Sunday, February 3, 2019

“Super Bowl Of Sermons” The Sermon for SUNDAY, February 3, 2019 - Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany


Our Gospel message comes to us today from Luke the 4th chapter, beginning at the 21st verse.

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (Luke 4:21-30, NRSV)


All mighty God, we thank you for your word and the way that you in it revealed to us who you are and what you've done for us in Christ. Now as we open that word we pray that your spirit may be present, that all thoughts of worry or distraction may be removed and that the Spirit will allow us to hear your voice. And so, oh God, fill us with your spirit through the reading and proclamation of your word this day. We pray in Jesus name. Amen


“Super Bowl Of Sermons”

Depending on the outcome of this message. Hopefully, you won’t want to throw me off a cliff.

Can anyone tell me what today is? That’ right Super Bowl Sunday. The big game between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. I realize that some of you could care less about today’s game, including me. Some of you may watch just bits and pieces, maybe even if it’s only to catch a glimpse at the new commercials.

And some of you may be die hard football fanatics who are extremely excited, maybe even having party or at least going to a party. But I guarantee that most of the people living in Boston and Los Angeles are geared up for today’s big game.

I can also guarantee that most of the people living in Nazareth about 2000 years ago were geared up, or excited about the prospect of this man named Jesus speaking in their hometown.

The talk about one of their own had been spreading throughout the countryside, and it says Jesus was being praised by all. Jesus had been turning water into wine and healing all kinds of people throughout the region of Galilee.

So can you imagine what these people must have thought? "If he did all these signs and wonders in Galilee, just think what Jesus was going to do for us?" These people in Narareth were going to be witnesses to the Super Bowl of all sermons.

Jesus stands up, and a scroll from the prophet Isaiah was handed to him, and he begins to read: "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, to proclaim the year of the Lords’ favor."

Jesus rolls up the scroll, gives it back to the attendant and sits down, ready to begin the sermon. All eyes of the church are locked upon Jesus. And he says, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Say what! "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Whoa! Jesus sure didn’t let them down. This truly was the Super Bowl of all sermons. This is great! It says, "All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth."

But then something really strange happens. Within a period of five verses, five short verses, the Super Bowl of all sermons take a dramatic turn. The town’s people go from excitement, amazement, and praise, to "When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.

Holy Moly! What in the world happen here? What would make these people behave like that? Did they take a hard hit to head from Trey Flowers, or what?

Or am I perhaps being too hard on the town’s people? After all they were in many ways acting no different than I sometimes do. In many ways they're asking pretty much the same questions that I tend to ask.

OK! Jesus, "Do here also the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum." Come on Jesus, please, you said you came to bring good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free. What about me? I’m oppressed I want some of that good news!

Hey! Come on Jesus. You’re one of our hometown people. I’m a good Christian. I go to church. I’m even of the true Christian faith. What about me?

At this point, I don’t think it take much to fuel the power of rage and jealousy. Because Jesus proceeds with two stories of the miraculous healing power of God, Elijah and Elisha.

Both prophets of God, both performed great miracles, but to people outside the boundaries that they had set. Elijah heals a poor widow woman, Elisha a gentile.

It’s sort of like, Jesus what’s your point? Yes, are you saying you have the power to heal like Elijah and Elisha, but you are going to waste it on an old widow woman, and one who is not of our kind.

What about me? I’m the one who has a bad back. I’m the one who struggles with my faith. I’m the one who has the problems! I’m even a gentile. Heal me! I don’t care about those miracles that you performed on those people. I want to see a miracle in my life. Do here where I am what you did in the Old Days.

I’m tired of all the bad things happening to me. That’s why I thought I became a Christian. And now a dear family member has passed away, my children are out of control, I lost my job, my health stinks, I’m broke, I’m lonely, and you yet claim you came to bring good news to the poor. Well, duh? What about me?

Forget Elijah and Elisha! Hey I’m a good person. I believe in you. Isn’t this message for me anyway?

Jesus if you don’t do something for me soon, I’m about ready to toss all this religion stuff, and you with it right over the cliff. Right over the cliff!

Any you say to me, Whoa Cap'n slow down! This sure doesn’t sound like good news to me. And you’re right! It’s horrible news. We started off so excited and amazed and now were ready to just throw Jesus over the cliff. What the heck happened?

The same thing happened here today that happened in Nazareth. They lost their focus! We lost our focus in what Jesus is all about.

We lost our focus on what Jesus has already done, and what he promises to continue to do. And when one loses their focus the big game can get out of control in a hurry.

What happened in those short 5 verses happens to me, and probably you all the time. I, we loose focus on what Christianity is all about. The cross and the resurrection!

Both pointing to the Great News about God’s love for you. I, we sometimes tend to get so wrapped up in these five verses, or what’s happening in-between our lives, that I, we get tend to get angry and sometimes even filled with rage.

So much so that I just let Jesus Christ walk right passed me, like a fleet footed wide receiver, right through my life without even noticing, like they did in Narareth. "But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way." I lose my focus. I forget what Jesus is all about. The Cross. The Empty Tomb.

You see folks, the good news starts with the Cross. That’s right, the good news starts in and through Christ’s suffering and continues in and through our suffering. I know this sounds strange. But you know there will be suffering in your life time, and truly knowing that you have a God willing to suffer for you and with you, should give incredible comfort and strength.

There's a country and western song by John Michael McGomery called "Little Girl." I know this may sound harsh, but sadly enough it does happen. The song talks about the hard life of a poor little girl, a life that no little child should ever have to experience. Her mother and father both drink and do drugs. One night her daddy comes home drunk, kills her mother, then shoots himself in the head, right in front of this poor little girl. (Typical country western song, uh? But wait.)

The little girl is adopted by a family who takes her to church for the very first time. As she is nervously sitting there in Sunday School, she notices a picture of a man on a cross. She says to her Sunday School teacher. "I know that man on the cross. I don’t know his name but I know he got off. He was there with me behind the couch holding me tight the night my mommy and daddy died."

The cross is the greatest news in the history of the world. It is the Super Bowl of events in all history. Your God suffered for you, and comes down off that cross to hold you when you need it most. This I know. Focus on the cross!

Try to remember, right now we see only dimly, but some day we will understand everything and see God face to face. If you believe in words that Jesus spoke on that Sabbath morning you better bet that is some mighty good news. For you and for all people.

Let’s not let ourselves get caught up with the questions of when is Jesus going to help me? Jesus has already accomplished everything you need for this life and the next.

Let’s not get so wrapped up that we let Jesus, the Son of God pass right through the midst of our lives. Focus on the cross. Focus on the empty tomb. Focus on God’s Love and you will find the true meaning of life.

And folks that what I call the Super Bowl of all Good News!

Amen!


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The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.
Depending on the outcome of this message. Hopefully, you won’t want to throw me off a cliff.

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