Summary: A Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany, Seris C.

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4th Sunday after Epiphany, January 31, 2010, “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, Luther described the Scriptures as the cradle that held your living Word for our lives. Through the power or your Holy Spirit, continue to open our hearts and minds to your Word, that we might become more aware of our desperate need and deep dependence upon your grace. Enable us to respond to your Word, not just with renewed faith, but also with an enthusiasm to reach out to other in witness. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.

This morning’s Gospel lesson is the conclusion of the story that began with our lesson last Sunday. In that lesson, Luke tells us that Jesus had developed a reputation for being able to preach with authority throughout the region around the Sea of Galilee. In his travels, he returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where he had been raised as a child, and he was asked to address his local congregation on the Sabbath.

Jesus accepted their invitation, read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, and took the seat of proclamation. Our text ended where we pick up this morning, with the open words of our Lord’s sermon: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And as I pointed out last Sunday, the emphasis of Jesus’ message is that the Scriptures are not dead, but that even today, God’s Word continues to be lively and active, powerfully at work, to call people into relationship with him, change lives for the better, and able to redeem us from sin and death. As a result of the incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus, and through his death and resurrection, the Scriptures continue to be fulfilled in our hearing.

When the people thought Jesus was finished with his message, Luke tells us that they “all spoke well of him, and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” But that admiration didn’t last long. In that small town in which Jesus grew up, there were a lot of people that knew the human side of Jesus all too well. “Is this not Joseph’s son?” the people asked.

And Jesus responded in a way that gave credence to their concern. “No doubt,” Jesus said, “you might say to me, ‘I knew you all your life. You might start by applying your message to yourself.’” Isn’t it amazing, how many of us have a hard time outgrowing our childhood image, especially when we go into a career or profession that no one would have believed we aspire to? Even my mother had a hard time accepting the fact that I had become an ordained minister, although, she is impressed with our ministry here at St. John’s.

Obviously, as Luke tells us, following his sermon, the communication between Jesus and his hometown congregation didn’t go very well. In fact, the situation reached the boiling point, in which the town elders led Jesus out of the synagogue, to the brink of a cliff, and were ready to toss him over the edge, presumably to stone him to death. But somehow, in their frenzy, he escaped.

This brings me to the point of my sermon for this morning. And that is that I believe Luther’s assertion that the Scriptures are really the cradle, which contains the living Word of God, but not literally, the Word of God. Consider this illustration, which I have shared with you before some nine years ago, from Thomas Long, Professor of Preaching at a theological school in Atlanta. [Pulpit Resource, Logos, 2001]

“There was once a small, church-related college that had an annual event called Christian Emphasis Week. The student Christian group would invite a speaker to campus, who would preach several times and have discussions with students – all aimed at deepening faith and creating a mood of religious revival.

One year, however, the students at this college got more than they bargained for. They invited a speaker whom none of them had heard before, but he had a reputation for being dynamic and exciting. Indeed he was. On the first night of his arrival, he was scheduled to preach in the campus chapel, which was filled with the faithful. Of course, the ‘Animal House’ types and other impious students avoided the service, which they viewed as an activity for the truly religious.

The speaker began by opening the Bible and reading a passage of Scripture. When he had finished, he closed the Bible, and then suddenly flung it across the stage and out an open window. The congregation sat in stunned silence. Where their eyes playing tricks on them? Did the preacher really throw the Bible out a window?

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