St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-25-2019


 St. Matthew’s Sermon 08-25-2019

No Contest

Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13:10-17

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

Luke’s Gospel begins with many announcements, made by various characters, about the coming of the Christ. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would have a son and that

“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (1:32-33)

An Angel announced to the shepherds “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (2:10-11)

Simeon, in the Temple announced “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (2:29-32)

Anna spoke “about the child [Jesus] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

John announced “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (3:16)

And the voice from heaven announced “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (3:22)

Through these we get the idea that something really big is happening! The announcements involve old men and young men, old women and young women, angels on high and lowly shepherds! But, to this point we don’t know exactly what all the hype is actually about. Even after Jesus spends 40 days in the desert we read, without details, that he “…filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone”. (4:14-15)

That changes, however, very quickly in the reading when Jesus comes to the next town, enters the synagogue on the Sabbath, and reads these words from the scroll of Isaiah…

“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.” (4:18-19)

At first reading, we may think of this as Jesus being the fulfillment of ancient scripture. But reading further, through the rest of the gospel, we realize that this isn’t just a link between ancient writings and Jesus, it – is – Jesus’ – mission-statement! This is the big thing that’s happening! This is what all the hype is actually about!

That mission begins immediately. From this point on, Jesus goes about bringing that mission to fulfillment! As Luke tells it, just then; “just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years… he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.””.  And she was released from the ailment that had held her captive for so long, “…she stood up straight and began praising God”!

But then the leader of the synagogue steps up; complaining that Jesus had done work on the Sabbath. His belief was that you do no work on the Sabbath, not even good works.

 Here we see the leader of the Synagogue attempting to set up a competition. Jesus’ mission is to do good; anywhere, anytime, and for anyone in need. The leader of the synagogue’s mission is to obey the Law, (according to his interpretation of the Law anyway) and to make sure everyone else does too; even if it means adding another day to a woman’s suffering.

Jesus has no interest entering a competition to prove that his righteousness is greater than that of the leader; he’s not going to get into slicing and dicing scripture to prove himself right; he is staying committed to his mission statement; Period.

 

One of the saddest things, for me, is to witness the same thing going on today. People are still setting up competitions to prove themselves the most righteous, the most Law abiding, while slinging mud at those who don’t measure-up to their standards and, at the same time, neglecting the mission of Christian faith which is, I repeat, bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Look around our world and we see it everywhere; perhaps the most blatantly visible is when people proclaiming themselves to be Christians confuse our nation’s laws for God’s Law; not being welcoming to outsiders whereas God asks us to “… love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:19); or clinging to capitalism against God’s condemnation of those who “lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge.” (Amos 2:8a)

Also obvious is the oppression of the poor, contrary to Christ’s call to help them; the oppression of racial and ethnic minorities despite the announcement of good news for all nations and all people:  ”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”(John 3:16); the oppression, even condemnation, of sexual minorities disregarding Christ’s teaching “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned”.

We see it also when individuals and our nation hold people captive with economic policies that keep others enslaved to debt and threaten violence when protest arises, ignoring Christ’s reminder that “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. (Luke 12:34)

And we see it when healthcare and education are out of reach of those most in need in spite of Christ’s mission statement that includes “recovery of sight to the blind” both literally and figuratively.

 

The Good News does not call for arguments over the Law of God. The Good News doesn’t call for a competition to prove who is the most righteous. The Good News calls for praising God when everyone is able to stand up straight! The Good News calls for all people to rejoice at all the wonderful things that it brings!

Making that happen is our mission also! May God give us strength, May God give us courage, May God give us commitment.

Amen

 

Isaiah 58:9b-14
58:9b If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
58:10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
58:11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
58:12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
58:13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
58:14 then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm 103:1-8
103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits–
103:3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
103:4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
103:5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
103:6 The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
103:7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Hebrews 12:18-29
12:18 You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest,
12:19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.
12:20 (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.”
12:21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”)
12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
12:23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
12:25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!
12:26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.”
12:27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe;
12:29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

Luke 13:10-17
13:10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.
13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”
13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”
13:15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
13:16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful
things that he was doing.