Third Sunday after Epiphany  /  January 21, 2007 

Text:  Luke 4:14 – 21  /  Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley 

Resurrection Lutheran Church /  Title:  Today


I was ten years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee.    I can remember coming home that day and seeing the images on TV of Dr. King lying on the floor of a hotel balcony…surrounded by people who were pointing to someone in a distance.    And I recall thinking to myself…’why did this have to happen…and why in Memphis, Tennessee.     The truth is…it could have happened at any time in any one of our cities.    What keeps this particular event etched into the conscience of our country, I believe…is that someone tried not only to kill a prophet for speaking words they did not want to hear…but to put an end to a dream.    A dream in which all people in bondage would be set free…and those who had been blinded by the injustice of it all, would finally be able to see.


The people of Israel had been told of a similar dream.    For as long as anyone could remember, all of the Prophets had been pointing to a day when someone would be sent by God.    Someone anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to those who were being held captive against their will.    Sight would even be restored to the blind and the oppressed would be set free…all because God had declared…that now was the time.   


The people of Israel would go into their local houses of worship and as the words of the prophets were read week after week…they would hang onto every blessed syllable.      All because they believed that one day…all that God had promised to do…would happen.   The only problem was, they had no idea as to when all of this would take place…and they certainly hadn’t a clue as to who would be showing up on their doorstep…in the name of God.


Perhaps that is why today’s story is so appealing.    The story of Jesus returning to his home town is one that many of us can no doubt relate to.    I would like to think it reminds us of the times when we all have tried to ‘go home’ on one occasion or another…only to discover that such a thing is not really possible.    Circumstances change…people change…and because this world is in a constant state of change, we can never count on things remaining just the way they were when we were growing up.     


No doubt, the same was true for Jesus.    Going to the synagogue was as natural as going to school...even if only the men were allowed inside.   As a boy, he had been in this particular synagogue hundreds of times with his father, Joseph, by his side.   It was in his hearing, then, that the scriptures were brought to life, and the word of God took hold of not only his mind…but his very heart.     So it should come as no surprise to us to hear Jesus say what was probably the most scandalous thing he could have said at the time:


  Today…this scripture has been fulfilled…in your hearing.’ 


It was scandalous, because…the only way such a statement could even be   remotely true would be if God had decided to make a personal appearance right there in their midst.    In other words, it was Jesus’ portrait that Isaiah was painting.    He is ‘God with us’.    Not yesterday…not tomorrow…but right now….this very minute…today.


In fact, it is very telling that Luke is the only Gospel writer to use the word “today” in connection with this whole event.     Time and again in Luke’s Gospel, the word “today” shows up in some pretty key places.    Earlier in chapter 2 the angel announces that “today…a savior is born” (Luke 2).    Later, when Jesus encounters the tax collector, Zacchaeus, he says: “Today…salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).    And finally, on the cross we find Jesus saying to one of the criminals beside him, “Today…you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).       Notice what Jesus doesn’t say.   He doesn’t say: ‘Well, let me think about it a bit…and I’ll get back to you on that’.   No, what Jesus is clearly stating is that God has broken into our world in a most miraculous way and in doing so has now become a part of the human story.


In short, the infinite creator has purposefully chosen to become a part of his finite creation.   And in so doing, has changed the course of history…into one of ‘his story’ instead.      The point is…Luke wants us to be sure to hear the good news that in this Jesus, God is now fulfilling the promise of a Savior.   We need not look for another at a later date.    The Savior is here now…today.


So…what does this mean for you and me?    Well, first of all, it means that we no longer live in a world apart from God.   In Jesus, our every waking moment can be seen as an opportunity to connect with God.    And one of the very best ways to connect with God…is to simply listen for his voice.    Of all the things Jesus could have said following today’s scripture reading…he chose to say:


           ‘Today…this scripture has been fulfilled (how?)

                              in your hearing.


How many times have we been told…faith comes through hearing.    I have no doubt that when Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young boy, he would often go to church to hear the scriptures being read.   It was in his hearing, then, that the young Martin learned about the ways of God.   How God, too, had a dream for liberating not only all of humankind…but of this entire universe as well.    As we state every single Sunday during Confession, we are all in bondage to sin…and can not free ourselves.   What we desperately needed was a Savior who could set us free.   Bottom line: that Savior is none other than Jesus himself.    


This…above all else…is what we profess to believe.  And if admitting such a thing is offensive to some, even to some in our own family, then so be it.    At least it shows they are listening.   The next step…is to pray for their unbelief.