Sermon - Words and Action
Listed Under: Vicars Blog
The word is spreading. The new rabbi in town is incredible! He is clearly filled with the Spirit. He has become quite the sensation in Galilee and everyone expects his appearance in Nazareth to be impressive – what home town would not love to see their son come home and preach a good word?!
Anyone who is anyone sits in the synagogue.
Sounds just like a new sermon opportunity from the Vicar of Callow End & Madresfield then.
And then it happens – Jesus does not preach a scintillating sermon. (only you can comment on me!)
Instead, he finds a bold text – a text from Isaiah- it contains the words that the Messiah will use – he reads the text, and then he just sits down.
The room is silent. All just stare.
Minds are running amok with questions:
• Did he just read that text from Isaiah?
• Is he saying he is the Messiah?
• Is he the Messiah?
• What does he mean the scripture is fulfilled?
Of course, no one says those words aloud. Silence & staring.
Words have mighty power in our lives. In an age where we are barraged by words – in media, social media, in politics, in books, emails from the Vicar - we sometimes forget the power of words. We tend to skim words, to gloss over them, looking to quickly glean information because we are inundated with words. In our haste, we forget the power of words.
The problem with words is that words have the power to make both positive change and to get us into trouble. Don’t I know that! My grandfather always used to say, never put anything in print that you do not want the world to see.
The Brexit promises of £350m for the NHS led to many people saying words they regretted.
Teens, every week, are terrorized by the words of cyberbullying – with reputations ruined worldwide when seemingly private photos or acts are posted on Facebook for all to see.
Me - standing up for an additional Christmas shoe box campaign ruffled feathers in the town. The vituole received. Ironic that as we end Christian Unity week. Oh - we did amass over 230 boxes.
This is why that silent synagogue is so powerful today. Jesus takes words that everyone knows, and changes them.
The Messiah, the anointed one, has been long awaited: so long awaited, that many people doubted the Messiah would come in their lifetime.
The Silence – the staring…
Part of the weight of Jesus’ words comes from whom he is claiming to be.
The other part of the weight of Jesus words is interpreting what they mean for the world now.
For Jesus, and for his followers, these words from Isaiah through Jesus become a mission statement of sorts.
These words are not just bold words – these words will define the entire remainder of Luke’s gospel. Any maybe will affect us.
The theme of Luke’s gospel is that Jesus brings good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed...
For the rest of this lectionary year we will be hearing stories of Jesus fulfilling these words – good news, release, sight, freedom, favour. What I call being Forgiven, Loved and Free. This is what Jesus’ ministry is about. This is our ministry too - if we choose it to be.
Jesus takes the words from Isaiah and he changes them. And through changing them, he changes the world.
A blind man is sitting on a park bench, with a cardboard sign that reads, “I’m blind. Please help.” As he sits there, people who pass by drop a coin or two in front of him. He silently feels for the coin and then puts the coin in his flat cap. A woman sees him and stops.
She silently picks up his sign, turns the piece of cardboard over and writes something else on the sign. Without a word, she walks away.
In the next hour, everyone who stops gives the blind man handfuls of coins. Or even fluttering sounds of notes. The woman eventually returns, and dumbfounded, the man asks her, “What did you do to my sign?”
She simply replies, “I wrote the same, but different words.”
What did she write?
“It’s a beautiful day and I can’t see it.”
The words were changed. She changed the world.
She changes people with those words. Can we do that?
This is what Jesus does in that temple. He takes words with a certain set of values and meaning, and he changes them.
No longer will good news, release, sight, freedom, and favour be a future dream. They will change now with Jesus Christ.
So perhaps part of the silence in that synagogue comes from the joyful realization that this liberation might actually happen in their time.
But another part of that silence comes from the implications.
If the Messiah is here, offering freedom from poverty, imprisonment, blindness, and oppression, then that means that the people of God will have to start living like the Messiah is here then.
• We too will have to work to bring good news to the poor.
• We too will have to work to release the captives.
• We too will have to care for the blind and the oppressed. Debts are forgiven, slaves are freed
Jesus’ words not only change the people of God’s reality, Jesus’ words will change the world, and the people of God’s behaviour in that word.
This is big, silence-making news.
Will Jesus’ words change us too? Are we left in silence as the weight of Jesus’ words hit us?
Are we too are silenced by these questions:
What does that mean for us? How will this change my walk with God? How uncomfortable is this work going to be? How joyful will this work be?
Pondering these and probably many more questions is a good thing, even more so with Lent on the horizon and looming large.
And then it’s Passiontide.
But know that the pondering mustn’t linger. We need to act.
Jesus’ words hint at the immediacy of the work that is needed.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
So, be silent then. Do the pondering you need to do.
But know that Jesus is waiting at the door of your life, your church, ready for you to join him in the work of good news, release, sight, freedom, and favour.
Let’s act. Not sit in silence and stare.