The Sunday Sermon: Epiphany 3, 2016
Mr & Mrs Jones: Churchy People.
Epiphany 3-C 2016
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones and family, woke up, got dressed and ready, just like any other Sabbath day in Nazareth. Mr. Jones drank his coffee and ate his bagel while the children enjoyed their rice crispies and chocolate milk, while Mrs Jones was still figuring out what shoes to wear.
It was a normal, ordinary, run of the mill Sabbath in the Jones household. They left the house and headed to Synagogue. Mr and Mrs Jones dropped the children off at Sabbath Day School, and headed into synagogue for the 10 a.m. service.
They were excited to hear more from a guest teacher- a guest, yes, but they knew him, he had grown up in town and had been away. Everyone was talking about his teaching. He taught with such clarity and enthusiasm, everyone praised him. The Jones’ were looking forward to hearing what he was going to be teaching about today.
The service started, the teacher, Yeshuah ben Joseph called for the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He began unroll the scroll from one spool to another. It seemed like he was scrolling forever through the 24 feet of parchment. Mr Jones looked at his watch, hoping the sermon wasn’t going to go on too long.
Finally, the teacher stopped scrolling and began to read.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.[c]
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
He rolled up the scroll. Handed it back to the attendant, sat down. Everyone was looking at him, waiting to hear what he had to say about this familiar text.
They knew what Isaiah was prophesying about – it was the promise of God to their ancestors, when they had been forcibly deported from their own homes, their own lands, and relocated in Babylon, hundreds of miles to the East of Israel. They knew how rejected God’s people had felt, how they felt abandoned when God let them be deported. And in that time of exile, that time of punishment for their sins, God had begun to speak to them again – telling them this time of exile wasn’t permanent; that some day, they would be sent home. They would be sent home to celebrate the Lord’s favor with a year of Jubilee, a year of celebration, and they would rejoice and give thanks that God was their God and they were his people.
All eyes in the synagogue were on Jesus – how would he tell that story? How would he tell them all the wonderful things about God that they wanted to hear so that they would be emotionally comforted and spiritually satisfied?
They knew what was supposed to come next. Mrs. Jones already had the perfect sermon in her mind, she just wanted Jesus to say the words in his voice to reassure her.
“Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And the crowd went wild. And what did they say?
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'”
The crowd loved what they heard Jesus tell them – they were such gracious lips coming from Jesus’ mouth, they said.
But he didn’t stop there. He continued to speak the truth which our Heavenly Father sent him to proclaim:
And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
Did you catch that? Jesus had them hanging on his every word. They were in love with what he was saying. Until, as some in my generation say, he got real.
What our Lord is saying here, in brief, is that God will bless those who will truly appreciate his blessing by responding to Him.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones loved the gracious words. They loved hearing of the promises and the blessing of God, but for the most part, they were just going through the motions of religion. They wen’t to synagogue on Saturday and when they got home, nothing had changed in them. They were no closer to God in heart, mind, or will, than they had been before.
They weren’t truly interested in following the Lord – turning from their private sins and repenting and amending their lives, or their public sins and turning to help the poor, the stranger, and the outcast. What they wanted was to be made to feel good or atleast be able to tell themselves they were good people because they went to worship.
But our Lord tells us that we need to respond to the encounter with God and the way that we do so is by blessing others with the blessing that we received from him.
And he tells us that where we fail, he will indeed bless. When we do not bless the poor, or the oppressed, he will. He’ll take that blessing that was meant for us and give it to them because they will turn their hearts to him. There were plenty of widows and lepers in Israel – but the lord blessed the ones who he knew would respond with a truly grateful heart.
Why is that so important? Why is it important that you and I join in the mission of our Lord of bringing the good news to the poor and release to the captives and sight to the blind and freeing the oppressed? Why is it important that as we go from here, we find ways to bless others with the blessings we receive in hearing the Good News and receiving the Blessed Sacrament? Is it because we want to be obedient to his will? Is it because we want his blessing?
Perhaps we might say yes to both, and both are good reasons. But I think a better reason to join in that mission – his mission of blessing– is because in doing so, by being obedient to his command to share his blessings by receiving even greater blessings by doing so, we are transformed into what we were meant to be from the very beginning of creation…
“we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1JN3:2)