Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Miracle of Proclamation. . .

Sermon for Epiphany 3C, preached on Sunday, January 27, 2019, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    What’s more fantastic: seeing a miracle, or hearing about it?  Seeing of course.  Given a choice, we’d choose to see a video of a great event instead of hearing someone describe it.  We want to see our Lord do great things.  That’s just who we are.  Images for our eyes are more satisfying to us than words for our ears.  And yet, the great miracle of our Lord is accomplished through the proclamation of His Word. 
    We want to see miracles, not hear words.  We want the Lord to prove what He says by backing it up with some sort of sign.  And it’s always been this way.  It was this way for Moses.  When the Lord tasked him to lead Israel out of Egypt.  Moses was certain no one would believe him, so God gave him signs to perform: turning his staff into a snake; making Moses’ hand leprous and then healing it; and even turning water from the Nile into blood (Exodus 4:1-9).  Gideon, one of the judges that the Lord raised up to deliver Israel from oppression, likewise wanted proof of God’s Word.  He asked the Lord for two signs: first to make dew fall only on a fleece blanket, leaving the ground around it dry; and then the next day, to make the ground wet, but the fleece dry (Judges 6:36-40).
Likewise, the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth wanted a sign.  Having come home, Jesus went into the synagogue one Sabbath day and He stood up to read.  The Scripture He read came from Isaiah 61(:1-2): The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  After reading these words, Jesus sat down and revealed the meaning of these words.  He said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).  The words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Him.  He is the one whom the Spirit anointed to proclaim the Lord’s favor.  He is the Messiah, the Savior, the One who proclaims.
Hearing this, the people marveled.  They wondered at Jesus’ words.  How is it that the son of Joseph, a boy who they saw grow up, could say this.  Knowing what they were thinking, Jesus continued to speak.  He knew they wanted Him to prove His words with a miracle, but He didn’t. 
Like Moses, like Gideon, like the people of Nazareth, we want God to prove His Word with a miracle for our eyes to see.  We want Him to give us a sign confirming all His promises of mercy, because what we see doesn’t seem to fit with those promises. 
How is it, that Jesus can say there’s good news for the poor, when so many continue to go without?  How is it that He can say there’s liberty to the captives and yet there are still people who are imprisoned, persecuted, and killed for the faith?  How is it that He can say there’s recovery of sight to the blind, healing for those who are ill when our loved ones still get sick, when we still suffer from cancer and heart attacks, when we still mourn the death of loved ones?  How is it that He can say there’s liberty for the oppressed when we still have to endure all sorts of temptation from Satan and the world around us?  How can He say it’s the year of the Lord’s favor when everything we see looks like disfavor?  If only He’d give us a sign, a miracle, then maybe we could believe His words. … Well, at least that’s what we think. 
We think that if Jesus would just perform a miracle for our eyes to see, then we could look past all the hurts and pains, all the suffering and sadness, all the sin and death and believe Jesus’ Word.  But the truth is, no miracle could do this.  No sign can make us believe.  Faith only comes from hearing the Word of God.  
 Just think about all the people who actually saw the miracles Jesus performed.  Not everyone believed He was the Christ.  They still doubted, they still wanted more.  After He fed the 5,000, people came back to Jesus wanting Him to do it again.  But instead of making breakfast for them out of thin air, Jesus said the true food He gives is His flesh and blood.  Hearing this people turned away.  They couldn’t believe Jesus’ word even though they saw His miracle (John 6).  Likewise, in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16, the Rich Man from hell calls up to Abraham in heaven asking him to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers.  But Abraham responded, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).  Miracles and signs aren’t the foundation our source of our faith, God’s Word is, and that’s the real miracle.
    Christ didn’t come to be a traveling magician, He came to proclaim.  Listen again to the words Jesus read from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  Christ has come to proclaim. 
    Jesus is the very Word of God Incarnate.  He came to speak, to announce the coming salvation of the Lord and to accomplish that salvation.  As He walked through the land He did exactly what Isaiah 61 prophesied.  He announced the Lord’s favor, His grace and His mercy.  And from the cross, with His last dying breath, He proclaimed the work of redemption complete.  “It is finished” (John 19:30).  The poor have good news proclaimed to them, for they’ve been given what they lack.  The captives and oppressed are set free from the sin and death that enslave them, and the blind have received back their sight, seeing their Savior with eyes of faith.  All of this, is accomplished through His Word.
    Through the proclamation of Christ, the miracle is done.  You are brought to faith and you receive exactly what the Lord promises.  Through His Good News, you’re set free from sin.  Your sin is forgiven and you’re released from the condemnation of guilt.  Through His Good News, you’re brought to life.  As you hear about the salvation Christ accomplished for you, the Spirit brings you to trust in that salvation, and you receive it.  There’s no need for you to see a miracle, for your faith created by God’s Word is a miracle. 
    We want to see miracles in our lives.  We want to see God do the undoable.  We want Him to give us a sign, proof of His almighty power, because we think that seeing a miracle would create faith.  But that’s not the case.  Seeing miracles doesn’t create faith.  Hearing the proclamation of Christ’s Gospel does.  So come to where the Lord speaks His word.  Hear the Good News of Christ proclaimed.  And know that through this proclamation God performs a great miracle: He forgives you your sins and He brings you from death to everlasting life.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

3 comments:

Unknown said...

" Hear the Good News of Christ proclaimed. And know that through this proclamation God performs a great miracle: He forgives you your sins and He brings you from death to everlasting life. In Jesus’ name...Amen."

You might consider getting baptized as well. Baptism is a true miracle, that we can actually see.
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

Ummm wasn't he preaching to those already baptized?

Unknown said...

Thanks for noticing.
Is that how you preach to those already baptized?

George A. Marquart