yearC epiphany 3

This Week's Sermon:

         Luke 4:14-21  -  Good News   
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The story is told of a Franciscan monk in Australia assigned to be the guide and "gofer" to Mother Teresa when she visited New South Wales. Thrilled and excited at the prospect of being so close to this great woman, he dreamed of how much he would learn from her and what they would talk about. But during her visit, he became frustrated. Although he was constantly near her, the friar never had the opportunity to say one word to Mother Teresa. There were always other people for her to meet.

Finally, her tour was over, and she was due to fly to New Guinea. In desperation, the Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you? Mother Teresa looked at him. You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea? she asked.

Yes, he replied eagerly. “Then give that money to the poor,” she said. “You'll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” Mother Teresa understood that Jesus’ ministry was to the poor and she made it hers as well. She knew that they more than anyone else needed good news.

On a Saturday morning, in Nazareth, the town gathered in the synagogue to listen to Jesus read and teach. It was no big surprise. He was well known in the area; it was his hometown. He was raised there. They wanted to learn from him. So when he read from the Isaiah scroll, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor” everyone understood these words to be the words of Isaiah. It is how that prophet from long ago defined his ministry.

When Jesus finished that reading he handed the scroll to the attendant and sat down. In that day you sat in the Moses Seat to teach to the people. Today preachers stand in a pulpit. So all eyes were on Jesus, waiting for him to begin his teaching. What would he say about this great prophet Isaiah? Would he emphasis the bad news? Israel had sinned and would be taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Or would he emphasis the good news? One day God would restore his people and bring them back from captivity. It was Israel’s ancient history but it still spoke volumes.

Now here’s the wonderful twist, the thing that catches everyone off guard that Saturday morning in Nazareth. Jesus does neither. He doesn’t emphasize the past. He focuses on the present. He doesn’t lift up Isaiah as the great role model; Jesus lifts up himself. This is the pertinent point. It’s what upsets everybody at the synagogue. It’s why everybody was furious with him and drove him out of town. They were going to kill him. He dared to say that these great words of Isaiah were really about himself. “Today,” he said, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

This morning let’s look at the ministries of Isaiah and Jesus. Why are their ministries so closely tied and why does Jesus describe himself as fulfilling Isaiah’s ministry?


1. Isaiah's Ministry

2. Jesus' Ministry


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What Is Unique About Christianity?


The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.


Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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