Sermon, January 27, 2019

The video for January 27 is unavailable. Here is the sermon text.

The holy gospel according to Luke, the 4th chapter.  

Glory to you, O Lord. 

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.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.  

Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?  What did your parents want you to be?  When I was in first grade, I wanted to be a teacher.  Basically, the only adult women I knew who worked outside the home were teachers, so I wasn’t aware of other options. 

My parents expected that I would go to college.  My father thought the best thing anybody could be was a doctor or lawyer. 

The year I was in second grade was when John Glenn orbited the earth.  Our teacher told us we could all be astronauts and fly spaceships when we grew up, so I thought that would be a great idea.  So, for a couple of years, I was going to be an astronaut when I grew up.

When I was in the fourth grade, our Sunday school curriculum was called “Great Christians,” and I learned about pastors, and missionaries, and deaconesses from the 19th and 20th centuries.  

From that point on, I knew I was going to be a deaconess when I grew up. Back then, being a deaconess was the only option for women serving the Lutheran church.  Men were pastors, women were deaconesses. Deaconesses served as nurses, teachers, social workers, and parish workers.  

I was definitely going to be a parish worker. I knew that because I sent for the catalog from the Lutheran School for Church Workers and marked the classes I wanted to take.  Parish workers got to take a class called “Sunday school crafts.” Who wouldn’t want a career where you get to make crafts? 

I am one of the rare people who actually did grow up to be what I said I was going to be when I was ten.  I was a deaconess for thirty years, and I did work as a parish deaconess for a while, and got to make my share of Sunday school crafts.

But, I changed careers in my fifties.  God called me to be a pastor later in my life. I am doing something that wasn’t even a possibility when I was ten.  

Sometimes people turn out to be totally different from what you expected when you knew them as a child. 

In today’s gospel, we hear that Jesus has come home to preach at the congregation in his home town.  This is the congregation where he grew up.  They have known him since he was a toddler. 

They had certain expectations about him from the beginning.  When Jesus was a boy, chances are nobody asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  There were no opportunities for children to choose their own career.  Girls grew up to get married, keep house, and raise children. 

Boys followed in their father’s footsteps.  Jesus was going to be a carpenter just like Joseph. And he was, for a while. But then, God called him to leave that behind. God called him to go do something entirely different. 

The grown man Jesus was not the little boy the Nazarenes thought they knew.  He wasn’t even the young carpenter any more.  He wasn’t even acting like the great preacher and healer they had heard about. 

When we have known someone their whole life, when we know their family, we have certain expectations about them, about who they are, and how they should act, and what they should do with their life. When they grow up they claim their own identity.  When they write the narrative of their own life it can be very different from what we expected. It can be confusing for us, difficult for us to accept.  

I think maybe it’s hard for us because it means we have to admit we we wrong about somebody. And nobody wants to admit they were wrong. 

We don’t just have these expectations about other people we know, or about our children. We have them about ourselves too.  We don’t always turn out to be the people we thought we we going to be. We don’t always meet our own expectations or others expectations about us. 

What do we think we know about the people sitting next to us in the pews today?  What do we think we know about our families and friends? What do we think we know about our neighbors?  What do we think we know about people who seem so different from us? How do we help each other be the people God calls us to be? 

Jesus has good new for us today. Jesus claims that scripture is fulfilled in our hearing. In Nazareth, this contradicts everything his home town crowd thinks they know about him. Jesus is the anointed One, the Christ. The home town crowd wasn’t expecting that for sure. Maybe a prophet, maybe a healer, but they weren’t expecting him to be the Christ, the Savior of the world. 

Jesus’ good news for the poor is that we can all be the people God calls us to be, even when that’s not what anyone expected. We don’t need to fulfill the stereotypes that society lays out for us.  We can live like the people God made us to be.  

We are set free from the captivity of our past. We are set free from the captivity of what everyone else thinks we should say and do. We are set free from the voice inside our own minds telling us that we are not enough. 

Today, in your hearing, Jesus proclaims release to you from all that is holding you back, release from everything that’s keeping you from being the person God made you to be.  

Jesus says even more, though. He proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor.  This was a familiar concept to his listeners, but may be new to us. The year of the Lord’s favor is also called a Jubilee Year.  Jubilee is declared after a Sabbath of sabbath years, meaning 7 times 7, so it’s the 50th year.  

Several things happen in a Jubilee year. The first and most important is that all slaves were set free. People became slaves because of poverty, so this was a declaration that their debts were forgiven. It was a reminder to masters and slaves alike that they were all forgiven and equal in the sight of God. 

The next thing that happens in a Jubilee year was that all property reverts back to the original family owners. The only way that a family would have lost their land would be because of extreme poverty. If they were forced to sell their land it meant they needed the money to eat and they basically became the servants of the man who bought it. So this proclamation gives people back their own homes and enables them to once again earn their own living and support their families. 

The third part of a Jubilee year is that it’s a year of sabbath rest for the land as well as the people. They are to let the fields lay fallow and only harvest what grows naturally. Then everyone will know that they are truly trusting God to provide for them. 

Jesus comes to his home town to preach. But he is not the person they think he is. He isn’t who they expect him to be. He is so much more. He is the Christ, the anointed One. He proclaims to you today that you are released from false expectations. You are free to be the people’s God calls you to be. 

Your debts are forgiven. You have your true home now with God’s family. God will always provide for you. Amen.