The Book - Read and Fullfilled

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION Let us pray for the Holy Spirit of God to guide our thoughts …

God of the past and present -- we've turned the calendar to a new year. With our whole selves mind, body, and soul -- we thank you for your presence with us and among all peoples. Sprinkle us with your grace; renew again our connections with one another and with your Spirit. Speak clearly through your recorded Word so we hear your call and claim on our lives. We seek your affirmation that we remain your precious children. We pray in the name of your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

FIRST SCRIPTURE READING–    Luke 4:14-22      Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.        He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it        was written:

 “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.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

May the Lord blessing this reading to our understanding.

SECOND SCRIPTURE READING–    Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10   Ezra Summons the People

All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all   the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

 So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

SERMON                   “The Book: Read and Fulfilled”

I wonder if you’ve read any good books lately. I’m currently trudging through a book on FDR and the war years. I’m learning facts and details that I never knew or forgot along the way. It’s slow reading and my mind often wants to get some general facts and be reminded of the key people. The author sometimes identifies a cabinet secretary or ambassador for the US or UK or Russia and expects me to remember the next time I read just the last name who he’s talking about.  I regularly forget and need to look up the name to find his position in the story. I will be through it and retain some facts that I did not know before.

Tuesday, I heard a colleague share that she learned from a mentor that you should always have three books going at the same time. The first book should be a professional book to strengthen our understanding of theology and ministry. The second book would be a good read to bring pleasure and escape from the stress of work and ministry. The third one could stretch your mind in new ways. I’d not heard this pearl of wisdom, although at times I’ll have more than one book going at a time. I tend to mix in a John Grisham or Dick Francis for pleasure reading and Krista will tell you that when I’m reading an escape novel, I will devour it quickly.

Christians sometimes refer to ourselves as the People of the Book. God’s people find definition, facts and faith in the Book of Scriptures. We hold this one Book above every book in the library because God’s Word instructs us in how to live by faith. The stories, wisdom, and poetry point beyond us and our times to the Lord and eternal things. We seek answers and find Jesus guidance in the recorded Word of God. We receive the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church Universal, and God’s Word to us.

In Nehemiah, as God’s Chosen people return from exile in Babylon to the Promised Land to rebuild their community and their place of worship, they find an old scroll of Scripture. The people had abandoned aspects of their faith while in exile. They had not heard these Words of Wisdom recorded in the Law of Moses. The Priest, Ezra calls the people to hear the Word of God with fresh and new ears to hear God’s Holy Word. Ezra read so that both men and women could hear God’s encouragement and correction. The Israelites listened and the Holy Spirit moved them to worship.

Jesus took a scroll from the Prophet Isaiah, familiar to the Israelites, and read it to those assembled to worship in the synagogue.

“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.”

Then, Jesus declared that the promise of Isaiah had now been fulfilled. The Messiah promised to bring Good News is reading about himself. Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph’s and Mary’s son, is anointed to bring Good News, release the captives of sin, and recover the sight of those blind to faith, and let the oppressed go free.  This word was not well received by those who heard God’s message.

God’s Word can be received well or rejected by people of faith even today. As Christians who claim the Bible as our Book, we need to take time to read and seek to understand the interpretation of those words. We come to worship to gain instruction. But our Reformed Tradition dictates that every believer can seek wisdom from God’s Word. That the Holy Spirit can illumine our hearts to understand the meaning of faith recorded in Scripture. We balance that with the Spirit’s confirmation in the faith community so that an individual can’t claim divine interpretation that is not heretical to God’s purpose. We gather in worship and Study to read God’s Word to us and be filled with faith.

I encourage you to make a point to pick up your Bible daily and grow in faith and understanding of God’s love for you and your purpose in this world. God’s Word will be welcomed by some and rejected by others, but as we mature in faith we will be filled with God’s promises. TGBTG. Amen.

  January 2018  
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