Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (C)

January 24, 2016
Text: Luke 4:16-30

            “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21; ESV).  Today it is accomplished.  When Jesus, the Word made flesh, speaks His Word, that which He speaks happens.  His Word is performative.  Jesus, the Word of our Father now in flesh appearing, comes to reveal the Word of our Father to the flesh of Adam.  Jesus comes to preach.  So it is that Jesus comes to His home town of Nazareth, to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as is His custom, and He stands up to read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me” (Luke 4:18; cf. Is. 61).  This was fulfilled in our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan River, where the Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove, thus anointing Him for His ministry, and the Father spoke from heaven, proclaiming Jesus His beloved Son, with whom He is well pleased.  Notice, the Spirit of the Lord (the Father) is upon Me (the Son).  Jesus begins His preaching ministry in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  And what is He anointed with the Spirit to do?  To preach!  To proclaim good news, Gospel, to the poor.  Liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind.  The year of the Lord’s favor, which is to say, the grace of God for sinners.  Three times in the text He says He has come to proclaim.  And He comes to accomplish what He proclaims, namely, “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (v. 18).  You see, when Jesus preaches, His preaching creates reality.  He is, after all, the Word by which the Father created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.  Now our Lord speaks, and His Word accomplishes what He says.  The preaching of Jesus brings forth the New Creation.  It happens as He says it.  Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
            And it is not simply that on that day, long ago, at the synagogue in Nazareth, the Scripture was fulfilled.  It is fulfilled this day, today, at the congregation in Dorr, in your hearing and for you.  Preaching is not an academic lecture or an exercise in listening to speeches.  We don’t do sermons at Church because that’s what people used to do for entertainment before television and the internet.  Nor is the purpose of the sermon to inspire you or touch your heart or make you feel good.  There are plenty of preachers out there who do all of the above, and they’ll preach you into hell if you let them.  That is not he preaching of Jesus Christ.  We do sermons in the Church because the Word of the Lord still does what it has always done.  It creates.  It performs.  It accomplishes.  The Word of the Lord does what it says.  It condemns and it saves.  It kills and it makes alive.  It does not return to the Lord empty, but accomplishes that which He purposes and succeeds in the thing for which He sent it (Is. 55:11).  Indeed, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).  So when the Word of the Lord is preached to you… when Jesus speaks… so it is.  Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. 
            Which is to say, you are free.  Good news for you who are poor, who confessed just moments ago that you have nothing in you but sin and death and helplessness.  You are free from your debt.  Jesus has paid it.  He has paid it in full with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death on the cross for you.  Good news for you who are captive to death and the devil, to hell and your own rotten flesh.  Jesus comes to liberate you from bondage.  He has defeated the devil.  He has passed through death.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  Heaven is open, and your Lord will lead you through the valley of the shadow to the light of resurrection life.  Good news for you who are blind in doubt and unbelief.  Jesus opens your eyes to see that He has done it all, everything for your salvation, that as He said from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  Good news for all sinners, for all who are oppressed by the hoard of demonic foes.  Jesus sets you free.  Release, liberty, freedom.  The word used here literally means “forgiveness.”  Our Lord proclaims forgiveness to the captives.  The New Creation Jesus brings forth in preaching is the forgiveness of sins. 
            Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.  Your sins are forgiven.  Now, this is rather scandalous, because it is not the preaching Old Adam wants to hear.  To preach that your sins are forgiven is to preach that you have sins.  It is to preach that you are a sinner.  It is not very good for the ego, for, in fact, this is to preach the ego to death.  It is to preach that you have broken the Lord’s Commandments and made yourself an enemy of God, and that you cannot help but do otherwise, for you are a son or a daughter of Adam.  You have despised your neighbor and coveted what does not belong to you.  You are a murderer, an adulterer, and a thief, in your heart if not by your hand.  And you would determine good and evil for yourself, as your first parents did.  You would not have God tell you what is good for you, and what is bad.  Which makes you an idolater, a worshiper of false gods, for you reject God’s Word and you worship yourself.  It kills you to hear it, doesn’t it?  This is not an inspiring message.  The Law of God cuts you down and tears you up.  It kills you every time.  The Word is that powerful.  And it hurts.  We don’t like it.  But if Jesus is to release you from death and raise you to new life, you must first be good and dead.
            What do you suppose desperate sinners who don’t want to die will do in reaction to this preaching?  They will do precisely what the crowd in Nazareth tries to do to Jesus.  They will throw the preacher off a cliff.  To my knowledge there are no cliffs in Dorr, but the point is, they will reject the preacher.  The disciple is not above his Master.  If they rejected Jesus, they will reject His preachers.  Jerusalem rejected the prophets and stoned those sent to her.  The apostles died martyrs deaths.  Pastors are fired when they don’t grow the Church, and when they preach offensive sermons, people leave.  So it goes.  You see, those who do not consider themselves poor, captive, blind, and dead, have no ears to hear the good news of release, healing, and life.  They’ll kill Jesus before they’ll hear that kind of preaching.  Jesus’ own people from His own home town, those who “knew Him when,” who babysat for Him and changed His diapers, who mourned for Joseph and know and love Mary... These very people want to kill Jesus because they hate His preaching.  As it happens, they couldn’t get Him this time.  He passed through their midst and went away, for His hour had not yet come.  But it would, and they would get Him, at the Passover when the lambs are sacrificed.  They would nail Him to the cross.  You would nail Him to the cross.  The crowd in Nazareth had it right in spite of themselves.  The only way out of the Law and the sentence of death and hell is to kill Jesus.  So that is what we did.
            But today there is good news, and it is good news that raises the dead.  Christ is risen.  His death is the sacrifice for our sins.  And this is the Gospel proclaimed to sinners that grants us release.  Jesus speaks to you this morning.  He does it by the mouthpiece of this poor preacher, but it is Jesus Christ who speaks.  And His Word is as creative and performative as ever.  “Let there be light,” He said, and there was light (Gen. 1:3).  “Your sins are forgiven,” He said at the beginning of the Service, and they are forgiven.  “This is My Body, this is My Blood,” He will say of the bread and the wine, and so it will be.  Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.  Today good news is proclaimed to the poor.  Today you are set free from captivity and oppression, and you are given eyes to see Jesus, the Savior, in preaching and Supper.  Today Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor.  That is to say that on account of Jesus, God is for you.  God is your Father.  God loves you and is well-pleased with you.  What Jesus has done by His death and resurrection is made your reality in preaching.  Christ bestows it in the Word.  The Law of God kills you.  The Gospel raises you to life.  Jesus speaks reality into being.  Where the Lord opens His mouth, there is the New Creation.  Rejoice.  You are free.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

              

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