Thursday, February 1, 2007
Homily for Epiphany 3 -- Luke 4:16-30
This was preached for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, on the 21st of January -- "Sanctity of Life Sunday."
I know what you’ve been thinking this morning: “Pastor, are you off your rocker?! Why in the world did we sing, ‘Hark the Glad Sound’?! Isn’t that an Advent hymn!?”
Yes, my friends, and yet sometimes we can get stuck in a rut of associating a hymn with a certain time or day that we forget its many words and phrases that apply it to other times. Don’t just go through the motions of singing it. Look at it. Listen to it. This hymn speaks the very portions of Isaiah that our Lord Jesus preaches in this morning’s Gospel. It reminds us of who our Messiah is and what He does.
For the synagogue congregation at Nazareth, the expectations were off. We’ve heard it many times: they looked for a Christ who would come as a leader, a warrior, a King! This liberty He would bring would remove foreign governments, and restore Israel to the glory days of David and Solomon. All sorts of miracles would be worked, for their own sake.
What does the Messiah come to do? We see the common theme: liberty. But this is not liberty as the founding fathers of our nation describe it. This is not flowing from the eloquent pen of Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton. The liberty that you may be considering is what the Nazareth congregation was imagining. They heard of Jesus’ miracles in Capernaum and elsewhere; now they wanted the same for the home court crowd.
Our dear Savior, however, has something else in mind. The liberty that the Messiah brings has nothing to do with occupying governments. It is not dependant upon physical healings (although they can be a beautiful and blessed addition.) Miracles would not be worked for their own sakes, but only to support His teaching, to bolster faith, and to give glory to God.
No, dear Christian friends, this liberty is not about earthly liberty – it transcends earth. It is release—spiritual release! Release from sin; release from death; release from the power of the devil.
“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.” The liberation of the oppressed is not simply physical here. There is spiritual liberation – and the recovery of spiritual sight.
On this day, millions are marking the anniversary of the unleashing of the holocaust of abortion. During the past 34 years, our land has been deceived into a spiritual blindness – a blindness that refuses to see the murder of innocents – a blindness that no longer recognizes the gift of life as something from God, not from our constitution. Many times you and I are drawn into this blindness, being comfortable with the cataracts that the secular world places on our eyes – cataracts that dim our vision and blur the issue, so that we no longer see it as a biblical and moral issue, not a political one.
At times, the devil even darkens vision further. He works hard at convincing us that the Lord’s Word is merely opinion, or someone’s interpretation. A smug and stubborn blindness can result. But do not decide to be blind, my friends. Our Great Physician, who at your baptism removed your blindness and gave you sight, constantly wants to give you a divine cataract surgery.
Jesus has come to proclaim liberty, and give recovery of sight to the blind. Our revealed Savior this morning causes you to recover your sight! He sets you at spiritual liberty, which in turn, makes you His instrument in restoring the sight of others.
Our Epiphany Lord has come to you and, through faith, blesses you in receiving and understanding Him as the Messiah. He comforts you and forgives you and builds you up, week after week, with His Holy Gifts. As He does this, you become reflections of His Epiphany light, and lighten the darkness of the world around you! You are His instruments in restoring sight to the world, one neighbor at a time.
As He preached, the folks of Nazareth realized that they did not want to listen to Jesus. They had been confused as they marveled when He began his sermon. Now, “No longer confused, they are filled with anger—anger that He will not be the Messiah they want.” (Just, Luke 1:1-9:50) They wanted great miracles because they were cool. They wanted these signs because the whole region was talking about them. Forget the teaching. Forget that this is supposed to support Jesus’ claim as Christ. Forget that the Messiah actually needs to be God in the flesh. Just give us the Messiah we want!
We too fall into this train of thought. But often when He is not the Messiah we want, we simply try to give Jesus a makeover. Take away the hard teachings about Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. Tone down on the emphasis of how He does all the work in our conversion. Soften what He teaches regarding the apostolic ministry and the absolution of sin through these men. Place heavier emphasis on His sayings and less on His suffering, death, and resurrection.
When this is done, Jesus has had the ultimate in Extreme Makeovers. He is no longer the Messiah of the Bible. He becomes a good teacher, joining the ranks of Mohammed, Buddha, Ghandi, and the like.
Dear friends in Christ: do not give Jesus an extreme makeover. Do not transform Him into what you want.
And do not be citizens of Nazareth, ready to push Jesus off the cliff, and watch Him fall like Wile E. Coyote from the Warner Bros. cartoons. No. Receive the message with joy of the One who comes to restore your sight and give you liberty.
Beloved in the Lord, Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal! He reveals Himself as the true Messiah through these very signs that Isaiah spoke. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in His shedding of His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in His bodily rising to new and glorious life. He reveals Himself as the true Messiah in coming to us and delivering this forgiving release and liberty through His holy sacraments.
Through the wondrous miracle of the Holy Spirit’s work, you and I are converted, transformed into God’s children, and made His own. We are given the precious gift of faith, and as God’s faithful, we want the Messiah He sent!
We want Jesus the true Messiah, who declares:
"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."
Yes! The Spirit of the Lord leads you to want this Messiah, Jesus! The Spirit of the Lord delivers this Good News – this Gospel – to you, and proclaims spiritual liberty to you. The Spirit of the Lord recovers your sight! Thanks be to God who sends this Spirit to gift you with His spiritual liberty, and with true sight! Amen.