Devotional Message: The 3rd Sunday after The Epiphany (1/27/2019)

Lessons

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19
1st Corinthians 12:12-31a
St. Luke 4:14-21

Prayer of the Day

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people.  Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

4:14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

St. Luke 4:14-21, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: The Spirit of the Lord; The Heart of God

St. Luke tells us that following his baptism, “the Holy Spirit descended upon [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (St. Luke 3:22) He then, “…full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” (St. Luke 4:1). Then, having endured a time of fasting and temptation, we hear again today that “Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee…” (St. Luke 4:14) The strong presence of the Holy Spirit in these early verses of St. Luke’s Gospel will continue throughout the story, and into the second of these two volumes by St. Luke: the Book of Acts. In many ways, Luke / Acts is a story about the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit which blows through Jesus, through the disciples and through the early church, calling, leading and accompanying them every step of the way.

It fits within the larger theme that here in these first days of Jesus’ public ministry, the Spirit leads him through baptism, through the wilderness, and back to Galilee where he was raised. One might even suspect that as he preached in Galilee, it was the Spirit which inspired his listeners to praise him — every one of them. At the very least, we learn that Jesus is both aware of the Spirit’s tug on his heart, and willing to follow wherever it leads him.

And so, as he gathers for worship with his hometown friends, as was his custom, and as they hand him the scroll of Isaiah to read, he turns to the 58th and 61st chapters and reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” (St. Luke 4:18) Now Jesus isn’t giving a history lesson about the call of Isaiah and the message he had to share with God’s people some eight centuries before Jesus was born. He is talking about his own anointing. In fact, in his nine word sermon (ten words in the Greek New Testament…), he declares to the people of Nazareth: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The Spirit that once was upon Isaiah now rests on Jesus, and anoints him for ministry; a ministry that will bring good news to the poor, will proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, will let the oppressed go free, and will proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. It is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel; a promise for which they had waited and watched and longed throughout the generations. What once seemed far off in the future, has now come near. “Today” this promise has been fulfilled.

This nine word sermon proclaims what the inspiring song of his mother also declares: that God has a heart for those who are lowly, hungry, poor, captive, blind or oppressed; that the ministry of Jesus will be a following of God’s heart, and a fulfilling of Isaiah’s words; that those who have drawn near to Jesus will find themselves sustained in their time of need; that those who are followers of Jesus will dedicate themselves to this same ministry.

So with God’s people of old, in fear and trembling, expecting both to be sustained and to be challenged, we pray from the depths of our hearts: “Come, Holy Spirit, Come… today!”

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What spiritual, physical and emotional needs does Jesus touch during his earthly ministry?

  2. How does Jesus invite his followers to join him in touching the needs of the world in which they live?

  3. Why do people of neighboring towns respond to him with praise?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I sensed the healing and strengthening presence of God in a time of my need?

  2. How has God moved through me to make a difference in the life of another person?

  3. What do I find most challenging about continuing the ministry Jesus describes here in his Nazareth sermon?