February 8, 2015
Due to an error in the recording, the audio from this Sunday’s sermon starts about a third of the way into the message. I am posting the remaining audio because it contains the main portion of the sermon, but it will need some setting up in order to make sense.
To begin with, this sermon was a difficult sermon to prepare. I shared at the beginning that I never had it hammered out, even by the time Sunday morning arrived and so I chose to share a bit about the wrestling in the process of preaching. There is also a moment where the weight of the sermon’s content became personal for me due to a number of struggles our family has had to face over the last year as well as those we continue to carry on into the future.
Essentially, this sermon is an attempt to hold the reality of our personal salvation made possible through Jesus together with God’s desire for justice in all that he’s made. These two ideas are often set at odds with one another, but it is my contention that they should never really be separated. What God is doing in the hearts of those who believe in Jesus, is what God is doing in his creation through his church as we proclaim the good news that Jesus is Lord.
One item I left out of the sermon that helps make this point more clearly comes from the title of February’s sermon series. In Luke 4, a passage I read during the sermon, Jesus concludes the reading in the synagogue from Isaiah 61 at the point which says that the Spirit of the Lord has appointed him to “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Most scholars agree that this is a reference to the year of Jubilee that God had commanded his people to practice once they had entered the promised land.
What is the year of Jubilee? It was a year that was supposed to be celebrated every fifty years at which point all of God’s people were released from their debts and allowed to return to any land they had lost in the past generation. It was a way to ensure that families were free from the fear of generational poverty and the oppression of debt and slavery. It was to be a real word demonstration of the reconciliation God desired to take place in all the world.
Can you imagine that? What if in 4, or 14, or even 40 years, you knew that you would be released from your debt and your family would be given back any land they had forfeited in the past generation? What if you knew that no matter how difficult things had gotten, a day would come when you could start over?
As Jesus reads this passage in the synagogue, he announces that this “jubilee year” has been fulfilled. This is the promise of the reconciliation of all things that people had been waiting for. God had come in Jesus to restore what had been broken, to set people free, and to give people the ability to start over again. Not only that, but Jesus then went around doing things that demonstrated what this looked like, and teaching others to live accordingly. Take Zacchaeus the tax collector. After meeting Jesus and being saved, Zacchaeus willingly gives half of what he has to the poor and agrees to pay back anyone he’s defrauded four times over. And what does Jesus say about this man’s changed of heart?
“Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:9-10
Jesus links economic justice with salvation. Jesus proclaims that the change of heart that leads to the making right the wrongs in the world is what it means for the lost to be saved. God’s reconciliation brings together what was broken between God and humanity, but also what’s broken between individuals, between men and women, and what’s broken inside each of us. God’s reconciliation, however, also binds what is broken in the systems and the kingdoms of the world. In Jesus, God calls the world into account by way of his kingdom, and that brings together our personal salvation with the promise of justice in God’s world.
Hopefully this pulls together the very difficult, and at times very personal sermon posted below.