Rev. Molly F. James, PhD

Epiphany 3 C
24
January, 2016
Grace Episcopal Church

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

May Godís Word be spoken. May Godís Word be heard. May that point us to the Living Word who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Good news to the poor.  Release to the captives.  Sight to the blind.  The oppressed go free.  A year of the Lordís favor.  The Good News of our Gospel lesson this morning is good news indeed.  I find myself particularly grateful for it, on multiple levels.

First, it is Good News on a global level.  I donít know whether it is our 24 hour news cycle or just the fact that modern technology means that there are reporters in literally every corner of the globe, but sometimes the news headlines are overwhelming.  There is violence and destruction here in Hartford.  There is news of violence and tragedy across the United States.  And then we hear intimate, personal stories of violence that is happening thousands of miles away, but is no less tragic or painful.  The speed and agility of communication in the 21st century means that we hear about the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed in our own neighborhoods and in neighborhoods on the other side of the world.  The sheer magnitude of human suffering can be overwhelming.

This is why we need the Good News this morning.  We need to be reminded that God is at work in the world.  That this prophecy of Isaiah that is retold by Jesus, does not just apply to Ancient Israel nor to the Palestine of Jesusí day.  It applies to us too.  We need to be reminded of the stories that so rarely make the headlines.  Stories of the hundreds and thousands of men and women around the world who dedicate their lives to feeding the hungry and caring for the disabled.  Of lawyers and activists who give their time to help the oppressed and captives go free.

I think this Good News is also important on a community level.  It has been a challenging time in the past months, here at Grace.  And so we are a community in need of this Good News.  A community that needs to be reminded that the way forward can look different than three months ago.  Given the pain and disappointment that the community has experienced, it is a joy and a relief to hear this prophecy this morning.  To be reminded that the Love of God is always stronger than any challenge we might face.

I also believe you all are to be commended as a community, for even in the midst of challenges of recent months, you have continued to be about the good work of the food pantry, of opening the doors of Grace to welcome in those in the community who need a place to meet.  When the going gets tough, it is easy to turn inward and think only of ourselves.  But that did not happen.  This community has continued to look outward to the needs of those in Parkville.  Together you have shared your abundance of gifts and have been helping to make Jesusí prophecy a reality for many.

Finally, I think this is a prophecy that matters on a personal level.  It is Good News that can have a real impact in our own hearts and in our own lives.  If we take Jesusí words on a more metaphorical level, how might they apply to us as individuals?  Are there places in our lives where we feel depleted or run dry?  Are we suffering from a poverty of spirit?  Are we allowing ourselves to be held captive by fear?  Do we feel oppressed in some way?  Do we need to find a way to break free or at least to change how we are taking care of ourselves?

What in our lives might be a stumbling block for us?  What might be preventing us from more deeply engaging in relationship with God or with each other?  How might we see todayís Gospel as an invitation to move into a different future?  What burdens might it be time for us to lay down?  Are their amends we need to make?  Or do we need to do a better job of surrounding ourselves with people who recognize our gifts and who help us to thrive?

No doubt each of us could use a little Good News, a little transformation, a little restoration and reconciliation somewhere in some part of our lives.  I hope that today, we can hear the Good News of our Scripture.  We can take comfort in Paulís reminder that we are blessed with a diversity of gifts.  We are not all the same and that is a wonderful and joyous thing.  It is not about needing to be better than someone else.  God loves us just as we are.

And I hope that we can hear the invitation in Jesusí prophecy.  An invitation to live into a new and different future.  An invitation to look for and to give thanks for the ways that this prophecy is being fulfilled on a local and a global level.  And finally, I hope we can live into Jesusí invitation to trust in Godís love.  An invitation to trust in the hope and possibility of a new future.  An invitation to let go of whatever burdens, whatever fears, whatever might blind us to the depth of Godís love or hold us back from living into the fullness of who God has called us to be.

May each of us have the courage, today and every day, to step out in faith, into a new future, trusting that the Good News of God in Christ is real and meant for us.

AMEN.

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