Jan 24, 2016 – Jesus DNA
One of the signs of aging is that many of our body parts no longer work the way they once did, right? I’ve experienced this with many things ‘failing’ in the last several weeks!
Last week, from the epistle lesson, we talked about tools – this week we start off in the epistle lesson talking about the body and the various parts of the body and how the body needs all of its parts.
Young or old, it can be very frustrating to have body parts that no longer work the way they’re supposed to. Life can be a real challenge when you have a poorly functioning back or heart, thyroid or bladder, poorly functioning knees or hips or teeth, eyes or ears or lungs, or maybe some combination of all of these – at the same time.
Well, that’s also true of the Church. The lesson from Corinthians today refers to the Christian Church as the “Body” of Christ. The Body of Christ is made up of many different parts, that is, many individual members, each having their own unique gifts, abilities and functions within the Body.
Again, like we mentioned last week, each of us here can contribute to the ‘common good’ of this place and those we seek to serve in some way. God has called us to be part of His body in this place. But there’re dangers for getting involved in that, and among those is that we become so inward focused, so focused on our part in the body, that we fail to take into account that Jesus, the light of life from God, is for all people everywhere.
When I had devotions with the ladies on Tuesday morning I read the following story. A group of animal decided to improve themselves by starting a school. The classes included swimming, running, climbing and flying. The duck, an excellent swimmer, was not so good in other areas, so he majored in climbing and running. As a result, his swimming suffered. The rabbit, the swiftest runner was forced to spend so much time in other classes that he soon lost much of his famous speed. The squirrel, who had gotten an ‘A’ on the first test in climbing, dropped to a ‘C’ because his teachers spent hours trying to teach him to fly. And lastly the eagle soon found he could no longer soar to the highest treetops because he’d had spent so much time learning to run.
The point to this illustration according to the devotional is: ‘If God made you a teacher – be a teacher. If He’s given you the gift of mercy, serve cheerfully and don’t expect others to do what you do. Accept your spiritual gifts. Stop comparing. Enjoy being you.’
There are 2 lines in that devotional I want point out. – ‘don’t expect others to do what you do’
… and … ‘stop comparing.’
I know both those things sound like law however in the light of God’s Holy Spirit those things are actually freedom for us. We no longer need to feel we have to make everyone else jump on our bandwagon. We no longer bear any burden for what God does with the spiritual gifts of the other parts of His Body, the Church.
Further we’re free from comparing what we do to what others do. We no longer need envy the other perhaps ‘better-known’ body parts.
Very often when I’m getting a sermon ready, the law is found in the Old Testament lesson. But today the law is found in the gospel lesson because we see in it the way the people reacted to Jesus and his inclusion of the Gentiles as part of the body. The danger for us is when we too, like those in the synagogue think we control the grace and mercy of God; I’ll come back to that in a bit.
But for now let me say that when we get so focused on being blessed, we can forget that we have been given God’s grace in order to be a blessing. We’ve been given the Light of Life in order to share His good news, heard in the proclamation that Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in the gospel lesson.
Those words that Jesus read are the first words of His public ministry after being baptized. And Jesus goes home to Nazareth to begin that ministry. In the reading from Isaiah He did in the synagogue, He declares that its prophecy is fulfilled in Himself. These words from the scroll form the outline for all that Jesus will do in the coming three years of His public ministry. Listen to those words again, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
In these words are the DNA, if you will, of all the words and actions that Jesus will do; including His death and resurrection. That’s because from His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave comes our release from the ‘oppression’ of sin and also our access to the ‘favor’ of the Lord.
So the DNA of Christ’s work, of His body on earth, is found in these words from Isaiah. Now since we’ve talked about the metaphor of the Body of Christ, look at all the references to ‘the body’ in the gospel and the Old Testament lessons today.
As He speaks, using His mouth, the eyes of all are on Jesus as He reads the scroll. And in the Old Testament all the people there listened attentively to the reading from the book of the law. And in that reading we’re told that the people responded with praise and joyful shouts of ‘amen’ meaning they were eager to put their hands and feet into service for God.
We also are given eyes and ears in our bodies to listen and receive God’s word and we too have hands and feet to do His will just as they were so eager to do. At the feast that followed the reading of God’s law in the Old Testament, those who were unprepared were taken care of by those who had prepared. Is that fair? No, but it is merciful and right and important for us today.
Now, back in the gospel lesson, the people who heard Jesus got upset and angry with Him when His words, after reading the scroll, revealed that His ministry and ultimately salvation were going to be for more than just themselves. It was going to also be for those who were ‘unprepared’ and living in the darkness of their sin. That meant it was for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. And this angered those who heard Jesus words.
They’d originally been pleased with Jesus words from Isaiah, but that’s when they thought they controlled him. The people got upset when He started speaking about times in the Old Testament when God showed his mercy to those not of the house of Israel. They wanted to keep Jesus, and the mercy of God, to themselves. They didn’t want God showing his mercy to anyone else. They resented Jesus for proclaiming that it was to be for all the world.
Remember that Jesus came to do His Father’s will and that was defined by the reading from the scroll where He was to preach good news to the poor and set the prisoners free. In this way Jesus’ place as Messiah was to be revealed to the world, which sat in the darkness of sin.
There’s a lesson for us in the people’s reaction to Jesus wanting to take that good news beyond the confines of His hometown and heritage. We need to be cautious that when we’re talking about being part of the body of Christ, that we don’t become like they did, seeing themselves as the whole thing – as the only ones that God’s grace is intended for. Remember the devotional don’t expect others to do what you do’ … and … ‘stop comparing.’
Rather we need to be like the people in the Old Testament lesson, seeking to take care of those unprepared for the darkness and captivity of sin in our world. Christ has made us a part of His body so that we too can proclaim His release and light; His hope and wholeness and His healing to all who like ourselves had been – unprepared.
Like the Jew’s of the Old Testament lesson, we’re to be receiving with our ears, the Word of the Lord with gladness and then, with our mouths, sharing its Good News with all. That is what Jesus came to proclaim and that is what He has revealed to us, His Body, in these days of epiphany. We too, then, may share the Light of Life with others, who, like ourselves, are in need of the healing that comes from being part of the body of Christ.
In the name of Jesus the Head of our body, the Light of our life and our Redeemer, amen.
Sermon #807 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
8 All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law…
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground…
8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Epistle 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Holy Gospel Luke 4:16-30
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.