Monday, January 25, 2016

Third Sunday After Epiphany (C) 2016

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Luke 4:16
Theme: “He Stood Up To Read”

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

Words were spoken. Life was created. God was rejected. Promises were decreed. The Word was enfleshed. Blood was spilled. Words were written. The Spirit was dispatched. Heaven was recovered. This narrative of God’s creation, redemption, and restoration through Christ constitutes the entire biblical witness. The details and mysteries of the individual believer’s place in this storyline constitute our daily life before God. God speaks to us and through His speaking we are transformed. Why, because He speaks with authority.

It was a remarkable Sabbath in Nazareth. The subject, apex, and fulfillment of Holy Writ was Himself the reader of the Scriptures that day. Jesus turned to Isaiah and the one of whom Isaiah spoke read about Himself. It was akin to reading one’s own autobiography. But it was more. It was similar to being taught by one who had lived the material of instruction. But it was more. It was a spoiler alert: A revealing of the end of the story. But it was more. And in a preview of Holy Week, it was first received with acclamation and then rejected with vehement condemnation. In the person of Jesus, the new Adam, the human race was given rebirth. In the work of Jesus, who was always in concord with His Father, the human race was reconciled.

Jesus, the Word of Life, stands to interpret the word of Scripture. Christians are people of the book. Not in a pedantic manner. We do not worship the Bible. But apart from the Scriptures we worship nothing but idols. The only Christ we can know with certainty is the Jesus of the Bible. Departure from the biblical description of Christ- additions or deletions- results in endless speculation and controversy. If I claim to have inside knowledge about the blessings or work of Christ, who could prove me right or wrong; Such claims are like feelings. They can’t be objectively verified or dismissed. Who is to say I’m not being misled by the devil. Any promptings of the Holy Spirit we believe to be beneficial to our faith must be in complete harmony with the revealed teaching of Holy Scripture. God promises to speak to us through His word.

If believers don’t make a habit of hearing God’s word every Sabbath Satan will make sure they hear something else. He broadcasts ceaseless interference with God’s truth. When God’s word tells us we are sinners, we’d do best to believe it. We may find enough tangible evidence of our faults, foibles, and failings, but we can swiftly makes excuses, passing the blame and downplaying the gravity. Sins become flaws in our eyes and transgressions become lapses. God’s perfect law tells us unequivocally that our guilt makes us worthy of condemnation. The law is the Spirit’s tool, convicting us and working shame and regret in our hearts. Imagine if your sins were on display for the world to see how quickly you would seek to disappear into obscurity!

But thankfully, Christians are people of the book. What did the Israelites do when they had returned from exile in Babylon? Nehemiah tells us, “On the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament) before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon…”1 God’s word is meant to be heard. What advice does the seasoned apostle Paul give to the young pastor Timothy? “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”2 Again he says, “You have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in rightesousness.”3 These Scriptures are also made tangible to us in water, bread, and wine. The apostle says today, “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”4

The immediate context of Jesus’ visit to Nazareth is the fact of His baptism. His ministry is now public. There is no turning back. He is journeying to the cross. The same is true for us. We are baptized and there is no turning back. God has made His claim on us.
You can rise each morning, remember you are baptized, and marvel that the Scripture has been fulfilled. The Messiah has come. The Redeemer has bought you back with His blood. The Saviour spared you from hell’s fury. The Deliverer has rescued you from Satan’s power. Freedom is decreed to you. The Good News is proclaimed. Your spiritual blindness is healed. Your deafness is cured. The year of the Lord’s favour is announced to you. You have His forgiveness, blessing, and peace. The Lamb of God slain for you on the altar of the cross lives. He has conquered and we participate in His victory.

But many others still live in the defeat of sin even if they don’t understand the bondage they are in. We are freed- in Christ- to serve them in a manner that reflects Christ’s power over sin. Doing so requires a change in mindset that only the Holy Spirit can direct. Very practical realities come into play here. The tendencies of our human nature are very difficult to modify. Think of the typical reaction to being asked to participate in something or commit to it. The first questions we tend to ask ourselves silently follow along the lines of “What’s in it for me?” “Is it something I would benefit from?” “Is it something I would enjoy?” “What are my fears?” “Is it out of my comfort zone?” These are natural questions. They are relevant and not unimportant. But they are not the decisive questions. The first question Christians should ask is “How could my participation in this benefit others?” “If I would invest my time and energy in this way, even stepping out of my comfort zone, would others be helped in a way that is consistent with God’s calling?”

God promises to supply what we lack. Our personal comfort never comes before compassion. Self-interest never outstrips sacrifice. Fear of failure never trumps possibility of assistance. Possibility of inconvenience never surmounts belief that God’s will is done. Of course we know that in practice they often do because we are weak. But they are never taught as the way of Christian life. God has given such great and glorious blessings that all earthly riches pale in comparison.

Think of the holy blessings that were given today in such a humble setting. Nazareth was never highly regarded. A ‘backwater town’ it was neither the place where dreams were fulfilled nor where royals were bred. But on one Sabbath its synagogue was graced by the One who men esteemed not.5 He stood up to read. He rose up to save. He stands to intercede. Life and peace and grace are ours in Him. Amen.

+ In nomine Jesu +

Third Sunday After Epiphany
24 January, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Nehemiah 8:2-3
2 1 Timothy 4:13
3 2 Timothy 3:15-16
4 1 Corinthians 12:13
5 See Isaiah 53:3