Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, January 23, 2022

YEAR C 2022 epihany 3

Epiphany 3, 2022
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Luke 4:14-21
Psalm 19

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

What a marvelous collection of readings we have this morning!  As you know, we get four readings assigned each week, and I usually focus on just the gospel reading.  I have to say, it’s a rare day when all four lessons are this “preachable.”  And today . . . well, I could preach an entire sermon on each one of these lessons.  But don’t worry, I’m going to preach more like Jesus, and less like Ezra.  That will make sense in a few minutes.

And speaking of Ezra, let’s look at that first reading, from the book of Nehemiah.  So many things to notice in this reading!  Ordinarily, a public reading of scripture would have been attended by men only.  But here we have the crowd described—more than once—as “both men and women and all who could hear with understanding.”  Men AND women AND all those who could hear with understanding.  What does that even mean?  It must mean more than just children, or else they would have written "and children.”  Whatever it means, it clearly implies ALL the people, right?

And the people stood up when the book was opened, much as we do with our gospel readings.  And then Ezra read and preached for something like six hours!  Six hours!  But then here comes the important part.  The people wept when they heard the Law of the Lord, and they are told not to weep because this day is holy to God.  Isn’t that interesting?  It’s like God’s holiness is more powerful than their grief over their sinfulness.  Their inability to follow the law grieves them, but God’s holiness is much bigger.

And then, after this sort of “absolution,” they are told to go forth and feast, AND to “send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to the Lord."  Their sorrow at hearing the law is turned into feasting and celebration which spreads out to those who don’t have enough.  Hearing the word of God results in feasting for everyone: men and women and those who could hear with understanding AND those for whom nothing is prepared.

And then look at that Psalm we read.  The poetry of those first few verses is just stunning.  “One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another.”  Wow.  And creation itself declares God’s glory.  “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.”  Creation itself is speaking to us of God’s glory.  Can we hear it with understanding?  I think we can.  I think all of us do.  As I’ve told you before, I am what comedian Jim Gaffagan calls “indoorsy,” but even I hear creation declaring God’s glory.

And then, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  I’m sure you’ve heard this reading many times before.  Many parts make up the body, and all the parts work together for good.  It’s a continuation of the reading we had last week, about the Spirit activating our various gifts.  We usually think of this reading as a reminder not to neglect the seemingly unimportant among us, and not to place extra value on those who are supposedly “important.”  But what really stands out to me about this reading today is the reminder that body parts cannot self-select out of being part of the body.  The foot cannot say “I am not part of the body,” because it is!  The ear cannot say “I’m going to go somewhere else,” because it is already part of the body.  Men and women and those who could hear with understanding and those for whom nothing is prepared, and the ear and the foot.  Altogether, in one body.

And then we come to the gospel reading.  A very short reading by comparison, most of which is quoting from the prophet Isaiah.  Jesus has been traveling around, teaching and preaching in the synagogues, and now he comes to his hometown.  The place where he grew up.  These people know him.  He goes into the synagogue, they hand him the scroll, and he specifically finds the part that says:

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 Lord's favor.

And then he preaches the word’s shortest sermon by saying: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  That’s it.  That’s all he has to say.  There is no need to explain anything, apparently.  That’s all you need to know: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and I proclaim good news, and freedom, and proclaim God’s favor.

Now interesting thing here.  That word we get as “favor” is actually closer to meaning “welcome.”  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s welcome.  That’s even better news!  It suggests that rather than just tolerating us, rather than reluctantly forgiving us, God actually welcomes us.  All of us.
Men and women and those who could hear with understanding and those for whom nothing is prepared, and the ear and the foot, and you and me.

Jesus has come to proclaim God’s welcome to all of us.  And we are gathered to feast at the heavenly banquet in the Holy Sacrament, and to take this good news to those for whom nothing is prepared.  And as we leave this place, all creation will be shouting out the glory of the Lord, along with the saints of every time and every place.  This is the year of the Lord’s welcome.  To you, and to me, and to everyone.


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