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notre dame montreal

Good News for the World, TODAY - Luke 4 v 14 - 21

Sermon preached by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman 25 January 2004



Picture the scene in the synagogue in today’s gospel reading

The majority of the service is over, the reading from the torah the Parashah, the long prayers and blessings…

There is only the short scripture reading from the prophets to come, it’s called the Haphtarah, the dismissal so there can’t be long left

Just time to get out the mints and work out if this will be a one or two polo reading and talk

You can almost smell the lunch the end of the service is so close

People’s attention is beginning to wander to the sport that will be on that afternoon…

They were wondering who the Director of the synagogue had asked to read the lesson and give an exposition (targum), would it be someone interesting or the same old teachers…

Today he’s obviously asked Jesus

So Jesus gets up, picks up the scroll of Isaiah that has been passed to him and decides which bit to read

He reads the section from Isaiah 61 which speaks of the radical change in cosmic world order when the Messiah comes:

Good news to the poor
Release to the captives, and the oppressed, from whatever is keeping them from being free
Recovery of sight to the physically and spiritually blind
And the year when everything will be returned to the Lord as in the year of jubilee

He reads the lesson and sits down (which was customary for teaching) and starts to give the explanation

And the explanation is quite simple - today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing

That’s quite some explanation – and if people had not really been paying attention before, now they were!

The prophecies in the book of Isaiah related to the coming of the Messiah and Jesus had just said, ‘That’s me’

Everyone believed the scripture – knew that God’s kingdom would come but it was only Jesus who spoke of Today

But perhaps its not surprising that Jesus chose the synagogue to announce why He had come into the world

He’s on a spiritual mission which would have cosmic implications – in Him, the Today had come

Jesus responded to the hope that was aroused and expressed in the worship of the Jews

The desire for a better world where the Messiah would rule

Jesus’ today ended the period of waiting

Just as Ezra, reading in Nehemiah had created a new world of post exilic (Rabbinic) Judaism as text and interpretation came together so did Jesus, only this time it was far more radical

Not surprisingly if produced both antagonism – they tried to do away with Jesus by throwing Him off the top of a cliff, especially when they understood that the Good News was for the gentiles too - and loyalty, they still came to hear Him when He spoke in their synagogues later in the gospel

Because what had started as a normal synagogue service had turned into an event which turned their life upside down

It demanded a response, either to worship Jesus as the Messiah or denounce Him for blasphemy, there was no comfortable, three polo mint, middle ground left

Jesus had come to fulfil the word of God, explain it in all its fullness and make it relevant for the world

Just as we too have a responsibility to explain the word of God, make it relevant for the world

And, just like the Jews in Jesus’ time, many people, even today, know something of the scripture, but they are far less sure it’s relevant for them, or at this particular moment

Perhaps they’ll get round to thinking about it at some time in the future, when they’re less busy

But if we believe that God’s word is relevant to our society, we need to make sure that we’re making it relevant today

Now is the time; there is no need to wait, we need to communicate it with that same sense of urgency as Jesus did when he stated ‘Today’

And in order to explain it we need to be familiar with God’s word and His ways, so that we can explain and demonstrate it with our words and our lives just as Jesus did

The more we are familiar with God’s ways and God’s word the easier it is to explain it and make it clear

Think of how it is when you get a new video or DVD recorder…

To begin with the manual is so complex you’re not even sure you’re reading the bit that’s supposed to be in your own language

Every time you want to make a recording you have to refer to the manual, and even then you go out and you’re not confident the things going to record

After a while you become more familiar and refer to the manual, which by now looks simpler and you can’t work out why it seemed so complicated before

Until eventually setting the video becomes second nature, you know how to do it without referring to the manual and you’re confident it will record every time

And it’s when we are that familiar with the ways and words of God, that explaining it and making it relevant for today becomes much more simple and straight forward, second nature almost

We also need to be close to, and familiar with, the people we seek to share the Good News with.

Jesus was known in the synagogue, the gospel reading tells us that he ‘taught in their synagogues’ and that when He came to Nazareth He went to he synagogue as His custom was.

Jesus was close to the people who wanted to share the Good News of Today with, and we should have that same closeness

How we do it is a different matter. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians makes it clear that there is no one way of doing it, we are all different and we will make Jesus relevant in different ways - an appropriate model for the week of Christian unity

How we each understand and experience God will affect how and what we communicate and we don’t need to try to be like each other

And it’s not as if we’re even doing it on our own, just as Jesus was filled with the power of the Spirit, just as the Corinthians were filled with the Spirit, so are we

Luke has strong theology of the Holy Spirit as we’ll see in the coming year, a strong theology of a Holy Spirit who is with us to empower us in all we do or say

Many people feel that the world is a nasty, hopeless place to be

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, showed that there was hope and fulfilment in the words of God

Today, we are called to do the same