|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2014||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 4:12-23|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 19, 2014||Second Sunday after the Epiphany||Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2014||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17|
|The Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2014||Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A||January 5, 2014||Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A||Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23|
|Christmas Eve||December 24, 2013||Christmas Eve, 2013||Luke 2:1-20|
|Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||December 15, 2013||Third Sunday in Advent, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11|
|First Sunday in Advent, Year A -The Circle of the Church Year||December 1, 2013||Advent 1, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Yr C||November 24, 2013||Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King, Year C||Luke 23:33-43|
|Twenty Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 17, 2013||Proper 28, Year C||Malachi 4:1-2a, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-10|
|Twenty Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||November 10, 2013||Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:27-38|
|Twenty Second Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 20, 2013||Proper 24C||Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8|
|Twenty First Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 13, 2013||Proper 23, Year C||2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c, Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||October 6, 2013||Proper 22, Year C||Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, Psalm 37:1-10, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10|
|Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year C||September 29, 2013||Proper 21, Year C||Luke 16:19-31|
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon Date:January 27, 2013
Scripture: Nehemiah 8:1-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21
Liturgy Calendar: Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
I’d like to begin the sermon with this can of cat food and today’s collect. Please look for today’s collect on your bulletin insert, and let’s pray together the contemporary version of the prayer.
Let us pray.
“Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Now, how can this can of cat food represent the glory of God? That’s a question for you to think about in the context of this sermon.
In the gospel according to Luke, the first recorded words of Jesus as an adult begin with the commentary on the scripture from Isaiah that he reads in his hometown synagogue.
And this first sentence begins with the word “today.”
Today—today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Luke tells us that today, this very day, the age of God’s reign is here, and that God’s promises are being fulfilled. Fred Craddock says that Jesus never allows today to become yesterday, or slip into a vague someday.
TODAY, Jesus says, this scripture has been fulfilled, is being fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled in your hearing.
And today, this very day, January 27, 2013, is holy. This day and every day that we are granted contains 86,400 seconds of holy time, a gracious gift from God.
And when we think about time as a gracious gift from God, then we can’t help but rejoice in the time we are given–—as Ezra told the people in our Old Testament reading today, a people beaten down by exile, and then by the gargantuan task of rebuilding Jerusalem, and mourning over their own sinful shortcomings when they heard the scripture read to them—Ezra told these people—Rejoice! God’s reign is here!
“Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine, for this day is holy to our Lord, and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
This day is holy, God’s reign is here! So rejoice in this day as the Psalmist tells us that all of creation rejoices in God, even as the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another. Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard, their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world.”
The psalmist also tells us in the second half of the psalm that God’s commandments for us are cause for rejoicing. God loves us so much that God gives us the instructions we need for new life, for wisdom, for light. Jesus is God’s word made flesh—God’s word gives us all we need for profound happiness—a happiness that God wants us to share with others. God provides all the instruction we need, the words and witness of Jesus, to bring the reign of God into reality in each one of our lives.
When God reigns in our lives, then we turn to God to help us determine how we will spend the time we’re given today. When God reigns in our lives, we also turn to God to figure out how best to use the talents, the money, and all of the material possessions that God has given to each one of us for God’s reign here on earth.
The apostle Paul tells us that we Christians have been baptized into one body in the one Spirit—and we have all drunk of the One Spirit.
Not only are we individuals living in God’s reign, but we are also the body of Christ. Our Suffragan Bishop, Susan Goff, reminded us at Council that God without us will not, and we without God, cannot proclaim the good news far and wide.
People, God is counting on us to share the Good News! We can’t just think about it, we have to take action and do it!
Ezra told the people to go their way, to eat the fat and drink sweet wine, and that’s not all, but to send portions of that fat and sweet wine to those for whom nothing has been prepared—Ezra told the people to share what they had—to share their food and their wine and their joy with those who for whom nothing had been prepared.
And in the gospel today, Jesus didn’t just say that he had the spirit of the Lord—he said what he was going to do because of that Spirit welling up inside of him.
God anointed Jesus to bring good news to the poor, God anointed Jesus to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. God sent Jesus to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And these things are what Jesus spent the rest of his life doing.
What is Jesus calling us to do?
I had the chance to talk with a friend of mine at Council, and she shared with me how she has felt filled with the spirit of God lately. She went on to describe how people she knows who never come to church are experiencing God’s love, and getting involved in God’s work in the world.
Her church has a gleaning ministry, and this woman is so excited about gleaning that she has gotten others excited about being a part of this work. They go out into the fields and orchards and harvest what would otherwise go to waste so that those who could not otherwise afford fresh produce can have this food to eat.
And at work, because people know that she reads and ponders scripture, others are picking up the Bible, and reading it for the first time, and asking questions, and learning about God’s commandments for them.
This woman, feeling the Holy Spirit at work in her life, is proclaiming the good news and drawing those around her into the joy of living in God’s reign.
Closer to home, in this particular body of Christ, St Peter’s Episcopal Church, we have seen God powerfully at work. Filled with God’s spirit, this little church finds the energy and the resources to make God’s reign visible here in Port Royal.
If you were at the community dinner in December, then you could feel the Holy Spirit at work as over one hundred people from this area gathered for food and fun.
We had a drawing for a $50 gas card. The woman who won the card at the dinner threw her hands in the air and praised God right on the spot because she was so thrilled to receive this much needed gift. God’s generosity had become a visible reality in her life thanks to the fact that a member of this congregation had generously donated this card and made this gift possible for someone that night. Even those who didn’t win the card couldn’t help but be happy for this woman because she was so overjoyed.
Those of us who cooked and donated the soup for that night could feel God’s spirit present with us—because really, we experienced something like Jesus feeding the five thousand—we had more than enough soup and bread for all those people, although we weren’t sure that we’d have enough to go around. Even after everyone had all they wanted, we still had soup and bread left over. God’s gracious generosity was visible in our left over soup and bread that night.
At a recent Bible study at the jail, one of the prisoners came up to me at the end of the Bible study. He asked me where our church was. “I felt such warmth and welcome from you tonight,” he told me. Your church is the kind of church I want to find when I get out of here. God’s reign on earth had just become a reality for this prisoner because he had been welcomed into the Bible study as a child of God.
In her congregational report for this past year, Barbara Wisdom described the joy of those at the Bowling Green Healthcare Center who received flowers last Mother’s Day from the ECW and our children’s group. The women at the nursing home were so excited that those in their wheelchairs in the hallways were asking where their flowers were. They were assured that the flowers had been placed in their room. These women, many who have no one to visit, were thrilled that someone had remembered them and had brought them joy simply by bringing them something beautiful to brighten up their rooms. God’s reign, visible on earth.
Now that can of cat food.
Recently, someone in Port Royal told me about a resident of this town who is very ill and who is always doing things for others. This woman also has a ministry to God’s creatures. She takes care of many of the Port Royal cats. She gets them spayed and neutered and feeds them, all of this at her own expense—and she’s in the process of finding homes for these cats so they’ll be cared for when she’s no longer able to do that.
So I checked in with the ECW and the women decided that they wanted to help this woman out, so they gave me the job of calling her up to see what she needed.
The conversation I had with this woman amazed me. She told me that she hadn’t lived in Port Royal for all that long, and that she could not believe that anyone would reach out to her in this way to help. She was amazed and happy that I had called. She wanted to know why we wanted to help her. And I told her—it’s the church—it’s what God calls us to do, to do what we can for those around us –and so she very gratefully agreed that we could help—and she wouldn’t tell me anything she needed personally, she just asked for cat food to help feed her cats until she could find them new homes.
This can of cat food—a visible reminder of the reign of God. Next time you go to the grocery store, please go down the cat food aisle. Look the cans and bags of cat food and just think about how that cat food can be a visible reminder of God’s reign present here on earth!
Actually, most things in the grocery store can be visible signs of God’s kingdom coming on earth when we decide to put some of it in our grocery carts to help someone else.
So I hope you’ll buy some cat food for this woman—you can just bring it to church and the ECW will make sure that this lady gets this food for her cats. We will bring this woman some rejoicing and a visible reminder of God’s love for her through our care for her.
This Army stole has an interesting story and this congregation is going to become part of its story. The stole is part of the Stoles for Chaplains Project. This project began when Sergeant Stower, serving in Afghanistan, requested a stole made out of camouflage material for his chaplain. Soon, forty-one other chaplains in Afghanistan also wanted a stole. And so, women in several states have been busy at work making these forty-one stoles. Barbara Porterfield made this stole.
Now, here’s where we come in. Each stole is being blessed by a congregation before it is sent off to Afghanistan. So this week, take some time to write a note of support to chaplain who will be receiving the stole. I will also have a card that we can sign next week to go with the stole. Next week, we will pass around this stole and bless it. When a chaplain receives this stole with our notes and our blessing, this stole will be a visible reminder of God’s reign on earth——I hope the chaplain who receives our stole will find the joy of the Lord in our gift and blessing. For all of those whose lives will be touched by our blessing of this stole, I hope that Ezra’s words will become a reality. “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. (Charles Dederich)
One day is worth two tomorrows. (Ben Franklin)
Today, you have 100% of your life left. (Tom Landry)
Apparently, there is nothing that cannot happen today! (Mark Twain)
Today is the day to rejoice, to seek God’s will for our lives, and with God’s help to try our best to make the generous reign of God visible here on earth, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ, and to proclaim to all people the good news of his salvation in all that we say and in all the actions we take.
Resource—Luke: Interpretation–A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. By Fred B. Craddock. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY 2009.