Sermon: Remember the Mission

This last Wednesday, we entered the season of Lent – the 40 days before Easter where we intentionally join our steps with the steps of Jesus as he heads to the cross in Jerusalem. At all times, our worship is about Christ, leads us to Christ, is empowered by the Spirit in union with Christ, and is done through Christ by the Spirit to glory of God the Father. But in Lent, we pay particular attention to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and seek to walk in his ways.

This Lent, in order to get us off on the right foot, I will need your help. I am going to ask you to fill in the blank on a Bible passage that will shape our Lenten Journey. Three times in the gospels Jesus says, “The Son of Man came…” Does anyone know one of the instances where Jesus said that? The Son of Man came…what?

The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)

The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)

The Son of Man came eating and drinking (Luke 7:34)

Three times. The first two statements (not be served, but to serve; seek and save the lost) give the mission – they tell us why Jesus came into this world. The last tells us how: The Son of Man came eating and drinking. Jesus, like the people of Stout, doesn’t seem to do anything without food. Robert Karris, in his book Eating your Way through Luke’s Gospel, says that throughout Luke, “Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.” This lent we will be spending time listening to Jesus around the table. We will be looking at how Jesus works out his mission through kingdom hospitality.

But this morning, we will be looking at the mission of Jesus, how he defined what he had come into the world to do. That brings us to Luke, chapter 4, beginning in verse 14. Luke 4:14-30. If you have your bibles with you, I invite you to turn there with me. Luke is in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Luke, chapter 4, beginning in verse 14. Before we hear God’s Word this morning, please take a moment to pray with me.

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

If you are able, I invite you to stand as we hear God’s Word.

Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:

14Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,

and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside.

15He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16He 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

17and 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,

19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20Then 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.

21He began by saying to them,

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22All spoke well of him

and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.

“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

23Jesus 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.

25I 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.

26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them,

but to a widow in Zeraphath in the region of Sidon.

27And 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.”

28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

29They 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.

30But he walked right through the crowd

and went on his way.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. (you may be seated)

Not every time, but often when Pastor Olga and I get to go back to the towns where we grew up, we get asked to preach at our parent’s church. Sometimes we agree to do it and it’s always a bit of a big deal. It is not because we are famous preachers, by any means, but because we are sons and daughters of the church. My mom tells her whole ladies’ bible study group, she calls all the family to see if they will drive in to hear me. One of us preaches and, by God’s grace, the gospel is proclaimed and God’s word does not return empty. Afterward, you have about 30 conversations of ‘I remember you were about this big and…, but now look at you. We are so proud.’ It is a parent thing, it is a church family thing.

Imagine for a moment that in a couple years, Jack goes off to seminary and becomes a minister. We invite him to come back and share God’s Word with us. You know that Brent and Kim are bringing the whole clan.

After spending forty days in the wilderness, Jesus begins to teach in the synagogues. He has likely moved out of his hometown to Capernaum by this point and people are starting to take notice of his teaching, his Spirit-led life. And he gets asked to come home to preach.

I imagine they are so proud of him, so excited to have this son of Nazareth back sharing God’s word with them. Mary has probably made sure all the cousins from who-knows-how-far have come to hear Jesus.

He stood up to read

17and 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,

19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20Then 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.

21He began by saying to them,

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22All spoke well of him

and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.

“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

They are amazed and so proud. Jesus read to them from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 61, where God promises deliverance and redemption. Jesus tells them that today this is coming true. Today in Jesus, the words promised long ago are coming to fulfillment. This is the mission for which Jesus was sent and for which he was anointed by the Spirit of God.

  Jesus will feed the hungry and call the poor to trust in him. He will cause the blind to see and the lame to walk. Jesus will free a woman imprisoned eighteen years by a bleeding illness. Jesus will free Lazarus imprisoned in the tomb. Jesus will speak a word and a dead child is raised, speak a word and illness is banished from a young girl, touch mud to man’s eyes and he will see again. Jesus will tell ten men to wash and their leprosy will vanish. He will tell a lame man to get up take his mat and walk him, knowing Jesus has forgiven his sins. He will speak a word and a woman trapped in adultery and the threat of being stoned to death will walk free to sin no more.

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,

19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus proclaims his mission as good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and proclaiming the grace of God. And this is what Jesus did and what Jesus is still doing.

Everyone who heard him speak loved what he said. Jesus promised to satisfy hungers that had kept them restless for years. He promised to heal wounds they had walked with for so long. He promised that now was the time for God to act, the time they had long been waiting for.

The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)

The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)

This is the mission of Jesus – good news, freedom, hope, grace, forgiveness.

They praised him, until he started speaking again.

Jesus, seeing their hearts, revealed that they wanted all the benefits of Jesus without the mission.

23Jesus 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.’”

They loved what Jesus was saying and doing, as long as they were the recipients. As long as they got the benefits and the recognition, they were content to let their part in the mission slide.

Jesus tells them that they don’t get it. God sent his prophet Elijah, not to the people of Israel, but to a foreign widow in Zarephath. God sent his prophet Elisha, not to the people of Israel, but to heal a foreign military leader named Naaman. This mission of God is for the world, it is for the Gentiles, all those on the outside of the faith.

Jesus reminds them that God’s grace is for the legal Somalian refugees who are fleeing the US in fear, because “America First” might mean they are sent back to a land of poverty, violence, and death. Jesus reminds them that God’s grace is for the beggars holding their cardboard signs that we ignore because we figure they are only after booze. Jesus reminds us that God’s grace is for the people in the projects of Waterloo or the poor in our own town that not so silently judge. God’s grace is for those on the outside.

They turned on him and try to throw him off a cliff and kill him. Remember, Jesus is a son of the synagogue, but his words so enraged them that they were willing to kill him.

Because they had forgotten who they are and in doing so had forgotten the mission.

When God called Abram out of Ur, he promised them blessings, promised them land, protection, and provision. But they were blessed by God in order that all the nations would be blessed through them. When God brought them out of Egypt, redeemed them with his outstretched hand, they were called to be a holy people, to be different, distinct, unique. But they were also called to be a kingdom of priests, showing the world what God was like by how they lived and loved.

They were the redeemed people of God for the sake of this world God so loved. But they had forgotten the mission. They knew they were blessed, chosen by God, and had received the promises and the covenant. But they had forgotten what it was for, forgotten that they were redeemed not just for their own sakes, but so that God might bless the whole world.

When Jesus said that his mission would include work like Elijah with the widow of Zarephath and like Elisha with Naaman, they should have been jumping with joy. Yes! God will heal and redeem not just us, but the lost and the broken of the nations too.

But they had forgotten the mission. They had turned into a holy huddle – people gathered around in a circle facing inward, trying to be safe. They began to define themselves by their ethnicity and their practices, not by their calling as the people of God. We are Jews and not Gentiles – God’s people and not like those heathens. They didn’t want God’s grace going to them.

They had forgotten who they were, who God had made them to be. They were a people redeemed by God’s grace for the sake of the world.

We face the same danger of forgetting who we are. We can hear Jesus’ mission – how he promises good news, freedom, hope, grace, and forgiveness. We can hear Jesus proclaim why he was sent into this world and say, “Yes! Amen!…for me” and forget the mission. We can forget who we are.

I might be stepping on a few toes here, but I often grow weary of how we describe ourselves as a congregation. In the four years Pastor Olga and I have walked with you, we have again and again, sometimes with pride, but often with anxiety, heard you describe this congregation as an ‘aging congregation’ or an ‘old german congregation’ or a ‘traditional congregation.’ I have been guilty of this at times as well, but I weary of hearing it because it simply is not true. It is not who we are. Not only are we younger than we realize, less german than we think, and both less and more traditional than we know, but more importantly, that is not who God made you to be.

Remember who you are. Remember who God has made you to be. You know what I see when I look out at your faces? I see a people redeemed by God’s grace for the sake of the world. I see children of divorce who find wholeness, belong, and grace in Jesus here. I see those who have been destructive decisions and found redemption in Christ here. I see those who have suffered from other’s destructive decisions and found healing. I see those who have suffered with unfulfilled longing, but found wholeness in Jesus Christ. I see those who have lost much, but find in Jesus Christ the refuge of their soul.

I see people whose lives, like mine, have been messy and not always straight and narrow. I see people who are beloved of God and redeemed by his grace. I am amazed at how God’s grace has been evident in you. The forgiveness, the healing, the faithful perseverance. That is who you are – a people redeemed by God’s grace for the sake of the world. That is who I see when I look at your faces.

Remember who you are.

A people redeemed by God’s grace for the sake of the world. The next time I hear any of us describe our congregation as ‘aging,’ ‘german’, ‘traditional’ or any other interesting adjective, I am going to give you a look. Head slightly cocked, a little quizzical. Because I don’t believe it. That is not who you are. When I look at you, I see the evidence of God’s grace – a people redeemed by Gods’ grace for the sake of the world. That is who you are. Remember who you are.

Jesus stood up that day in Nazareth and read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah

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,

19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He said that in him, this scripture was fulfilled. We have seen it. We have seen God’s grace in this place, in your lives. We have seen people freed, forgiven, and healed. We have seen God find and embrace the lost, go running down the lane to embrace the wayward child, lift the poor from the dust, and give the broken and lonely a home.

Remembering who we are and what God has done in and for us, may we be eager to walk with Jesus for the sake of the world Christ is redeeming. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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