3rd Epiphany — C
Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10; Luke 4:14-21
In the early chapters here in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is born, gets baptized by John, is tempted by the devil, and then this text. He leads a few Bible studies in small churches in Galilee, and then returns to his hometown church in Nazareth. These people all know him, because he grew up there. He’s already got a bit of a reputation around the area as a pretty good Bible teacher, so everyone turns out to welcome him home.
Now the synagogue Sabbath service wasn’t like Christian worship as we think of it. It was really more like an Adult Forum, or a Bible study. So they asked Jesus to read the text and lead the study.
So he does. Now listen to what he chose to read. Of all of scripture, he deliberately finds this wonderful verse-and-a-half in Isaiah (61:1-2a), “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.” Pretty good stuff.
Every eye was on him. Every ear was tuned to what he would say next. Every person was holding their breath, anticipating the words of this local boy who’s gained some notoriety.
And Jesus sat down to teach, opened his mouth, and spoke.
”Today,” he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Then he sat back in his chair and stopped. That was it.
What do you think their response was? Were they excited or disappointed? (they try to throw him off a cliff; I invite you to read it in Luke 4) In the meantime, what should we make of this? In Jesus’ teaching, consider the radical aspect of the word “today.” He’s not talking about “someday.” He says “today.” Today is the day, now is the time. It would have been a lot safer for Jesus to look to history and say, “Remember how it used to be? Remember how it was before? Remember the stories? It will be that way again.” It would have been a lot less risky for him to look to the future and say, “Someday all will be well. Hang on, hope, wait, it’s coming one day.”
No, he says, “today.” Now, At this moment. As you are hearing it. Today is the day, now is the time. Today is a urgent word. It means right now. There is a point in time when what has been hoped for and what will be remembered meet. There are urgent moments when what was and what will be hang in the balance. Turning points in history, that shape what is to come.
I’ve spoken before of the one time I went sky diving—before I was married. It was fun to anticipate the thrill of jumping out of an airplane. It was also fun to think about how, for the rest of my life, I could say, “Remember the day when I did that?” The future anticipation and the past remembrance. Both are fun.
But there was a moment, an exact time, when I had to step out onto the wheel of that plane and actually let go. Today is the day, now is the time. Unless that actual moment came, the anticipation would be for nothing. The memories wouldn’t exist. Today is the day, now is the time. Step out. Let go. Fall.
There are moments in our lives that change everything that follows. Pivot points. Once you let go of the plane, everything after that is different. Once you stand before the altar and say, “I do,” everything after that is not the same. Once that baby is born, everything after that cannot compare to what has been. Once you receive that diploma, everything after that is different. (Caitlin), once the stole is placed on your shoulders as you are ordained into the ministry of word and sacrament, you don’t go back. Once the person you love stops breathing, nothing can ever be the same. There are those moments that change everything.
That’s what Jesus is proclaiming. Today is the day, now is the time. The promise of God proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah centuries ago is here. In the person of Jesus, good news, release, recovery, freedom are upon us at this moment. It is happening. What we have hoped for is now. From here on out the future will be different. This is the moment. Today is the day, now is the time.
Jesus is letting us know. We can’t avoid it. The moment is upon us. Remembering the days gone by aren’t the essential parts. A hopeful vision for someday doesn’t matter now. Jesus is telling us that this is that moment of stepping out, of letting go. Now is the time for forgiveness. Today is the day for mercy. This is the moment of good news, of release, of recovery, of freedom. You are different as of now. Jesus has come to you, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Now. Today is the day, now is the time.
What will you do? Every hope to be set free from that which holds you back has arrived. Jesus has opened it to you, broken into your lives with this good news. The hopes you’ve carried up until now and the memories you will have from here on are culminating right now. The moment has come to step off, to begin, to let go. Forgiveness is now a reality in your life. Release from bondage is yours starting now. Recovery from the hurts and pains of your past are happening as we speak. Today is the day, now is the time.
What will you do? We can retreat into the past. We can continue to wait for “someday.” Or you can let go now. Step off, now. Live forgiveness beginning now. Live free from bondage beginning now. Live recovery beginning now. Live this in the world today. Reveal this new reality in the world today. Make it known that “today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Today is the day, now is the time.