mary’s Son, they know the stories, they’ve heard the rumors.
You could probably hear a pin drop.
And he reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah,
Which in and of itself could be a summary of Luke’s gospel in its entirety,
To bring good news to the poor,
To give sight to those who are blinded,
Grant freedom to the oppressed or imprisoned depending on your translation.
All through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Nothing happens without the Spirit.
And Jesus starts out great…
Following the first rule of thumb for any seminarian… KEEP IT SHORT!!!
As he sits down to teach, his sermon is just 9 words long.
Which is great, but the words he chooses… here in lies the problem.
Our communications director Eric Holmer called in a mic drop in the Enews for this week…
Maybe it was a scroll drop… But he says…
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing! BOOM!!!
Which is a condensed way of saying…
“You know all the promises and prayers given to you throughout scripture,
Since the days of Nehemiah and Ezra,
When the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, & the Laws of Moses were explained,
And a Messiah was promised?!?!?! Well look no further!!! Her IAM!!!”
And one interesting tidbit about our reading from Nehemiah this morning,
Grammatically, the HEBREW word for “men” can be used to describe both men and women.
As used to be the norm in American literature and writing,
Male pronouns were used to describe both sexes when there was a group.
That’s how it was in ancient Israel as well.
But Nehemiah goes to great lengths to say in verse 2…
That Ezra brought the law before, not only just men and women,
But also, anyone who could hear.
That specificity only happens a couple of times in the entirety of the OT.
Signaling immediately that this new dawn and new birth for God’s people is going to be one of radical inclusivity, literally anyone who can hear is included!!!
Which had to be somewhat of a shock to the gathered assembly.
Similar to the shock experienced by those in the synagogue in Nazareth,
From our story this morning.
And many of you know what happens immediately following this story.
We don’t get to hear about that until next week,
But Jesus basically starts a riot and the people try to throw him off a cliff.
And I remember I got to return to my home congregation,
St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sacramento CA during seminary to preach.
I had to fly back to CA during my senior year to get the final blessing from my candidacy committee.
An expensive trip that St. John’s agreed to help with and invited me to preach while I was back in town.
And the congregation knew all my baggage.
My wife and I had been through a very public miscarriage of our first child when we didn’t know any better than to announce to the entire world we were pregnant the second we got a positive result on the little home test kit!
I had shared in some devotions the pain and disgrace of taking a business I was a partner in through a very complicated bankruptcy.
We all have baggage.
And the scripture that day was about the man who comes looking for fruit on his fig tree and finding none tells the gardener chop it down!
And the gardener says please wait, give me a season to tend to the tree and put manure on it and if it doesn’t produce fruit, then you can cut it down.
It’s a beautiful parable in the 13th chapter of Luke.
And I was describing how sometimes we are called as the people of God,
To be the fertilizer in the story, to go around the tree, to help the gardener.
Sometimes we are called to be the donkey that Jesus rides into town on.
As Paul said in our reading today,
we all have different gifts and we are all called in different ways.
But it struck me as odd at that moment in the pulpit,
That these wonderful people had paid to have me flown in from Columbus, Ohio,
Just for me to tell them that they were manure.
Luckily, they didn’t even try to throw me off a cliff!!!
But we had a good laugh about it.
But I wonder this morning after things quieted down in the synagogue in Nazareth
I wonder if they thought about what Jesus meant in saying TODAY?
Today in this synagogue,
Today in Nazareth, in Galilee, this scripture has been fulfilled.
And what does it mean to us TODAY, in this Church,
In Madison, in Wisconsin, in America that this scripture has been fulfilled.
Jesus, in using the reference from Isaiah,
Describes it as an anointing to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Which many scholars say is reminiscent of a Jubilee year described in Lev 25
The Jubilee was a time every 50 years when fields were to lay fallow,
When debts would be wiped clean,
When slaves / indentured servants would be set free.
What Jesus is saying here is that he has come to proclaim God’s Kingdom.
To Forgive all your debts, no matter the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.
No matter how much you owe,
No matter who you owe it to.
To give you Sight,
Eyes to see what is really important in this life.
A heart to recognize injustice and oppression in our world.
To give Freedom from whatever holds you in bondage,
Whatever makes you feel trapped,
And that’s a long list in this day and age.
A Jubilee of promises, Forgiveness, Recognition and Awareness, and Freedom!
And today in this place and this time,
We give thanks for a God that is all about Reboots, and Restarts.
It’s LIFE 2.0, that is here for us TODAY through Faith in Jesus Christ.
A life in Christ that promises a release from all the things that enslave us. TODAY
That shows us there is no debt we’ve incurred that the cross can’t pay for, TODAY
That there’s no FICO score required to receive God’s forgiveness… TODAY
That this gift is available to men and women and everyone around the world anyone who can hear… TODAY.
And deep down inside… at least in some part…
Isn’t this what we are all searching for through faith in Christ???
Lord please I pray you will give me eyes to see what’s out there in this world that’s really important in my life,
Take my blinders off so I can see what is worth worrying about and what I need to let go.
Grant me forgiveness for all the stupid decisions I’ve made in my life that always seem to come creeping in during my prayer time and sleepless nights.
Help me to truly learn how to TRULY FORGIVE all the people who have hurt or wronged me and let it go.
Free me from the burden of materialism and consumerism and all the other ISM’s that only you know about
Today in your hearing this is what God is offering you in this church,
Today in your hearing through the Word made flesh,
Through Christ actions on the cross,
Today through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Through this font…
At this table… in this bread and wine…
Today in your hearing this scripture is fulfilled in YOU.