Homily from service on 23 January, 2022 – Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Sermon preached by The Rev. Dr. Richard Burden
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
How’s that for a mic-drop.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Boom.
I mean, what do you say to that? Just, let that sink in…Today. This scripture. Has been. Fulfilled.
I mean, I know it doesn’t seem like that…you look around and the poor don’t have a lot of good news coming their way. There are still a lot of captives in the world. The oppressed…are still pretty oppressed…January 2022 doesn’t really look like “the Year of the Lord’s Favor” does it? But neither did 30something CE, when he first spoke these words. I imagine a few of them looked around and thought…really? Next week, we’ll see how the people in Nazareth reacted to this. But today, we just have this…stop…This…pause. This bold statement that just sort of hangs there…”Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Remember a few weeks ago, when I quoted Quinn Caldwell who said, “Christmas didn’t fix everything; it started fixing everything.” I think today is another instance of that. Yes. God has acted. Jesus has been born. Today he starts his public ministry…so yes, today this scripture has been fulfilled…AND we’re still waiting…AND there’s still an awful lot that remains unfulfilled…AND God is here, with us, in the doing of God’s mission. So here we are…in this pause…in between this divine mic-drop and the drama of the reaction that we all know is coming…What do we do?
Maybe this pause is an invitation to reflect on the truth…the reality…of this statement, and ask, “How has the scripture been fulfilled?” How has it been fulfilled in your life? In your home? In your community? In this place? How has the scripture been fulfilled? Because it’s easy to see all the ways in which it hasn’t…it’s easy to see all that’s wrong…all that remains toxic, and damaged, and harmful, easy to see and get wrapped up in everything that isn’t working…all the things that drain and disappoint and diminish human flourishing…but today this scripture has been fulfilled. Today, we have this pause…this tiny margin from which to remember…or discover…the ways in which the scripture has been fulfilled…for us…for you.
Listen to the passage from Isaiah that Jesus reads [Isaiah 61:1, Jewish Study Bible translation]: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD has anointed me; [God] has sent me as a herald of joy to the humble”…have you heard a herald of joy in your life? Even the smallest thing…a call from a loved one, a laugh shared with a friend, a moment of quiet, a walk, a song, just stroking a beloved animal companion…a herald of joy…that scripture has been fulfilled.
“To bind up the wounded of heart…to comfort all who mourn.” I know many hearts are broken now…Many of us are mourning losses of all kinds…and through the process of grieving…sharing stories…passing on treasured memories…that’s how wounded hearts are bound up…the calls and cards…the listening and praying…those are comforts…that scripture has been fulfilled.
“To proclaim release to the captives, liberation to the imprisoned,” this one is more abstract for me…I’m at least one degree of separation from any actual prisoners…But also this refers to a Levitical law that said that farmers who had lost their land and were forced into indentured servitude would regain their land and freedom every 50 years—that’s “the year of the Lord’s favor”. But I also know that there are all kinds of literal and metaphoric forms of captivity…and many ways of being literally and metaphorically imprisoned. So this line may or may not resonate with you right now…it might be a fire that you have no water for…but I know that there are Ezra’s out there who are advocating for reform and release, there are people who are experiencing liberation from captivity, and maybe all I need is to be grateful that somewhere scripture is also being fulfilled.
Where is the scripture being fulfilled in your life?
The other image we have today is Paul’s metaphor of the body…many members animated by the same Spirit. If we want to see this scripture being fulfilled, we need only look around, at this faith community. We are a living icon of the fulfillment of this scripture. Look at the Annual Report…Look at how many faithful, committed volunteers and staff it takes to enable all of us to be the body of Christ…to be Christ’s hands and feet and heart in the world. The welcome ministers cannot say to the property committee, “I have no need of you”, the garden committee cannot say to the pastoral care team, “we have no need of you.” Every one of us is necessary, and every one of us is vital to the thriving of God’s mission. We are all ministers doing the work of the Gospel through All Saints—shining the light of Christ in the world—those scriptures are being fulfilled.
If you want another view of the body of Christ, take a look at the Meet the Vestry video that we sent out this week. As we met this past Wednesday, the current vestry and candidates reflected on what being together as community of spiritual leaders and learners means…what they said—and the care they clearly have for one another—and the joy they generate and share together—all shows the fulfillment of this scripture: ” If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” This scripture has been fulfilled…by the body of Christ.
When we look at the world…it doesn’t look much like “the year of the Lord’s favor.” But the night sky doesn’t look much like daylight…but when we look at the night sky, do we focus on the void of space, or is it the dazzle of starlight that draws us…today…take a pause…look to the light…and let’s continue to fulfill the scripture.