Summary: How do you deal with guilt? People try many different ways, but only Jesus can truly cut away guilt's chains. Parts: A. From the chains of guilt. B. By forgiveness from Jesus.

Text: Luke 4:14-21

Theme: Released!

A. From the chains of guilt

B. By forgiveness from Jesus

Season: Epiphany 3c

Date: January 24, 2010

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Jesus speaks to us in Luke 4. The Gospel for today.

"In the power of the Spirit Jesus returned to Galilee. His fame spread throughout the neighboring territory around there. As for himself, he kept teaching in their synagogues, being praised by all.

"He went to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and as was his custom, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it stands written:

""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 preach release for the captives and restoration of sight for the blind, to send out in freedom those hard pressed, to proclaim the Lord's year of favor."

"He rolled up the scroll, returned it to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were watching him. He began speaking to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."" (Luke 4:14-21)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Kunta Kinte lived free among the Mandinka people of West Africa, becoming a Mandinka warrior at fifteen. But then as he gathered wood for a drum outside his village, slavers captured him. Stacked away on a slave ship piled up with a hundred seventy other slaves, he was hauled to America and auctioned off as property, chattel to be bought and sold, used and abused. But he keeps his memories of freedom alive and passes them on to his daughter Kizzy. She was born a slave and never knew freedom firsthand. But she passed on her father's stories. That day finally came after Kizzy died when her grandchildren tasted freedom for good. So goes the story of /Roots/ as told by Alex Haley.

Do you, dear friends, long for freedom, the day of release? Yes, I know your American citizens, born in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But like Kizzy, you and I were born as slaves, captives. How sweet the words of liberation and freedom that Jesus speaks to our poor, oppressed, crushed souls! He speaks not of stories of the past or dreams for the future, but of a new reality. Release for you and for me. Release from our captivity and slavery. Released! Let that theme echo in your heart as the Holy Spirit breaks your chains through these words of Jesus. Released!

A. From the chains of guilt

1. In what ways have you fallen into some sort of denial of how great your guilt is?

"What chains?" you ask. The chains of guilt. Before we uttered our first infant cry, the chains of guilt hung heavy on us. How many links have your forged since that day? And don't only count your sinful actions, but your inactions as well. Our failures to do the good we can add to our guilt. In addition, every mean-spirited word and every covetous thought add more links as well. And our greatest sin is trying to deal with that guilt by some form of denial.

These various forms of denial think that we can escape and run away from our guilt. We imagine that freedom is within our power. Kunta Kinte tried to escape. He tried to mentally escape by refusing to answer to the new name his white master gave him. But they beat him into submission. He tried to physically escape by running away. But they hunted him down and finally cut off half his foot so that he couldn't run again. So also our sinful mind has invented various ways to try to escape from our guilt.

One kind of escape attempt denies a portion of our guilt. That wasn't a real lie; it was only a white lie. They love each other, so even though they're not married they can live together. I wouldn't have exploded in anger if you hadn't irritated me in the first place. Every bad thing I said about him was true, so how can you accuse me of gossiping? When women dress like that, it's not my fault if I have lustful thoughts. And the excuses go on. But pretending that the guilt isn't real doesn't make it disappear.

Another kind of escape attempt denies how spiritually poor and powerless we are on our own, that we by nature are beggars without a spiritual penny to our name. Such denial imagines: Maybe I can make up for my guilt, if I try harder to do good. Maybe if I make myself sorry enough or try to be real sincere when I ask for forgiveness. Won't that make my guilt go away? But can a beggar buy his way out of poverty? So also we cannot earn our way out of guilt.

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