January 23, 2022
Third Sunday after the Epiphany
First Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6-8-10
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31a
Gospel: Luke 4:14-21
We are in the third Sunday of Epiphany, a time to hear stories Old and New about the miracles of God.
Ezra opened the book and Jesus unrolled a scroll.
In our Old Testament reading today, imagine all the people gathering in the square before the Water Gate.
The location of the Water Gate in the City of David is still debated, but it’s believed it likely lays near the Gihon Spring, perhaps as a distribution point for water.
It provides an interesting and powerful metaphor, he faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand.
All the people listened closely to the Book of Law. (Neh. 8:3)
Ezra is a scribe and priest he returns to Jerusalem in 458 B.C., 14 years before Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, “Ezra returned to rebuild the people”
He did it, by calling them to return to the “Word of God”. Ezra’s teaching of the “Word of God” combined with a life that “modeled the Scriptures” assisted the people to reignite their devotion to the Lord.
Ezra opened the book, the law of Moses…. 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.
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.
They were instructed to “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 grieve, for the joy of the lord is your strength.”
1 Corinthians 12-12-31a
Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, through many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
For in the Spirit, we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.
“If one member (of the body) suffers, all suffer together with it.”
Paul is writing to the people in Corinth, his local church and the congregation was divided and relationships were hurt and they struggled for power and competing factions.
Just like our body, some parts don’t work without the other and we have to work together in our Christian beliefs, because, we the people are the body of God’s church.
And all of this was in a richly gifted community that proclaimed Jesus as their Lord.
“For in the Spirit we were all baptized into one body” We are in this together
and we all need each other, not just here in church but in our community and
Gospel of Luke 4:14-21
JESUS, FILLED WITH THE POWER of the Spirit.
Like Ezra who returned to Jerusalem to read to the people from the book of Moses
(a scroll most likely).
In Luke’s account, we have Jesus who returned to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day and like he normally did, he stood up to read, the scroll he was reading from was of the prophet Isaiah, which was given to him.
He….unrolls the scroll and found the place he wanted to read.
Isaiah 61: 1
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives; and release to the prisoners.
Isaiah 42: 6-7
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
When he is done, he rolls up the scroll, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Then he began to say to them. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
Jesus is saying to them that these things are now done and accomplished in himself.
In the New Testament. The term Holy Spirit appears at least 90 times. The sacredness of the Holy Spirit to Christians is affirmed in all three Synoptic Gospels.
I… personally felt the power of the Holy Spirit when the bishop laid his hands on me and spoke these words. “Therefore, Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your “Holy Spirit” to Lola Annette Culbreath; Fill her with grace and power, and make her a priest in your Church.”
This was very powerful and I felt it throughout my body, a feeling of love, joy and peace but most of all, I felt responsibility.
“Ezra returned to rebuild the people” He did it, by calling them to return to the “Word of God”.
The Gospel of Luke:
In Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, was to empower him to bring good news to the poor recover sight to the blind; to let the oppressed go free.
St. Paul’s powerful injunction in Philippians 2:5 “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”
The word calls us up, as to what we are actually supposed to be doing on this path:
not just admiring Jesus, but acquiring his consciousness.
How do we put on the mind of Christ? How do we learn to respond to the world with the same wholeness and healing love?
That’s what Christianity really is all about. It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice.
When we say we are faithful or spiritual? we have to practice this in our daily lives, not just… saying we are faithful; we live with the mind of Christ.
When you feel the power of the Holy Spirit in your daily lives, let people see that you are filled with the Holy Spirt, by your actions.
I started today’s sermon with the third Sunday of Epiphany, a time to hear stories Old and New about the miracles of God.
All things we know eventually get old, cars, furniture, clothes, almost everything. The one thing that does not get old, is the Word of God. His Word continues to be renewed in us, to read, to dwell, to teach, and to share.
We are on a mission and Jesus left us with a mission statement. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, we are filled with the Holy Spirit through our baptism.
But we are not to let ourselves be filled and then emptied of the Holy Spirit, like a leaky bucket, only to be refilled later on. Rather, the Holy Spirit should flow within us constantly.
Jesus left us with a mission statement and St. Paul gave us a road map, the body of Christ, the church, we the people, are the church, just like a body part, one can’t do without the other and because of our baptism, we carry out Jesus’ mission, to care for the poor and the oppressed.
We follow our hearts; we have the responsibility to fulfill God’s plan.
Feel the Holy Spirit in you, open your hearts and let the “Holy Spirit” whisper to you.
The Rev. Lola Culbreath