Monday, January 28, 2013

Epiphany 3 of Series C (Luke 4:16-30)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke. Dear friends in Christ, the Prophet was anointed, set apart for the work of the Lord. We saw it last week; as the Prophet stepped into Jordan’s stream, the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended as a dove, and a voice came forth: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The prophets, priests, and kings of the Old Testament were anointed with oil; this Prophet who is also Priest and King was anointed with water and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, His title is Christ, the Greek word that means ‘anointed one.’ But no one is anointed simply to stand around and do nothing. Prophets, priests, and kings are anointed for a task, they are anointing to do something. This Prophet is anointed for a purpose, and when Jesus comes home, He tells us why: “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 recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The Prophet, the Christ, the one anointed at the Jordan then declares, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today the poor have good news preached to them. You are spiritually impoverished, conceived and born without any good, without any capacity or desire to love God. You are conceived and born with Adam’s sin, which has robbed you of all good. Spiritually, you are bankrupt, and always have been from the very moment that you began to exist. And there is no upward mobility in spiritual things, no way for you to work your way out of your situation. Your poverty is complete, total, and out of your control. Today the Prophet preaches good news to you, for He was anointed in the Jordan to bring you heavenly treasure. Today He has come into your midst to reverse your fortunes, transforming you from total and complete poverty, having nothing, to incredible wealth, having everything. You, who had no good before God, who had no ability to love God, who were conceived and born in rebellion against Him, are reconciled today with your Creator. Today you are given the very treasures of heaven itself; all God has is yours!

Today the captives have freedom preached to them. You are in captivity, imprisoned, bound to your sin. All sin enslaves, and it has enslaved you. Each of you has a sin or sins that have you fast-bound in its chains, the sin that you cannot escape, no matter how hard you try. Is it the desire for approval, the constant need to have others think well of you? Is it lust, the desire for those who are not your spouse that brings unstoppable images to you mind? Is it the language the comes from your mouth, filthy words, words that hurt, words that spread rumors and gossip, words that you are unable to hold back? Is it anger, the wrath that bubbles up uncontrollably, hurting those whom you love? Or is it a whole host of other sins, all of which hold you in bondage, all of which enslave you? Today the Prophet has come to free you. He was anointed in the Jordan to declare freedom to the captives. Today, freedom has come, today He will loose your bonds, He will break your chains. The Prophet has come to bring freedom to a creation in bondage to sin and death, to release all in prison. Today is your day of freedom; sin no longer holds you, it no longer controls you—today the Prophet has come!

Today the blind have their eyes opened. You are spiritually blind, blind to God, blind to His Prophet. Your sinful eyes cannot see your Creator, you are blind to His ways, to His great deeds in this world. You are blind to the spiritual realities that surround you, instead seeing what the world wants you to see: money, pleasure, selfishness, all under the banner that there are no spiritual realities—that this world is all there is. The blind cannot see anything but what the world tells them to see, and that vision has nothing to do with God. Today the Prophet has come to open blind eyes. It is for this reason that He was anointed in the Jordan, declared to be God’s beloved Son, Jesus the Christ. Today He reveals Himself to your blind eyes as God in the flesh, come to open eyes made blind by sin, opening them to see their God as a God of mercy and grace. Today sight has come, today those who are blind will see. Today your eyes are opened, and the sight is glorious; you see your Creator, your Lord, bearing your human flesh, standing in your midst, come to deliver, come to save, come to bring sight to the blind.

Today the oppressed are set free. You are oppressed, broken by the sin that fills this fallen world, by the sin that fills you. You are broken when others sin against you, when they attack your body or your reputation. You are broken, shattered, when relationships fall apart, when friends or loved ones abandon you, when they hurt you in ways that only those closest to you can. You are oppressed when natural disasters come upon you, from drought, to fire, to storms, taking your property and threatening your life. You are broken when disease strikes, when your body is stricken by malicious attackers with names like ‘cancer,’ ‘heart disease,’ ‘stroke,’ and ‘Alzheimer’s.’ You are oppressed by death, as it takes your loved ones, as it threatens you. Today the prophet comes to proclaim freedom. He was anointed in the Jordan to free the oppressed, to heal the broken. Today He will free you from your brokenness, He will deliver you from your oppression. Today even death will be a victim of the Prophet’s righteous wrath. The Prophet has come to proclaim the end to brokenness; through Him, you will be made whole. Today is your day of freedom, from all oppression, all brokenness.
Today the Prophet came to His hometown “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” His agenda of freedom would begin among those who knew Him best. But those who knew Him best rejected Him. They claimed to know Him too well: “Is this not Joseph’s son?” We grew up with this guy; how can He claim to be God’s anointed one? And so they want a miracle. “And He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me the proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” But no miracle is coming; the Prophet hasn’t arrived to put on a magic show, but to declare freedom to a creation in bondage to sin. And for that, the people will respond in anger. “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove Him out of the town and brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw Him down the cliff.” The prophetic pattern is rejection. Elijah knew this, as did Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and all the rest. They were all anointed to be rejected, to preach God’s Word to ears that wouldn’t listen. The Prophet anointed in Jordan’s stream, with the heavens open and the Spirit descending, would follow their pattern, He would die a martyr’s death as many of them had. But His hour was not yet. “Passing through their midst, He went away.”

The One who refused to do a miracle is saved by a miracle. But He is only delivered from the wrath of Nazareth in order to face the wrath of Jerusalem. His hour would come, for the Prophet, Jesus the Christ, was anointed to die. He walked through the crowd in Nazareth in order to walk the way of the cross. His death, His rejection at the hands of His relatives, His people, would bring freedom. His death wins heavenly treasure for the poor, the spiritually impoverished, for you and me. His death brings liberty to those captive to sin, for His death breaks the bonds of sin; forgiveness flows from the cross to you and me, the only proclamation that can sever sin’s chains, the only proclamation that can bring release. His death opens eyes blinded by sin, opening them to see your Creator as a God of love, mercy, and grace. Your eyes are opened to see God as He is present in the flesh of Christ, in the Word proclaimed, and the Sacraments administered. His death brings liberty to the broken and oppressed, for His death frees this creation from the bonds of sin. With His death, death itself is robbed of its power, and a day is coming when disease, disasters, and even sin will be no more. The Prophet’s death in your place inaugurated the “year of the Lord’s favor.” God is now favorable to you because of Jesus; you are acceptable to Him, He is well pleased with you. Through the cross and empty tomb, the song of the angels came to pass: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” The Prophet was rejected, even to the point of death, so that God could be well-pleased with you, forever.

“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Today you have been set free from the bonds of your sin through the Absolution. Today you have heard good news preached to you, giving to you heavenly treasure. [Today you will receive Christ’s Body and Blood, healing balm for your brokenness.] Salvation has come among you today, just as surely as it came among the people of Nazareth, as their ‘hometown boy’ proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor. The gifts of Christ are not something in the vague and far-off future; they are yours right now, they belong to you ‘today.’ The Day is coming when you will fully partake of them forever, but they are your present possession and treasure even now. Today you have been given a treasure that the world cannot give: the Anointed One has come into your midst, God’s Prophet, bearing His gifts. God’s favor is upon you; the year of the Lord’s favor on you will never end: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” In the Name of our anointed Prophet, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

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