St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-27-2019

St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-27-2019


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

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Some of you know that I once worked in the computer industry, in a plant that made microchips. In that time I was amazed by how intricate and how small those tiny little parts were. At home I have a “plat” it’s called; the design of one layer of a microprocessor on a sheet of paper about three feet by four feet with lines more dense than a map of Philadelphia. All that circuitry was shrunk down onto a chip less than a quarter inch square. My mind is baffled by that; how it’s done how it all works, is way beyond my understanding, much less how to fix it when it stops working.

Computers are a wonderful invention; at least I think they are. With mine I can mask my inability to spell correctly, I can keep in touch with friends from anywhere in the world, I can calculate, research, read the news, read books, go shopping without leaving the house, and store thousands of pages of my writing and other information in a devise no larger than my thumb.

But… With all that, I can be overwhelmed with information, retrieve false information, learn things I sometimes wish I didn’t know, and I make myself vulnerable to those who will abuse the system to gain access to my private information like bank accounts and medical records with malicious intent.

And, even though it’s an amazing machine, it seems my computer can sometimes become overwhelmed and unilaterally decide to not operate any longer; giving me messages about “corrupted files” and “file not found”, causing me to have to override my desire to slam my fist into it, settle my frustration, and try something less violent like shutting it down and restarting it with fingers crossed in hopes that that action will get it up-and-running again.

Now, I won’t degrade God by equating him to a computer engineer, nor a computer user, but it does come to mind how I can sometimes see parallels between God and creation, and me and my computer.

Just think about that. God creates the universe; a perfect running machine with unimaginable dimensions and intricacies. Within that wonderful machine is a tiny little part we call our solar system, and within that small part is our miniscule earth. And within that is an amazingly elaborate system of interdependent life, including human life. “It is good” God declared; “It is very good”! Everything worked as it was designed to; it was, indeed very good!

But, as we all know, it didn’t take long for one part of that amazing machine to start breaking down. Sadly, it was humanity, the same part God declared “Very good”. Soon the machine itself was overwhelmed and it stopped working as it was designed to and God had to do a reboot; we call it Noah’s flood.

After that things ran well for a while but God did have to do some occasional cleanups. Some he did on his own like eliminating the viruses named Sodom and Gomorrah; other times he called in some expert help like Moses, Elijah, and Isaiah to fix some corrupted files and recover those that were lost. But eventually, as could be predicted, another reboot was necessary.

Thankfully, this time God took a less drastic approach than in Noah’s time and restrained from slamming his fist into things as with Sodom and Gomorrah; this time he sent in the best, his Son, the Christ!

With patience, Jesus took a long time to get started; he looked over the multitude of problems before he touched anything and then, with full access to the creators design plans, he started his work, carefully, methodically addressing one problem at a time. Those who would benefit most with a properly operating machine looked on with great anticipation. They would once again have access to loads of information giving them true understanding; they could receive the good news; and they would not be left to aimlessly wander about in effort to have their needs fulfilled. They were filled with joy!

On the other hand, those who had corrupted things in the first place; those who hacked in to abuse the system for their own, self serving benefit were not so happy. They were being blocked at every turn; they could no longer spread their infections; they couldn’t prey on the vulnerable but were, in fact themselves, becoming the vulnerable.

Jesus starts the needed reboot in today’s Gospel reading by announcing the fulfillment of the scripture that speaks of bringing “good news to the poor… release to the captive… sight to the blind… to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

That last part, “the year of the Lord’s favor” is a reference to the year of Jubilee as found in Leviticus chapter 25. In short, in that year, occurring every 50 years, God commands all his people to release everyone who sold themselves into slavery and to return all land that was sold to relieve poverty back to the family to which it originally belonged. It’s a reset, a reboot of the system designed to clean up the corruption that occurs when the self serving interests of a few overrun the many by monopolizing wealth and power.

There is no proof that the people ever honored this law and it’s easy to see how those who did amass power and wealth could override it. And, even from our modern day perspective it might seem unfair that suddenly, every 50 years those who had accumulated wealth had to give it up to make everything even again, or at least closer to even.

But God doesn’t make up rules without reason, God sees so much more clearly than we do, God sees what will result when we are left to our own devices before we have the experience to learn for ourselves.

Yes, it might seem unfair; but look at history and we can see the alternative; the alternative that happens over and over again and we still don’t learn our lessons.

In that history, when wealth and power get too far out of balance there is always an event, a devastating event, that brings things back into balance; the event is always violent and bloody rebellion and war. The reboot might not seem like a good idea; and it certainly isn’t “good news” to the wealthy and powerful; unless they consider that alternative.

This is the reboot Jesus is calling for and what he spent so much of his ministry working for; asking for peace to come upon the earth by taking away the reasons for violence; asking for the poor to be lifted up by taking away the cause of their poverty, and bringing sight to those too blind to see why it is imperative to so.

Today, some 2,000 years later we are again approaching the critical point of decision. We can choose to listen to God and reset the system, clean up the corruption, and bring the machine back into proper working order or we can set ourselves up for a devastating crash that might leave the machine damaged beyond recovery.

The choice is ours; do we rely on the one with the original plan, full understanding of the intricacies, and undeniable certification? Or do we rely on ourselves to blindly maintain the status quo with fingers crossed?

The choice is ours; may we choose wisely.



Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
8:1 all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had given to Israel.
8:2 Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month.
8:3 He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.
8:5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
8:6 Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
8:8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
8:9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.
8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Psalm 19
19:1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
19:2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
19:3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
19:4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
19:5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
19:6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple;
19:8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes;
19:9 the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
19:11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
19:12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.
19:13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
12:13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
12:14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
12:15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
12:16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
12:19 If all were a single member, where would the body be?
12:20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.
12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
12:22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
12:23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;
12:24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member,
12:25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.
12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.
12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
12:30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
12:31 But strive for the greater gifts.

Luke 4:14-21
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.
4:15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
4:16 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,
4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
4:18 “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,
4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
4:20 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.
4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”