Sermons

"Are WE Filled With the Spirit?": Sermon for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C

"Are WE Filled With the Spirit?": Sermon for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C

Jan 27, 2019

Passage:Luke 4:14-21

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Epiphany

Category: Epiphany, Holy Spirit, Servanthood

Keywords: discipleship, grace, holy spirit, love, poor, reconciliation

Summary:

The Gospel of Luke gives great imagery of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was filled by the Spirit to begin his ministry, and he proclaimed God's grace and favor to the poor. How do we know if WE are filled with the Spirit in what we do?

Detail:

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

This Gospel story from Luke is wonderful because it tells us the mission of Jesus' ministry. It shows us, early in Gospel, what Jesus is about. It tells us, also, where we should focus as well.

Just before this story, Jesus had just been baptized with water and the Holy Spirit. Then he had traveled through the wilderness--being driven by the Holy Spirit. So now that he arrives in Galilee at the start of this story, Jesus is filled with the power of the Spirit.

Now Jesus stands up and reads at the synagogue on the Sabbath day, "as was his custom." They hand him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He finds the exact place from the prophet he wants, and he reads aloud:

"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."

Jesus finishes reading this portion of the scroll. He rolls it up. He hands it back to the attendant. Jesus then sits down, preparing to teach those around him. Luke tells us that "the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon him."

In other words, this was to be Jesus' first major sermon since his baptism and time in the wilderness. Jesus has the Spirit of the Lord upon him. He has just read from Isaiah about good news being brought to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and proclamation of the year of the Lord's favor.

But what's striking about Jesus' words here are their simplicity. Of all the scriptures and messages he could have chosen for his "inaugural" message, he starts with this section from Isaiah.

Filled with the power of the Spirit of God, Jesus chose to read about being anointed by God for the purpose of bringing good news to the poor. He chose to read about bringing release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor.

The Spirit of the Lord leads Jesus to say: that of all the messages possible, the story of God's reconciling grace is most important.

I'm captivated by this imagery of Jesus being led by the Spirit. The Spirit descends on Jesus at Baptism. The Spirit leads Jesus through the wilderness. Now the Spirit guides Jesus in his public proclamation that his work and God's grace is good news for the poor and downtrodden.

Luke gives us such great imagery about the role of the Holy Spirit. As one prominent preacher has pointed out, "The [presence] ... of the Spirit is the only thing the early Church had going for it. It had no building, no budget, no paid staff, and very few members."[1]

But what about us? We, on the other hand have ALL of these things! Here at St. Andrew's we have not one, but three, big, beautiful buildings. We have a paid staff. We have a large budget that's required to cover the costs of our buildings, and staff, and ministries, and electricity, and insurance, and more.

But... do we have the power of the Holy Spirit?[2]

How can we know?

As we see with Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us something to do for God.

This is our measure.

Today we are having our 127th Annual Parish Meeting at St. Andrew's. And we'll talk about a lot the things that have happened over the past year in our parish. We'll present our annual report. We'll elect parish leadership.

But we should also ask this question: Do we have the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we doing for God?

One of the things that we will hear about in our annual report is that our buildings are actually used 365 days a year by a variety of community groups. Literally hundreds and hundreds of people are served by the presence of our buildings and our staff every year.

Another example, among many, is that the Pack-a-Lunch ministry has been going on for six years now, with St. Andrew's members packing and delivering meals to our homeless neighbors once a month.

Yes, Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. That means those at the bottom of the society.  As Christians we need to be focused on the needs of the most vulnerable in our midst. But we are also called to uplift the "poor in spirit." Jesus, with the power of the Holy Spirit, comes to transform the "poor of heart."

We also do this exceptionally well at St. Andrew's. For example, we will see in our annual report that this past year alone our Eucharistic Visitors paid 120 visits to members who were either homebound or in the hospital.  The Spirit of the Lord has us "doing for God," uplifting the poor in spirit.

Another example is how we lift up our hearts in praise and worship, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Our report will show that last year we celebrated the Holy Eucharist 244 times in this parish. Every one of those services requires, in addition to clergy: altar guild set up and clean up, chalice bearers, and readers; and most require ushers, acolytes, an angel usher, bulletins, etc. Also, every Sunday we see the gift of children in our midst. Our report will show that we have 48 children who were acolytes this past year...."doing for God"... lifting up our hearts...so that we may go into the world and share God's love everyone...no exceptions.

I think it's clear that we do for God in this place. We are guided by the Holy Spirit. Our Parish identity of "Worship, Teach, Serve, and Pray" came out of a process that was indeed Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.

But for each of us as individuals... as Christians... as followers of "the Way of Love"... what do we hear from Jesus? How do we know we are "doing for God?" How do we move forward in faith?

Jesus' message in reading from that scroll tells us we must be "released from captivity."  We are so often captive to distractions and heartache and broken relationships. But with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can trust in God to repair and mend and improve these breaks.  Knowing that God is with us, we can be released from our captivity. Love is the way!

Jesus also offers "sight to the blind." We are so often "blinded" about who we are, and who God created us to be. This lack of vision about our own creation hinders our very functioning in the world. God wants to remove our blindness so we can see ourselves as God created us to be. We are beloved sons and daughters, who are cherished for all eternity.

The Holy Spirit is in this place. St. Andrew's is a holy mission station, that sends us all into the world to be disciples. We are called to show the Way of Love to a hurting world.

As we continue to travel forward on our journey together, I pray we all remain "filled with the power of the Spirit," and continue "doing for God" as the Body of Christ.

Amen.

 

[1]Joan Gray, "Come Holy Spirit," in The Presbyterian Outlook 189, no. 20 (June 4, 2007): 16. Quoted in Robert M. Brearley, "Luke 4:14-21,"--Pastoral Perspective, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.

[2] Thanks to Robert M. Brearley, "Luke 4:14-21,"--Pastoral Perspective, Feasting on the Word," for this general direction.