Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sunday's Sermon



Embrace Christ’s Mission
January 24th 2016

I’d like to share with you from Luke 4: 14-21

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. 

The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  This astounded them!

Let us look at the message of this scripture  a little closer.

Last week, from the Gospel of John, the wedding at Cana was cited as the first of seven signs the community of John used to decide that Jesus was divine. 

This week, from the Gospel of Luke, we hear an announcement about Jesus’ public ministry.

This passage follows Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the wilderness. It was after those two key life events that Jesus returned to Galilee “filled with the power of the Spirit” (v. 14). Though the passage began with news of his expected return and praise from those he was teaching in nearby synagogues, the reading is followed by an attempt to throw him off a cliff!
What do you suppose that was all about? Our focus this morning is verses 14–21, but the context of the verses is important.

Jesus' claim that "today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" placed both listeners and readers in the position of having to make a choice. No fence-sitting was possible. Jesus' teaching was not some ethical instruction detached from his person. He indicated he was the promise of God. He was the Messiah! Either he brought God’s  promise of the end times and a drastic change in that day’s world, or he did not.

The crowd does reflect on the claim; they are amazed and perplexed simultaneously. They spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. They recognized a persuasive speaker in their midst, but his pedigree  gave them pause. “Isn't this Joseph's son?” they asked.  How could he be the promised one of God? 

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus responded. In the Gospels, when someone thinks and then Jesus speaks, his words usually carry rebuke.

Jesus replied in three ways. First, he cited a proverb that indicated they wanted him to prove it. "Show me" was their basic response to his claim. 

Miracles or signs…, as powerful a testimony as they were to Jesus’ reputation, in the end never convince one who does not want to listen and accept. People must be willing to hear the message and receive it before they will see anything as God's work and their own part in it. Jesus’ message was a challenge to the status quo.  

Second, Jesus quoted the proverb that a prophet is often not honored in his own hometown. This remark revealed Jesus' understanding of Old Testament history. He knew how repeatedly God's messengers were rejected. God's message was often met with rejection. The proverb also served as a prediction that for many in Israel Jesus' ministry would fit into this tragic mold.

Third, Jesus recalls the history of Israel in the period of Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 17--18; 2 Kings 5:1-14). The history lesson is a warning. That period was a low point in the nation's life, when rejection of God was at an all-time high and idolatry and unfaithfulness ran rampant. So God moved his works of mercy outside the nation into Gentile regions, as only a widow in Sidon and Naaman the Syrian experienced God's healing. This exchange revealed the basic challenge of Jesus' ministry: the choice he presented carried high stakes.

The crowd did not seize the opportunity. Rather, Jesus' warning angered them. The suggestion that Gentiles might be blessed while Israel reaps nothing left them fuming. Such displeasure at the accountability implicit in the gospel message is echoed in other scripture and the crowd knew that. 

Many respond similarly today when they realize that the gospel is a matter of "take it and act on it or you will be responsible for the consequences of your decision."

Jesus departed and slipped through the crowd, despite the crowd's efforts to seize him and throw him over a cliff.

People can try to turn their back on Jesus’s message  and even do away with him,  as this crowd tried to do but his message and challenge always will be remaining in their midst.


The challenge for our congregation is to look with fresh eyes at what may be the most often repeated scripture passage in Community of Christ. 

Jesus’ declaration in verses 18–19 is at the heart of our understanding of our mission. How can the message this week be an epiphany (seeing or understanding something in a new way) for us ?

Let us read it again with new eyes:
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus must have been well-known and well-respected as news of his return spread rapidly. People gathered in the synagogues to hear him speak…and they were pleased. After he finished reading, all eyes were on him. He must have been a favorite son in the villages near his home.

Still, they thought, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”  “Can this man who grew up among us be the Messiah?”

We learn from his time in the wilderness and his bold declaration in the synagogue that his goal was not to please others but to fulfill God’s call in his life.

Jesus commonly went to the synagogue. He was evidently familiar with reading scripture and letting God speak through the words on the scrolls. 

After his baptism and his sojourn in the wilderness, Jesus was clear that he had been called by God for a specific purpose.

Of all the options, the most likely is that Judaism taught that Messiah should only engage in certain types of self-proclamation. Perhaps also there is concern that the title Messiah would be understood with too political a force and bring the Romans down on them in force. 

Note: there was a strong connection between Jesus’ baptism, his time alone in the wilderness, and God’s call through the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

The same may be true for us. 

Jesus adapted the well-known prophetic passage of Isaiah 61 and heard God calling him through it. Sacred writings shaped Jesus’ life and they are gifts to us to help us shape our lives. 

We must keep pushing our understanding of mission up against this announcement by Jesus of his own call. After all, the church proclaims “Jesus’ mission is our mission”.

From our Doctrine and Covenants 162:7a
There are many lives waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel, or to be lifted from hopelessness by the hands of loving servants. But they will be lost to you without the generous response of disciples who share from their own bounty that others may know the joys of the kingdom. —
God gives and loves graciously and generously! We know that all we are and all we have are gifts from God. As followers of Jesus, our whole-life commitment is in response to God's wonderful generosity. Being generous is about aligning our priorities with God's priorities, aligning our hearts with God's heart. 

What is our response as disciples of Jesus? In simple terms, we are called to respond with thankfulness and share with others as generously as God has shared with us. The following six spiritual practices of A Disciple’s Generous Response guide us in managing and sharing our resources:

Be Generous
God gifts each person with boundless grace and unending love. Our response to that love and grace is to serve others and let generosity become part of our nature. 

Be Dependable
God's unconditional love for each of us is expressed through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. When we faithfully respond to that ministry we become accountable to one another, God, and ourselves.

Manage Your Money
Managing the money we have, no matter the amount, expresses our desire to love and help God, neighbors, ourselves, and the world. When we focus our giving on God's purposes, our hearts become more aligned with God's heart. 

Share Joyfully
Tithing is a gift of thanksgiving to God and the church in response to God's generous gifts to us. When we share our tithes, the church can spread joy, hope, love, and peace around the world so others can experience God's generosity, too. 

Save Wisely
Saving is a way to prepare for the future. It gives us the chance to extend our love and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the church's mission, and the world. 

Spend Carefully
Responsibly spending is a commitment to live a healthy, happy life together with God and others. The teachings of Jesus challenge us to make lifestyle choices that are often countercultural. 



When we consider the ways that each principle applies to our lives, we respond faithfully and begin to discover our true capacity for giving. 

The promise in our Doctrine and Covenants 163:9 is clear: "Eternal joy and peace await those who grow in grace and generosity that flows from compassionate hearts without thought of return." We invite you to join us on this journey! 

Let us read again the Mission Statement of Jesus with even newer eyes:
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

If Jesus’ mission is our mission, when and how have we responded to the call to preach good news, to announce pardon and recovery of sight, to set the burdened free, to proclaim, that this is God’s year to act…through us? 

There are at least two ways we can implement this challenge. We can attempt to tithe 10% of our income as the recent Herald article suggests is the new norm for the church and to further the worldwide mission of the church and we can work in our own communities to implement that mission in our own communities where there is much need. 

We have attempted to do that as a community as much as we can with the size of our congregation.  But we can also do more as individuals by volunteering where volunteers are needed and by contributing to worthy community projects . 

Included with your bulletins, are copies of the Mission Prayer the World Church  has provided for us to carry with us in our billfolds and purses to refer to each day.  

And last of all let us each ask ourselves where  God has called us as individuals to go that we have not yet gone?

2 comments:

Sister--Three said...

Be Generous
Be Dependable
Manage Your Money
Share Joyfully
Save Wisely
Spend Carefully
What great advice to all!

Margie's Musings said...

Thank you, Sister Three!