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In Your Hearing

Rev. Reebee Girash
Sun, Jan 27

Annual Meeting Sunday
Texts: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Luke 4:14-21

"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

In your hearing.

One hundred fifty years ago President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Declaration:

"On the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

He declared them to be free. Not every slave in the United States; only the slaves in rebelling states. It is a point of history that Lincoln issued this proclamation as a strategic measure to turn the tide of the Civil War. But what is interesting to me this morning is that the Proclamation did not, in point of fact, immediately cause any people who were slaves on December 31, 1862 in Arkansas, Texas, or Louisiana, etc., to be freed on January 1. Lincoln had no magic wand to cause the Proclamation to be come reality. He had, instead, the power of rhetoric, the power of direction. We might even say he had the power of truth. Abolitionists and freed slaves and African American men serving in the Union army took the Proclamation as a sign of great hope. But it took many more battles, it took a war won and a constitutional amendment passed, to cause slavery to end in the United States. And that Proclamation resides now in the Oval Office where our current President can see it today: perhaps as a reminder that freedom is incomplete; racial disparities are still in place in our country; there is still work to do: and it is still our work, as a people. It is still our responsibility to each other.

Jesus read words of liberation, from the prophet Isaiah:

4:18 "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,

4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And then, he said: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

We usually interpret this passage as Jesus defining his agenda, his purpose, his ministry. This is his first word as a God's anointed to his hometown. This is where he says: here is what I am about.

However, I am grateful this morning to Nancy Rockwell, a UCC pastor in New Hampshire, for pointing out that Jesus does not say, this is only my purpose. He says the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. When this scripture, this statement of purpose, is heard, truly heard by Jesus' followers, it becomes our purpose. Quoting Rev. Rockwell: "Jesus said he was anointed to proclaim good news, not just any good news, but the good news of God’s agenda for a just time. All of this came from his mouth to our ears, as a kind of cauterizing speech, so that we would no longer be deaf or dumb in the conversation of oppression, we would speak of God’s devotion to the poor, we would speak up for captives and respect the infirm, and we would no longer have our ears full of temptations to hear evil with a shrug of acceptance." (http://biteintheapple.com/the-anointing-of-our-ears/)

Yes, Jesus went on to restore sight to the blind. Yes, Jesus went on to feed thousands on a hill near the sea. Yes, Jesus released a bent over woman from her oppression. Yes, he preached justice. Yes, he overcame death. But in the year 37 of the Common Era, the poor were still poor, there were still many folks blind, and a whole lot in prison. Oppression had not ended.

Wouldn't it have been nice if Jesus, the anointed one of God, the incarnate message of God's love for all people, could have spoken those words and fulfilled them simply through his appearance? It would have let all his followers off the hook.

Instead, I think Jesus gave us our purpose in these words.

Our reading from Corinthians refers to us as members of one body. We are members of the Body of Christ. We are Christ's body in this world. It is our purpose to fulfill his purpose. God deliberately made us a community of brothers and sisters and put us to work together. (Allusion to Stephen Biko quote in the prayer for understanding....)
Teresa of Avila wrote:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

"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."

Today, will this scripture be fulfilled in your hearing?

Amen.

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