Sermon for January 27, 2013

Luke 4:16-30 (3rd Sunday after the Epiphany—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT 

January 27, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Gospel Lesson from Luke 4:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “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 recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 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. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

            Is there anyone here this morning who has never felt downtrodden?   Let me ask the question another way.  Is there anyone here who has never felt as if you had been broken into pieces?  I wouldn’t imagine so.  It’s all too common for us to feel beaten, stepped on, defeated, and shattered to bits.  Because this is so, God anointed and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring us release from this condition that we so often find ourselves in. 

            Have you ever stopped to wonder just why we feel so beaten up and broken?  Being beaten and broken is a consequence; it is the result of being in a state of bondage and captivity.  What holds us captive?  Sin does.  Sin keeps us in a constant state of brokenness.  We live in a broken relationship with God and in a broken relationship with other people.  Sin keeps us downtrodden as we constantly must deal with the effects of sin—sickness, distress, fear, depression, anxiety, death.  Satan also works very hard to keep us bound in sin, following his tempting voice to live only for ourselves and not for the Lord and other people. 

            If we were not held captive by sin, our relationship with God would be like Adam and Eve’s relationship with the Lord in Garden of Eden.  We would know God perfectly, as He wishes to be known.  We would be perfectly happy in God, not having any selfish desire, but longing always to serve and please Him with every aspect of our lives.  We would be righteous and holy, doing God’s will.  But that’s not how it is.  Because we are captive to sin, we do not have the ability to know and to please God.  Our relationship with God has been broken into pieces because of sin.  By nature we are spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God. 

            If were not held in bondage by sin, our relationships with other people would be characterized by always putting the needs of others before our own.  There would be no selfishness on our part.  We would continually love other people with the perfect, self-sacrificing love of 1 Corinthians 13.  We would constantly be patient and kind to others.  We wouldn’t be envious of people or boast about how splended we are.  We would not be arrogant, rude, or insisting on our own ways.  Instead, we would always be looking to the needs of others. (Phil. 2:4)  But that’s not how it is under the captivity of sin.  I am inclined always put myself first, not my wife, not my children.  I don’t always love with the self-sacrificing love of Christ because I am too bent on loving myself more than anyone.  That’s what sin does.  It turns us inwardly to ourselves so that nothing else but one’s self matters, not God nor other people, even those closest in relationship to us. 

            Because we also live in a world that has been totally corrupted by sin we face the additional hardships of disease, emotional distress, economic difficulty, and uncertainty.  Think about the sicknesses that run rampant in our world, maybe flu in this country or malaria in Africa.  Consider how many people suffer from cancer, heart problems, and so many other physical, emotional, and mental illnesses.  Famine strikes.  Storms destroy lives and property.  Floods ravish the countryside.  Natural disasters abound.  Lives are destroyed in every way imaginable and even in ways unimaginable, like the September 11 attacks or the Newtown tragedy. 

            Our captivity and bondage to sin, its effects, and the power of Satan at work in this world brings about dire consequences.  We are oppressed.  We are broken into pieces, beaten down, and beaten up. 

            Yet, we read in Acts 10:38 that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.  He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  We know this is true because Jesus Himself says the same in our Gospel lesson today when He announces that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  “This” Scripture is the reading from Isaiah 61 which our Lord read in the synagogue that day in Nazareth, “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 recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

            Our release from the state of bondage to sin and the brokenness that it brings about is accomplished by Jesus Christ, the One whom God anointed and sent just for that purpose!  It was Jesus’ mission to preach good news to the poor.  The poor are those who are relegated to positions outside the boundaries of God’s people—sinners held captive to sin, its effects, and the power of the devil.  The poor are those who are without the means to free themselves from this captivity. 

            So Jesus preaches good news to the poor.  And what is the content of this good news?  Release!  It is the same Greek word for forgiveness—a release from sins, a sending away of sins.  Jesus was sent to proclaim for the captives release!  Forgiveness!  The captives and the broken ones, you and me, are those who are in physical bondage to sin’s effects, or in spiritual bondage to sin, Satan, and death.  Jesus’ ministry is one that brings the good news of release through His healing of the sick and demon oppressed.  But the release Jesus brings is not just physical in nature, but release in the truest sense of forgiveness.  As an example, we see Jesus healing the paralytic in Luke 5 and saying to the Pharisees, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—”I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  (Luke 5:23-24)  Release from sin and from the effects of sin is the good news that Jesus brings to this man. 

            And it’s the same good news of release that Jesus brings to us.  Jesus is the Savior who won for us this release by His ultimate rejection, not in His hometown of Nazareth, but in Jerusalem.  Jesus was rejected this time, not just by the hometown crowd, but by His own people.  He was rejected as the Christ, the Anointed One, who was sent by God to bring the good news of release to the captive and the broken.  Yet in this rejection, release was purchased and won for the hometown crowd, for the Jews, and for all humanity.  Jesus secured our release from sin, death, and the power of the devil with His rejection, suffering, and death on the cross.  Through His shed blood, Jesus won forgiveness for us all.  Through Jesus’ saving work accomplished on the cross, our sins are sent away, removed from us as far as the east is from the west.  Through this forgiveness, this release from the captivity and brokenness of sin and its effects, Jesus restored us to the community and family of God, making us children of God by faith. 

That’s the good news that we receive again today through Jesus’ preached Word.  .  In this good news, in this Gospel, is absolution in the fullest sense.  Our sins stand forgiven.  We are released from all our sins, from the brokenness sin causes in life and in our relationship with God and with people.  Our relationship with God is restored.  Sin no longer has dominion over us and over our relationships with other people.  We are given the Holy Spirit in our baptisms into Christ so that we can love others as Jesus loved us and gave Himself up for us.   We can faithfully endure the suffering and troubles of this world because we are confident that Jesus has overcome them all with His death and resurrection and won for us the release from sin, its effects, and Satan.

This release which Jesus has won for us on the cross and proclaims to us in the Gospel assures us today that now is the time of the Lord’s favor.  The Good News is that now in Jesus all of creation has been released from the bondage of its fallenness.  In the Old Testament, every 50th year was a Jubilee Year.  Slaves were set free, debts were forgiven, people returned to their homes and stopped all sowing and reaping (Lev. 25)  The Jubilee Year was a prophecy of the release which the promised Messiah would bring to all people.  In Jesus, this release has broken into the world.  This is the time of God’s gracious visitation!  TODAY this Scripture stands fulfilled in your hearing. The Jubilee year is now present for us in Jesus Christ.  Baptism initiates us into a life of continual release in Christ.  For Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Savior who brings release!  The Lord’s Supper sustains our life of release as we eat and drink Jesus’ Body and Blood are “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  In this Sacrament we again receive the Good News of release!

Today, Jesus speaks Good News to us.  God anointed and sent Jesus to be our Savior.  Christ won our complete release through His suffering, death, and resurrection.  Through the Gospel in Word, Baptism, and Supper, Jesus announces to you the time of the Lord’s gracious favor.  Through the Gospel in Word, Baptism, and Supper Jesus announces that time of your release is now!  No longer are you held captive, in bondage to sin, sin’s effects, and Satan’s power.  No longer are you broken to pieces by sin and its effects and consequences.  You stand released.  You are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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