The Fulfillment (1/24/16 Sermon)

            Two weeks ago we looked at the scripture of the Baptism of Jesus where the Holy Spirit came down through the thin veil between Heaven and Earth. Last week we explored I Corinthians  12 and the inner working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, those of us who have Jesus living within us. Following Jesus baptism by John, He was led into the wilderness to be tempted and therefore strengthened as He resisted the 3 temptations of the devil which thrust Him into his teaching and power ministry. He changed water into wine showing his special power of the Holy Spirit, and he began to teach in Galilee as he was now filled with the Holy Spirit teaching which drew people to Him.  Please stand now for the Gospel reading as found in Luke 4:14 – 22. Let us pray.

            Let us take a moment to imagine this scene in our mind’s eye. Jesus is back to Nazareth after being at the Jordan River with John, then in the desert, then back to Galilee and finally home to Nazareth where he lived once his family returned from Egypt. Jesus was well known there even though he hadn’t been there for awhile. He was known as Joseph the carpenter’s son, destined to continue forth in his father’s trade and caring for his mother and half siblings. Yet, on this day everything changed for him in his hometown. This hometown boy made a dramatic statement that would not only rock His world but all of society forever.

            Luke tells us that Jesus went into the synagogue as usual on the Sabbath. I find that interesting as Jesus, the Son of God, still needed to be in the synagogue with fellow Jewish worshippers when he was in a location where one was available. And this one in particular was special because it was the very place where Jesus had gone to school to study for his bar mitzvah. Everyone there knew Jesus. I imagine He peacefully walked in and found His seat, looking around to greet others. In due time, it was time for someone to read from the Torah. Now if you have ever been in a synagogue during worship, you might know of the importance of the scrolls. They are kept in a specially padded box standing in the front of the worship area. The rabbi steps forward, opens the curtain of the box, and carefully removes the scrolls containing the powerful words of God of the Old Testament.

            In the Messianic Jewish worship services where I have worshipped, the scrolls are paraded around the worship area as people sing a special worship song. They are lifted high in honor of the Lord and people reach out with a kiss toward the scrolls. At last they reach the front and they are opened to the location of the reading for the day. A special wooden pointer is used to follow the Hebrew words along the page that they don’t touch the Holy Scrolls.

            Now we do not know if such an event happened that day, but I imagine the traditions of our day are the same as in Jesus era. On this day, Jesus unrolled the scrolls to Isaiah 61:1 -2, to read one of the most significant messages found in God’s word. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

            In this passage, the unfolding of all eternity was begun in claiming the words spoken hundreds of years before by the prophet Isaiah. As He read those words with great comfort and confidence, He stepped into His true calling and He then said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” When we read this passage, we have hindsight. We know that Jesus is the Son of God and the Spirit was upon Him. They, on the other hand, the Jews in Nazareth that day, only know these words as the words of the prophet, Isaiah, yet they are truly the words of Jesus spoken far before His life time. And in those words Jesus proclaimed His true calling.

            He said that he was called to preach the good news to the poor.

            He was to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.

            Recovery of sight for the blind

            Release the oppressed

            Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (some bibles say the Year of Jubilee)

            That message was tremendously significant for Jesus and the hearers, just as it is for us hearers today. As we follow Jesus, and as the Spirit of God rests on us we are to preach the good news to the poor, that is the poor in Spirit as well as the worldly poor. We are to proclaim the freedom of the prisoners, that is those incarcerated and those who are bound up in sin and sinful ways. We are to preach recovery of sight for the blind, that is those who are physically blind and those who are spiritually blind. We are to release those who are oppressed by evil in the world and those who are oppressed by evildoing in the world. As we work with the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Now in bible times that year was called the Jubilee Year, it was to happen every 50 years where all debt was to be cancelled and land was returned back to families that had sold or lost their land.

            So for us as we proclaim the freedom, the good news, the recovery of sight, the release of the oppressed . . . we are working with Jesus to restore all people who will receive all that God had planned for them. Physically and Spiritually the healing happens. Physically and Spiritually the captives are set free. Physically and Spiritually the blind have new eyes to see, just as God had planned from the beginning of time.

            The glorious part of this message in Isaiah’s day was the hope found in the coming Messiah. The glorious part of this message in Jesus’ day was the institution of the power ministry and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. And the glorious part of this message for us today is that we too have hope, hope found only in Jesus. Hope that He can and will set us free of ALL things that hold us back, free from the captives, free from the burdens of life to be set free to soar with the Holy Spirit to fulfill God plan and purpose for us. I want that freedom this day, so I claim for my life and for this church, I claim the freeing power of Jesus to set us on the path of preaching the good news, freeing the captives, and releasing the oppressed. Let us pray.

Miraculous Gifts (1/17/16 Sermon)

            Well here we are again looking at the Word of God. You have heard my messages for the last 3 weeks through the voices of elders, and it seemed strange to me. I trust you learned some. Last week was the Baptism of our Lord. The sermon I sent here was the very sermon I was going to preach upon my return from El Salvador. Because it was ready, I used some of the concepts to preach two time in El Salvador. The first time I was preaching in a small village church in an area called The Campo which is the country. The service was the mid-week service lead by the women of the church. It seems that the churches in small villages are very traditional and old fashioned in the way they do church, in their songs, and where they sit. The women in this church all wore white shirts and blue skirts. Each wore a white scarf tied around their head in the old style triangle scarf of the 60s. It was proper for a woman to dress in a skirt, so I did even though it was something I have not done in years. I had shopped at Salvation Army before I left and came across a long black skirt. I felt it was fitting no matter where I would worship there. The women sat on one side of the church and the men on the other in all of these village churches.

            My son in law tells me that their Spanish is like hilly billy Spanish as they drop off letters and say words in different ways. It is sometimes difficult for he and my daughter to understand the Campo folks. They have worship at 3 nearly every day of the week. One day is lead by women, but some men are there, another day is led by the youth and anyone can come. Some days it is a Bible study and some songs, and Sunday afternoon it is regular worship.

            This day was led by the women’s group and all throughout the service different women came forth to read a scripture and sing a song, or say a prayer and sing a song. They had no song books, everyone knew the words of the songs although they were led by two electric guitars.  About half way through the service my son in law and daughter were invited forward. Jared gave a brief Word from God, and Kelly introduced me. Then Jared and I teamed up for the message. I had typed out a message that was fitting for them, and Jared had translated some of the scriptures and looked up a few words ahead of time so that things would be accurate. So we began with a little story of my life, and then a message on the Word from the 3rd chapter of Luke.  Kelly, my daughter, was seated in the front row video taping my message.  As I spoke about the thin veil between heaven and earth breaking open for the entering of the Holy Spirit, I lifted my hands in the air to illustrate and my phone rang. It was my sister in Michigan. Kelly left the room to talk with her, and found out that the thin veil had opened in the other direction for my mom to join Jesus. For a preacher it was such a divine moment, as I was doing what I like to do the best, preaching, and my mom who as so proud of her pastor daughter entered eternity on the 79th birthday anniversary of my husband. My mom and my husband were good buddies, and actually 29 years ago in June she was the one at his bedside when he took his last breath!! There are no coincident, and all were strong message from the Lord for us on that day.

            Another miracle happened that day in the ringing of my cell phone way out in the country area of El Salvador!! As we left the church I called my sister and reception was terrible, in most situations there was no reception. God made a way when there should have been no way.

            I have taken the liberty to talk a bit about these miracles and incidents because today I will be talking about the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, one  of them is miracles.

            Listen now for the voice of the Lord in the reading of the Gospel lesson from John 2:1 – 11, and the very first miracle of Jesus.  Let us pray.

            In the baptism of Jesus, the Son of God, Holy Spirit came down to empower Jesus and jump start His early ministry. Jesus, the perfect human, as He was born of the Spirit of God, was touch in a supernatural way and led forth to do many miracles and live in all of the Spiritual Gifts mentioned in I Corinthians 12:1 – 11, read for you today and the gifts found in Ephesians 4:11 and Romans 12:6 – 8. Each of the gifts mentioned are for different purposes, and each are grouped as they are for the  edification of the greater body of Christ.

            But today, I will only focus on the nine mentioned in I Corinthians 12. In most theological circles, these gifts are called Charismatic Gifts because charis is the Greek word for grace, and Charismatic Gifts are God’s gracious gifts to His Kingdom body. Every person has a spiritual gift or two or three, but only Jesus had them all as He was fully human and perfect and able to be fully anointed for ministry in every way. Unfortunately, many people in a church do not know what their spiritual gifts are, and because they are for the good of the body, we are weak. When a servant doesn’t know they are a servant and do not use their gift, we all struggle trying to make up the gap. Often we pooh hoo people gifting or deny that they exist, some gifts the church is afraid or has not been instructed about them, so the church suffers in their lack of use.

            So today as I talk about these gifts, remember you may not have ever met someone with one of these gifts, but they are true gifts from the Holy Spirit and for us to be open to them in our lives or in our church body.

             The first two are wisdom and knowledge. Those words sound very much like and yet in Spiritual Gifting they are different. Wisdom, is a knowing from God. Knowing like Solomon, that a person understands things that they might not have ever been taught, or they might have deeper understanding to help the church body. Knowledge is more specific, it is a specific word for someone, a group or the church. A word of knowledge seems to be a great ah ha, answer a puzzling question or bring peace or unity over an issue.  A person who has wisdom and knowledge most often are saturated in God’s Word and know that what they are about to say is not contrary to God’s truth.

            The next two were faith and healing. Faith is not about salvation faith, but rather, the strong faith that God is showing the way and will provide. A good leader has a strong gifting of faith or someone alongside them with that gift to encourage the leader to lead forth. A person who has the gift of healing, knows that it is not them who heals, but it comes from their faith that God will bring forth His diving power to bring spiritual, emotional, or physical healing.  When I was in seminary, one of my professors, Peter Wagner, had the gift of healing, and most often it was used in growing a person’s leg to that they were equal in length. In our class of 100 students, it was amazing to see how many people had one shorter leg, maybe an inch, but that inch could cause back pain since the person didn’t walk solidly on both feet. Often, God heals in such ways to just show that He is able, we must just trust Him.

            The next three are miracles, prophecy and discernment of spirits.  People with great faith, pray with true conviction that God will bring forth a miracle in a certain situation and wait confidently and expectantly for God’s powerful hand.  Prophecy in different places in the three different texts have different uses. This prophecy is not the prophet like Moses, but more for seeing in others things and ways that God wants to speak a message or truth. Those with this gift are often pushed aside because people tend to not believe in this gifting, but remember it is for the good of the greater body. And thirdly, is the gift of discernment of good or bad spirits. I have this as one of my gifts, and I can walk into a room and feel or see a powerful presence of God or something not of God. I remember once walking into a store that was filled with New Age things in N. CA. I didn’t know this about this store, but as I stepped into the store, it felt terrible and I turned and walked out of the store.  One with this gift has a great sensitivity, and are trouble with the atmosphere is not a Godly presence.

            Finally, we have the most unique gifts, tongues and interpretation of tongues. For many, these are unique because either you have never heard someone pray this way, or you are not open to this gift in our life. In this scripture, tongues are a Holy Spirit message from God to be interpreted by someone with the balance gift. But there are other conversations in scriptures about tongues, and most often they are used as a persons intimate prayer language. Please, don’t negate any of the gifts listed in scripture. You might not understand or experience them, but they are a gift from the Holy Spirit and truly for the good and wellbeing of the Christian community.

            The good use of Spiritual Gifts:

>Bring forth saving faith in people
>Bring unity in the midst of diversity
>Are special gifts the world does not have, given by the Holy Spirit. Only Christians have these gifts.
>Although we have to be careful because none are a means to an end or something to boast about because they are gifts we have done nothing to receive. It is God’s choice and for us to use carefully.
>All who have Jesus in their hearts have at least one spiritual gift if not several.  Some gifts are continually with us, and other gifts are given in the moment because we need them.

`My challenge is for everyone present to read this passage throughout the week and ask God to reveal your gift. Be open to whatever God gives. Once, I said, “God I really don’t want that gift but I really want to be the closest I can to you.” And bam, I received the gift that God knew would help me be the closest to Him and my calling.

            Let us pray.

Sierra Lutheran Church