Pastor Annabelle P. Markey
Year C – Third Sunday after Epiphany
Community Lutheran Church, Sterling, VA – January 27, 2019
Words. Shrouded in mysterious power,
Not just locked up in some ivory tower,
Threads spun to give shape to lives,
Tapestries woven in varying designs.
Like bricks creatively constructing and crafting,
Cultivating and nurturing – hope unmasking!
Between one another, bridging the gap,
Changing people and history perhaps.
But just as dynamic is their prowess
To distress, disrupt, destroy, demolish,
Tearing down joy and bringing despair,
Devastating relationships here and there.
So what happened that average Sabbath day
In that hometown place where people went to pray
When a young man stood up and read,
Not just randomly, but Spirit led?
There, in that oh-so-familiar spot,
With people he’d know since he was a tot,
He read words written in the Aleph-Bet,
Words that had always sounded great,
Words from Isaiah the prophet of old,
Words that promise and new life foretold,
Words to sustain a people returning to the land,
Helping them trust in what God had planned.
But all of that felt so far in the past,
And God’s people were still being harassed,
Yes, it’s true it wasn’t Assyria or Babylon,
It was the Greeks, then the Romans who had carried on.
So when Jesus recited the words from Isaiah,
He made sure to list everything they had to say-a,
God’s servant was bringing good news to the poor,
For the captives, a wide-open freedom-filled door,
New sight for those who struggled to see,
And blessed liberty for those longing to be free,
But the last was maybe most important of all,
That the Lord found this year acceptable,
A year to usher in God’s heavenly rule,
To invite all people into God’s life school.
When Jesus finished, he rolled up the scroll,
People looked at him with heart, mind, and soul.
He sat as he began to interpret and teach,
It was the first time locals heard him preach.
His first sermon was astoundingly brief,
If my sermons were so short, you’d have less grief!
In only nine words he managed to convey,
His mission and ministry – why he was on this way.
“Today,” he said, all of this is true and fulfilled,
Believe it or not, I’m the one who fits the bill.
Wow! Today. Now. Here. In this place.
Hearing these words, we too, receive this grace.
But the thing with Jesus, the Word of God,
And the thing with Scripture, that’s so very odd,
Is that it doesn’t always tell us what want to hear,
Sometimes it highlights our deepest fears.
“God’s love and forgiveness are for me?”
Hooray! Yippee! We shout for glee!
But Scripture tells us it’s not just for us,
And with that, we sometimes put up a fuss.
God’s Word points out how we need to grow,
It can make us say, “Slow down – whoa!”
“I didn’t sign up to be transformed within,
I’m quite comfortable in my own skin.”
But that’s where Jesus’ words echo again,
“today, it’s fulfilled. Amen, amen.”
Every day we are invited to hear and listen,
To shake up our old patterns and traditions.
To read the stories of God’s ancient people,
To study them at home and under this steeple.
Sometimes they’ll comfort and fill us with joy,
Sometimes they’ll challenge us – boy, oh, boy!
Other times we’ll be left scratching our heads,
Once in a while they’ll make us sleep instead.
But when we engage in this textual struggle,
We’ll find that we’re building up our faith muscle,
God’s words will give us strength, joy, and hope,
In difficult times, they’ll throw us a rope.
They’ll point to Jesus and the way of the cross,
They’ll help us see God in celebration and loss.
When all seems lost and the situation is bleak,
Of resurrection and new life they do speak.
Upon these age-old texts we’re to chew,
That’s how our ancestors in faith grew.
Yes, we’re to hear, read, learn and even digest,
That through them we may be fed and blessed.
But the Word is never for us to keep alone,
It’s in our hearts so God’s love can be shown,
The Spirit is upon us to carry the good news,
That God’s healing and mercy to none are refused.
We may fight to keep it an individual affair,
But nothing will the fiery Holy Spirit impair.
So what makes you balk or want to run,
What makes you stress or come undone?
Those are the moments Christ calls once more,
The places he’s changing you in your core.
It’s happening now – in your hearing!
Yep, that’s Jesus – always interfering!
Children, today as you receive your Bibles,
You continue to learn what it is to be disciples,
I pray – “read these books with a curious attitude,
Hear of God’s love with unending gratitude.
Know that Jesus is always by your side,
That his forgiveness and love are deep and wide.
Know also that his words will challenge you,
To be more like him – to create you anew.
So don’t be afraid to enter the biblical fray,
Ask good questions of these pages every day!
Invite your family on these words to meditate,
Ask the pastors – never ever hesitate!”
Today we remember the incarnate Word in our story,
His name is Jesus and we have seen his glory.
Shining brightly forth for all to see,
Some might even say it’s an Epiphany!
What words will you use as continue your travels?
Ones that cause people and relationships to unravel?
Or ones that bring peace, new vision, and freedom,
That shine forth in the darkness as a beacon?
As you go from here and enter the week,
Trust that Christ continues to speak:
“Today it’s all fulfilled as you hear it.
Share it, empowered by my Holy Spirit.”
© 2019 The Rev. Annabelle Peake Markey