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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary 23 January 2022 Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Luke 4:14-21 He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written... Christians have long turned to the Bible, to Scripture, for guidance and direction in the ordering of their lives. And rightly so of course. The Bible is after all the source and bedrock of our faith. Its stories, narratives, poetry, and prophecy tell us of the Lord’s abiding solicitude and care for his people, and for us. And as the Thirty-Nine Articles assure us, Scripture contains everything necessary to salvation. As Anglicans, we take the Scriptures very seriously indeed. Here at Saint Margaret’s, for instance, we read a portion of Scripture each day at Morning Prayer and discuss its significance. And our online Menza sessions, our weekly discussion group, also are very often devoted to the study of Scripture, to uncovering its deeper meaning for our lives. So, it is probably not surprising to find our Lord turning to Scripture in this morning’s passage from the Gospel of Luke. Arriving back in his hometown of Nazareth at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus enters the synagogue, takes up the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, and begins to read before the assembled congregation; arguably the only instance in all the Gospels of our Lord actually engaged in the process of reading. This is also, the scholars point out, one of only a few extant descriptions of an actual synagogue worship service from the time of our Lord; a service, it occurs to me, not unlike our own daily online Morning Prayer services, minus the online part of course. The words read or proclaimed by our Lord, taken from the third and final portion of the Book of Isaiah, sometimes called Third Isaiah, harken back to a time of turmoil and change in ancient Israel, of rebuilding after the Exile, and as well a time of renewed hope and a return to spiritual values. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” proclaims the Prophet, “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 favour.” Our Lord chooses these same words to inaugurate the Good News of the Gospel, and they will set the course for his coming ministry and mission. In fact, some preachers with a penchant for business jargon refer to this passage as Jesus’ Mission Statement, his declaration of purpose and principle. The observation is not far off the mark. Like the Prophet Isaiah of old, our Lord emphasizes God’s compassion for the downtrodden and oppressed of the world, the

poor, the captive, and the blind. He proclaims God’s oneness with them; he proclaims freedom and light. What had perhaps been more aspiration than reality in the time of Third Isaiah finds its fulfillment in the working out of our Lord’s ministry. Jesus’ commentary on this text has also been called one of the shortest sermons ever preached by anyone. “Today,” he says, “this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." And, that is it. Nine words compared to the nine-hundred and ninety-nine, as Microsoft Word counts them, written down in this sermon of mine about the sermon of our Lord. Jesus’ sermon is in fact seemingly over before it begins, perhaps emphasizing that his ministry itself has only begun and that there is much work to be done. And while Mark and Matthew emphasise the need for our repentance as our Lord begins his work, Luke has Jesus here reassure the people of Nazareth, and us, of God’s love and redemption. A good way to start any new ministry, then or now. Proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and release and freedom to those held captive to sin remains a part of our mission, and mission statement, to this day. As Jesus speaks at the synagogue of Nazareth and so inaugurates his journey of faith and redemption, so must we begin anew each day our Gospel commitment to the world of our day and its needs. For we are Christ to the world today, as Paul explains to us in our second reading this morning from his First Letter to the Corinthians. “Now, you are the body of Christ,” he writes. In other words, it is only through you and me that the Scripture can continue to be preached today. But perhaps more importantly, it is only through you and me that the Gospel journey, the way of faith, which Jesus began so long ago can continue to be fulfilled in our own day and age. For, the Gospel and its Good News remain forever, well, new news. Jesus’ words to us may be short and sweet, but they never grow old. They challenge us still to bring Good News to our troubled world; Good news to a world filled with fear and foreboding, poverty and blindness, disease and death. In this sense, each of us becomes a preacher not only with words but with action and deed. Scripture is still being fulfilled in our hearing. Or, as one saint is reported to have charged his followers, “Preach the Gospel always. When necessary, use words.” Words are indeed necessary, but they become the Word of God and the Good News of the Gospel only when they are translated into the language of heart and deed. “This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus does indeed become the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy, but only in so far as his own words are still heard today. And to be truly heard, his words must mean something to us. They must transform us and become a part of who we are. Only then is this, or any, Scripture genuinely fulfilled in our hearing. Only then, is it indeed Good News. Amen. The Rev. Dr. Frank Hegedűs

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