1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a
LUKE 4: 14-21

January 27, 2019

I remember the day when I knew … I knew that “Houston there’s a problem.”  It was not a day that I was happy about because I was admitting a weakness.  It was not a day providing any satisfaction but I knew what the truth was … I already knew.

What it took was a young man seated just a few feet from where I was standing and speaking.  He raised his hand and I recognized him.  I didn’t know his name I never learned it but his question would move me forward to make changes that only a few years prior I wouldn’t have imagined making.

As he asked his question … I knew … because all I heard were quiet sounds not words.  Huh, what did you say … I can’t hear you.  It was then that I knew for certain that I needed hearing aids … I need something more than just me to get me through my day.

I wanted to hear … I needed to hear … and when I received my first pair of hearing aids I again was able to hear at a level that my ears alone can’t give me.  Very much a transformational day because I knew that I needed more than me … just to get through my day.

There was this young man perhaps in his late 20’s or early 30’s.  He had gained quite a name for himself.   No, people weren’t standing in long lines just to get His autograph … people were not lined up just to catch a glimpse of Him but it wouldn’t be long before He couldn’t travel without creating a stir.  But, people were talking about Him … especially family members, friends, and not surprisingly even strangers in the place where He grew up.

Now, this young man was a man of faith.  Since He was a child He was known to hang around His place of worship and He even asked questions and spoke up when other kids just wanted to be out playing.  In fact, He knew God’s Word as well as some adults.  What was impressive about Him was His speaking voice and His eyes … oh, if your eyes met His eyes there was something special that would happen.

Now, if you grew up in a small town 40, 50 or 60 years ago or more you can remember that in small towns people sort of knew everyone … at least by sight.  And, this young man, He grew up in a small town so people in the town were used to seeing Him and His family.  They knew His father and perhaps even His mother but those were different times.  His family wasn’t rich but this wasn’t a town for the rich and famous just a hard working class place where people went about their daily business.  Babies grew into adults many took on the family business had families of their own and on and on it went.

Those were the days when lots of people took time once a week to worship God.  Some of you remember days like that.

Well, the people of the town went to the place where the religious service was happening once each week … isn’t it true friends that you can never tell when another person is truly worshiping God, rejoicing in the Lord, allowing themselves to be filled with total joy and the Holy Spirit when they get the opportunity to worship the Creator.  You just can’t tell by looking at them.  Even today, there are still many people whose schedules include a religious service weekly, monthly  or all too many as we know schedule worship only on Christmas Eve and Easter … not that it’s about worship but rather about habit or community.  And, one never knows whether those moments are about getting close to God or just moving from time assignment to time assignment.

So, imagine yourselves in a place whose only reason for existing is to worship and praise God … oh wait, WE are in a place of worship like that aren’t WE … forget about that imagination part.  So, instead let’s imagine something else, that we are the classic fly on the wall … we are observing perhaps through a Facebook stream another worship service in a small town as the people gather for their weekly dose of God.  Friends saying hello … handshakes … hugs … the sounds of people in a familiar community waiting until the moment when they have to settle down.  And, once they settle down it will again be time to get the watches or cell phones out to keep track of the time anxiously awaiting the end of this prescheduled and limited time with God because priorities are waiting beyond the doors.

That’s where I want each of us to be right now … not in West Deptford but observing how others were worshiping God when this famous young man came home.  “Jesus had come home to Nazareth where He had been raised.  On the Sabbath, He went to the synagogue as He normally did.”

I am sure that most of you already knew I was talking about that guy Jesus.  After all, this is church .. we are Christians … this is the Sabbath, a day we are to rest and worship the Creator, and we heard the Gospel lesson .. well some of us did.  Jesus … friends was in the habit of using the Sabbath to worship God and since Jesus is the Son of God and since Jesus clearly knew what He was talking about … and oh that voice; those eyes … when Jesus stood and spoke eyes lifted up from cell phones secreted on laps, Facebook postings and game playing stopped … not that people were totally paying attention especially here in Nazareth where they were just thrilled that the hometown news maker,  “Joseph’s son …” the carpenter’s boy, was there in front of them.  I can just hear some of them whispering to their friends … He played with my boys when He was young and always impressed me.  Nudge nudge.

And, Jesus stood … opening the scroll from the prophet Isaiah and He read the Scripture lesson we have heard numerous times … “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.  He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Wow good job Jesus they muttered … didn’t He read well?  Awesome job … Joseph’s son, right?  What a voice … what eyes.  Handsome fellow isn’t He. Wonder if He’d be interested in my daughter?

But then … even though Jesus had declared that “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”  Jesus knew they hadn’t heard Him … they weren’t listening and they weren’t accepting God’s Word … they were passing the time something that is still happening here in the 21st century … so Jesus got right in their faces.

It wasn’t about Jesus healing himself … Jesus message was that they … the people in the synagogue needed to wake up to the suffering, the hurting, and the realities of the world by becoming the people of God not the people accepted by the world.  There is a difference. Jesus didn’t put on a show for the people of the synagogue but gave them a challenge to live for God.  They needed to change … they needed to hear.

And, their response … they became angry because they liked the world.  They became violent because they didn’t want to hear the Word of God through Jesus.  They ran Him out of town and many wanted to kill Him … but Jesus walked through the crowd leaving those former neighbors behind and went on His way healing, and teaching and transforming those who actually heard and believed.

But, you have to admit … it’s really hard to ‘hear Jesus’ today, isn’t it?  Did you hear Him in this Scripture passage?  Have you read the Gospels lately on your lunch break?  In this Bible the entire Gospel of Luke is only 35 pages long … have you read one chapter from the Gospel of John during a Wheel of Fortune commercial break … just to hear Jesus?    One of my favorite Jesus stories is in Matthew chapter 14, Jesus and Peter walking on water … 189 words. By the way, Do you know how your Bible APP works?

HAVE YOU HEARD JESUS?  Are you listening and being changed by the Son of God … His message not the world’s?  God’s directives not your Facebook friends’ rants.  Not the Oscars … not the Golden Globes … not the Grammy’s not the Emmy’s but the WORDS of JESUS are the ones that can transform us … guide us … allow us to hear God’s call and to take on our roles in the kingdom of God on earth. “Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive … as we forgive … thy will be done on earth.”

We are the ones who need to hear … we are the ones who need to be transformed … not just listening but truly hearing.  Not just repeating but living … not as perfect humans but as humans who have heard the call; experienced the change; understand God and Christ’s reality and when given the choice … and we are given the choice daily my friends … when given the choice we live to bring God’s kingdom to earth … we live to take on God’s will.  We anxiously again hear God’s Word and rejoice because we can hear.

This past week a man famous in our time … a wealthy man whom millions have cheered and thousands have entered lines just to get a moment in his presence was honored with the ultimate honor of his profession.  In fact, this man received an honor no one before him had received and in the future honorees can only match him not exceed him.

Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees was elected unanimously into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  No one … not Babe Ruth … not Ty Cobb … not Lou Gehrig … not even Mike Schmidt had ever before received every single vote from every single voter with a vote to cast but Rivera did.  The greatest relief pitcher in baseball history but upon being notified of this honor something more mattered to Rivera … he said:

“I believe in Jesus Christ, and I cannot move without His direction. That doesn’t mean that I’m a perfect man. Now I wish I could tell you that I’m perfect, but I’m not. But I’m always trying to please the Lord, and that’s my goal.” ALWAYS TRYING TO PLEASE THE LORD … that’s my goal. 

So, are your very movements in life determined by Jesus Christ?  Is Jesus your Lord?  Your Savior?  Does God’s instructions matter in your life?  Will the Lord’s prayer today be your prayer for life or your repetition of words you know?

We heard what Paul wrote to the church of Corinth about people who believe. “All parts are one body even though there are many.  We are all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free … you are the body of the Christ and parts of each other. Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be strong.  Everything should be done in love.”

If you haven’t heard Jesus in a while … it’s time to hear Him.  If you aren’t doing everything in love then you aren’t using the gifts God has provided to you because Jesus taught love God and love neighbor! Let your goal and I pray that it is my goal to please the Lord through our actions … our words … and our thoughts. And, let’s make it a truth in each of our lives to use what we have been given to hear Jesus every day with clarity using God’s hearing aids … His Word, our prayers, and pausing in our busy lives to truly experience the Holy.

Rivera stated he can’t move without Jesus direction … not that he is a perfect man at all … just another believer; another human … all of us made in the image of God and all of us needing to allow Jesus into our lives.


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