(click above to listen to this sermon being preached)
A few years ago I was interviewed for a local glossy magazine – you know, the kind that has a lot of ads for things I don’t care about – like, luxury watches. Anyhow, in the interview what I had actually said was “At House for All Sinners and Saints, the different parts of the liturgy are led by whoever feels like it that week” but what they printed was “At House for All Sinners and Saints, the sermon is preached by whoever feels like it” – which of course is not true – because, let’s be honest, back then when it came to preaching the sermon, it was almost always me and I almost never felt like it.
Ever since then, I’ve joked that on hard weeks I’ve been tempted to mark a worship booklet with the job “sermon” at the top and then just slip it between Prayer of the Day and Communion server and see if anyone picks it up.
The story we just heard from Luke is of Jesus’ first sermon…actually it’s the first thing he says at all in Luke’s Gospel…Jesus had just come back from the Wilderness where he had been tempted by Satan for 40 days – and returning to his home town he entered the temple where he chose to read these words of Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” Jesus preached “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And… boom. He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. Total mic drop. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him and I’m sure everyone was like, “wait. What just happened?” Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Hell of a first sermon.
This week as I reflected on this text, I kept thinking about what it would be like for us were Jesus to come here one Sunday and pick up a booklet that said “sermon”. Maybe he’d walk in from 40 days of battling his demons in the back country, being tempted by Satan. “I’ll give you everything and it will be so easy” said that voice that wouldn’t leave him alone when he was camping solo. “You could have authority and power and Twitter followers and stock options and influence – I’ll give you everything if you just worship me and not God”…..it was obviously the original come to the dark side scene.
But Jesus knew false promises when he heard them.
And after 40 days of fasting and isolation and facing the darkness and kicking at it until it bled daylight Jesus had some things to say.
Our guy was ready to PREACH. So I kept imagining what would it be like, if he came into House for All Sinners & Saints to preach that first sermon, his jeans loose from 6 weeks without eating. Since, you know, right after his baptism in the Jordon when the Spirit led him into the wilderness, he didn’t exactly have time to grab some Cliff Bars. His face thin, but bright. He holds himself without apology, inhabiting his own unique shape in the world so completely that it almost creates a space around him for all of us to relax into un-self-conciousness and we sink out of our heads and into our bodies.
And when he opens his mouth to speak, it’s as though there is something both common and melodic about his voice. A voice that is as familiar as the sound of our own heartbeats. A song we had forgotten and yet still know by heart.
Maybe, just maybe, our Lord would say something like,
The Spirit of the Lord has anointed him to bring good news to the poor.
-to bring gifts of fine wine and rich food to those who exist only on McDonalds and Funions because it’s the only food in walking distance from their decrepit neighborhoods
-The Spirit of the Lord has anointed him to forgive all your student loans.
– to bring living water to the people of Flint Michigan and Rwanda and Haiti
– to tell the bank janitors that the CEO has distributed all their own pay raises and bonuses and stock options to them
-to look the Dow Jones in the eyes and laugh
-to dismantle our system of profits at the expense of people
-to restore the dignity of the 99% AND to restore the dignity of the 1%
– to endow us with a sense of worth that has nothing to do with bank accounts and status
Because the Spirit of the Lord had sent him to bring good news to the poor.
I imagine Jesus standing here and saying that The Spirit of the Lord has sent him to release to the captives
to free the addicts from the needle and the bottle and the laptop
– to remove the feeling of worthlessness from the depressed
-to bring rest to the sleep-deprived parents of babies
– to free those wrongly imprisoned by justice system so often lacking in actual justice
– to take away the profit making system of the US prison industrial complex
– to remove all desire for the kind of cheap goods that only can come from child labor
– to give a sense of belonging to the alienated
– to forgive the sinner
– to save us from having to prove ourselves
– to remove all resentments from those who can’t let go of the past
Because the Spirit of the Lord has sent him to bring release to the captives
And then I imagine me shifting my weight around in my seat – when I realize his sermon is going over 10 minutes and realizing that Jesus might not know how we do things here. And then I imagine him looking at me and giving me the most loving “get over yourself” look ever and I imagine us all laughing including the babies and then I imagine little Avery and Harper walking up to him hand in hand and offering him some animal crackers from the snack table and he gladly taking them before continuing.
and then he says that he has also come to bring recovery of sight to the blind.
– to forever change the say we see those whose abilities differ from our own.
– To illuminate to us the ways that human sin tears at the fabric of all humanity
– To allow us to see who we really are, to again glimpse the image of God in ourselves and others – to again see that thing that has always been there but is so obscured and made opaque by years of competing messages.
– To give us a glimpse of heaven in the here and now. To show us that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
– To show us what it looks like to love what God loves
– To allow us to see ourselves as God see us. So that we see how there really is no longer a “them” there is only an “us”.
Because the Spirit of the Lord has sent him to bring recovery of sight to the blind.
The Spirit of the Lord has sent him to bring freedom to the oppressed, the over worked, the under-appreciated, the last chosen, the unlovely, the despised and unseen, the overly-proud, the parts of ourselves that are so small.
And maybe that is what our ears might hear were Jesus to stand at this janky music stand and say:
“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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And then he sits down. And the eyes of out whole congregation are fixed upon him. No one moves. Not even the kids. And then he says,
“Guys, stop looking at me – you have what you need. It’s all here. Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
That’s the thing see, Jesus fought with the devil, saw all the easy answers and false promises and BS for what it is, and yes, the first thing he says in the gospel of Luke is that quotation from Isaiah, but the first of his own words was the word “today”. Today this has been fulfilled in your hearing. Today. This moment. And so I imagine our minds and hearts and eyes open. I imagine the brows becoming un-furrowed, the doubts seeming less important, the critical mind that judges and assesses every single thing in our lives silenced, the resentments let go of and the good news, and vision and freedom of God fulfilled in out hearing – not fulfilled in our believing, not fulfilled in our acting, not fulfilled in our striving…simply fulfilled in our hearing. Today. Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. May it be so. Amen.
 Bruce Colburn’s line