Sermon for January 23, 2022 Third after Epiphany “So all can understand”
8:3 Ezra read from the scroll of the law of Moses, facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 8:5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
4:15 Jesus began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 4:16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,
8:6 Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 8:8 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Jesus. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
8:9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our LORD; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
4:20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
It is interesting to hear these to texts read side by side and even more interesting to witness the response of the hearers. Separated in time by about 500 years, one group is so moved by the word and their awareness that they have not followed the word so carefully, are moved to tears and weeping. The leaders and teachers of the day direct the people to celebrate that the word of God touched their hearts and because of that, the day is holy. The teaching is to not just celebrate with family but to share with those who have nothing. In that simple act, God’s joy will be theirs and be their strength.
Ezra read from the scroll from early morning to mid-day, they stood and listened and received teaching, they understood and committed to changing their hearts, then they partied for the joy of God having been restored to their lives.
Let that sink in for a bit…
Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written; ”the spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” …today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”.
We could argue that this or the past two years are definitely not the year or years of the Lord’s favour. Or is it? Are we just focused on the overwhelming story of COVID (and I know that it has impacted all our lives)? Let me go back to the raising of Willy O’Ree’s jersey in Boston last week. In the bio it indicated that after a puck to the eye left him blind in one eye, he was told that because he could not see properly he would not play hockey. His response ‘I am going to focus on what I can see, not what I cannot’.
The Gospel is Good News, for Christians we live out that good news when we are about the little, and large acts of kindness, the little and large deeds of generosity, not so much for our ego but because our Saviour has invited us into the wonder of: the year of the Lord’s favour.
The image from Nehemiah was to get past our lament of not being perfect followers and work toward getting to the place where we can celebrate God and Jesus, breaking bread in family and inviting community and neighbour to share and join the following. By God’s grace this year will be one of God’s favour.