Luke 4: 14-30
The season we know as Epiphany is actually one where several different epiphanies or revelations of God’s coming to us are introduced into our worship life. The season starts with the visit of the Magi from the East led by a mysterious star to visit with God in the body of a small child – God’s revelation to the Gentiles. Other Epiphany stories include Jesus’ presentation at the Temple where God’s salvation plan was revealed and proclaimed by the prophets Simeon and Anna. Then there is Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River where God announced from the heavens that Jesus was indeed God’s Son. And there is this epiphany, the first where Jesus himself makes the boldest of claims, that the Holy Spirit has called him into action and that the ancient prophecies are being fulfilled in Jesus, himself.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus speak in the Nazarene Synagogue that day?
Jesus was the hometown boy, reading from the Holy Scroll and the prophet Isaiah – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and I have been anointed to bring good news to the poor.” The call to action goes on to include proclaiming release to captives, to help the blind to see, to free the oppressed and to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God. This is a moving reading, an inspiring prophecy, a call to Godly action, a good sermon!
But the kick came with what Jesus said next: “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!” Are you listening yet?
At that moment, the worshipers had their epiphany, that the anointed one, the Messiah had been revealed to them. They have heard, and now seen for themselves – the Good News of God and God’s call to action – an announcement that God has sent Jesus to call us into actions that promote freedom, foster justice, open hearts, and to be part of a new movement where love, and not power, is the prevailing force in the world.
It would be great if we could end it right there with a “happily ever after” conclusion.
Instead, we find out that the Holy Spirit’s call to action in the face and voice of Jesus, was not a message those in the Synagogue wanted to hear. It may be that they were threatened by what Jesus was claiming, or maybe they couldn’t believe that some young carpenter from their hometown could say something so audacious and arrogant. Maybe it was just that they were comfortable the way life was. Whatever the reason, the story tells us that the worshipers rose up and wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff!
We know the rest of the story, and while Jesus survived this uprising, eventually those who were offended by Jesus’ claims and his calls to action figured a way to silence his precious voice – or so they thought.
By the power of the resurrection, the Holy Spirit’s claim on Jesus is the same claim the Spirit makes on us in our baptisms. As children of God, we still hear Jesus standing up in front of the Synagogue and announcing the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy. As children of God, empowered by the promise of baptism, we hear the voice that calls us to action to bring good news, freedom, light and justice to the world in Jesus’ name. We too are anointed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our call to action, our anointing will not always be welcomed by the world around us. It may require us to carry a message that others will find threatening, offensive, and to which they may respond with hostility. We should expect nothing better than what Jesus’ encountered when he spoke his call to action. But we do so with the confidence that God’s love for the world will sustain us and guide us – always.
Devotional Calendar for this week
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.