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Jubilee - Sermon on Luke 4:14-21

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Jesus declared he Year of the Lord's Favor was now. Our baptism demands that we live into that ordained time of Jubilee. 

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

SPECIAL NOTE: the recorder was off the first 6 minutes of the sermon so I had to rerecord that portion it from home, later.  The sound quality will be going through a distinct change about 6 minutes in -- Cary.

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

January 24, 2016 - Third Sunday after Epiphany

"Jubilee".  Text is from Luke 4:14-21

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God. 

The year of the Lord's favor is upon us and there is good news to be heard all over the place.  

From the very beginning we hear that Jesus is filled with the spirit. In Luke this takes place right after his time in the wilderness, which started as well, Jesus was filled with the spirit, having been driven into the wilderness by its power under his baptism. And as Luke tells us, a report has already spread about him to the surrounding country, and of what?  Because virtually nothing has taken place in public except the event of his baptism. And now he arrives in Nazareth, his home town, where people already know who he despite the reports because this was the town where he was raised and because it is the Sabbath, he heads to the synagogue.

This is not the first time that Jesus has been to the synagogue.  As we read here in this account, this was his "usual custom on the Sabbath", and I'm sure many people can relate to visiting their home towns and having to do specific things.  But Jesus has been seen here before, many times, and, these people in the synagogue know him from there.

Jesus has taken the position of teaching, as he has very likely done many time before, because even though these people probably do not yet understand who Jesus fully is, his reputation as a teacher in addition to being the son of Joseph and Mary preceeds him, and so him in this place would not be unusual. 

But this time is special. It is different and unexpected. And we don't know if the Isaiah reading was appointed for that Sabbath day or not, but we can assume that some part of Isaiah was, because that was the scroll they gave to him.  

Le Jeune The Year of Jubilee

But to use this selection from Isaiah 61 as his text is important, because when it talks about the "Year of the Lord" it is referring to a Levitical observance that we are not sure was ever actually observed but it was certainly mandated. The event was called the Year of Jubilee, and it was a year that was supposed to take place every 50 years (according to Leviticus) and was a time for debts to be forgiven, for the ground to lie fallow, servants would be set free from indenture and land would be restored to those who originally owned them. 

And for Jesus to declare that this passage has been fulfilled he is taking this year of Jubilee on himself.  He is declaring not only the condition of society that was crying out for justice, he was declaring that the time had come for all people to be set right. 

And what powerful and amazing words those must have been to those in his hearing who were seeking justice and mercy and forgiveness. Because this concept of Jubilee was a concept that people felt that God had ordained and humankind had deliberately ignored. 

And what frightening and antagonistic these words must have been to those whose self-interest lay in the status quo?  To those who held the debts, to those who kept people in servitude, to those whose interest was that all things remain the same, this concept of jubilee must have been quite threatening to them, their way of life, their desires. 

And Jesus is taking it on himself not at some point in the future but something to be done in the there and now. Something to take part right away. The poor, the outcast, the suffering, the blind, the weary, the widows, the orphans, the refugees, the marginalized cannot wait any longer! Their suffering needs to be at an end. 

This is the good news that Jesus himself proclaimed! That he was the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah! And what a start of his ministry that was to have been.  

Now, it seems today, my sisters and borthers, that this concept of Jubilee can't come too soon. It is looking less and less like an conceptual ideal, something that sounds good on paper but can't possibly be instituted and something more like a means of making the way of God come near more practical. It's a way of restoring the connectivity among all of humankind that God desires, from our little community all the way up to the entire world. We are at a point on this earth that the weight of debts threaten to crumble the downtrodden, that the entire ecology must get a break from the destruction that we continually reap on it, that the means to good, quality health exists and that it is a sin to withhold it because someone cannot afford it. Jesus had declared the time for us to forgive the debts, to give the land a rest and to heal the ailing is now, and by virtue of his saving grace the world should not have to wait.

But we, who are so filled with is love but who sometimes feel so few, what are we to do? 

This news about Jesus, this report about him that had been spread about the region. The miracle of Jesus' baptism went viral.  Yes, it went viral, as if someone was there had a smartphone as the miracle of his baptism took place. This important event that fortold that this, God's son in whom God was pleased was being shared on First Century Facebook and moved by the power of the Galileein Internet, by camel, caravan and crossroads, was all that people talked about until something else came along to get people talking. Because people like to share news and tell others things and they want to be the first, and somehow Jesus the revalation of all the prophesies, who brings comfort to the afflicted, aid to the discouraged was often relayed as other stories altogether, and over time the Good News meant something different to different people and was not always good news to everyone, at least not initially.  Although I even have to wonder how people of means cannot see that creating advantage for all the world improves one's own state of being. That improving the health of the world improves the health of all. 

God calls us, all good Christians, to share the good news about Jesus. God calls us, God's beloved children to proclaim the year of Jubilee that he god as ordained to come through the son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be forgiving to love one another and to extend mercy upon all of God's people.  That God calls us to share this viral message to one another that through his lovingkindness we may all be saved that every person is redeemed by God's merciful grace. And through the power of the Holy Spirit god gifts us the means with which to restore his people into right relationship into one another.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul recites the gifts that God provides for each of us: "And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues." That those of us without hope may find hope for God's mercy, and we all have the capacity to grant mercy and forgiveness to one another. That some of us are gifted with the ability to inspire others to fulfill the wondrous commission that our Lord Jesus Christ has sent us out to fulfill and some of us are gifted with the means to equip others. 

The word and spirit that guides each of us, my brothers and sisters into our right pathways, is the same Holy Spirit that calls out to drive each and every one of God's creation. That though our assembly is small that we here at this church through our facility and programs that happen in this place affect so many members of the community, that even though our numbers on Sunday morning might seem challenging that God's spirit touches hundreds and hundreds of individuals every single week in our walls and thousands through the area. 

And so the good news, my sisters and brothers, is that God has declared this time we are living in the Year of the Lord, that Jesus Christ has come to heal the people, free the captives and rescue the poor from servitude and oppression, that the Holy Spirit drives all of God's people to use their gifts to ensure that we live in a time of Jubilee now, forgiven and forgiving, right here in this place, and in the world, now, ready for the glorious kingdom that we have been promised to come. 


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on January 25, 2016 10:21 AM.

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