Dwelling in the WordA participatory sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany, January 27, 2018 on Luke 4:14-21 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas with thanks to Pr. Cindy Carroll at Emanuel Lutheran in Dallas, Texas for sharing how she did this in her congregation!

As you listen to the Gospel reading, pay attention to what word or phrase catches your attention and why. I will leave a few minutes of silence after the reading for you to reflect and circle a word or phrase that stands out.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“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.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

We are trying something different today called, Dwelling in the Word, an ancient way of reading the Scriptures that involves everyone, rather than one person sharing an interpretation. It’s an important way to hear Scripture because God speaks through the Bible to everyone differently based on our own lives, experiences, and personalities. We need to hear the wisdom God shares through each one of us in order to move into the future. It is also a very Lutheran way to read Scripture because Luther taught that the living Spirit of Christ is present every time we read the Bible, helping us understand God’s message for us today. The Spirit’s presence is not limited to pastors, Bible teachers, and seminary professors, but the Holy Spirit is a gift given to all of us, the priesthood of all believers.

Dwelling in the Word is a practice we’re encouraged to do with the Leadership for Faithful Innovation process we’re in with the Synod and Luther seminary. You’ll be glad to know that Council has done this twice, and they found it pretty fun! I am going to read the passage one more time. As you hear the story, notice how God is speaking to you. This time, I would like you to listen for what God is saying to you or to us as a community in this passage. We will pause again for a moment of silence. After the silence, you will be invited to share with another person.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“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.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

We will have a moment of silence. You are invited to listen to what God is saying to you and us as a community in this passage.

You are now invited to share with one other person. Please look behind you and make sure everyone has a partner—make a three-some if necessary. Each person takes one minute to share the word or phrase that caught your attention and why, and then what you hear God saying in this passage. Listening is an important spiritual practice—so try listening really well—well enough that you could repeat what partner shared.

Raise your hand if
• you and your partner circle the same word?
• you and your partner circled different words?
• you and your partner had the same insight about what God is saying to us?
• you and your partner had a different insight about what God is saying to us?
• you learned something new from your partner you had not previously thought?
• you were surprised by something in this process?

This passage is the basis for our new tag-line at St. Luke’s: “where spirits come alive!” We are named for this Gospel, St. Luke’s. This passage from chapter four is Jesus’ inaugural sermon for his ministry, which he begins, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me.” As followers of Jesus in the tradition of St. Luke, we also do ministry only because “the spirit of the Lord is upon us” as a congregation and in our individual lives throughout the week.

So, God calls us to be a community where “spirits come alive”—the spirit of Christ among us, and the gifts of Christ within each of us. Part of “spirits coming alive” is listening to the spiritual insights each of us brings, and part of “spirits coming alive” is activating the different gifts God has given each of us.

After worship today, we will hold our Annual Meeting, and this is what’s important as we come together—not that we’re an official member of an organization—but, rather, that we are baptized members of the priesthood of all believers, and followers of Jesus Christ who has given all of you the gift of the Holy Spirit and asks you to allow that gift to come alive! Jesus asks you to listen for and share your insights the Spirit is giving you as you read the Bible. Jesus asks you to share the gifts of the Spirit given to you to share the Gospel, bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free. Our way forward as a community becomes possible when everyone’s Spirit-gifts are activated for the good of all, and that work together begins as we listen to God in Scripture, and to each other in the Spirit. Then in expanding circles, we listen to our neighbors, our community, and its leaders as we discern specifically how God wants us to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

None of us are outside of God’s ability to use us. Every single one of you is important and a vehicle through whom the Holy Spirit works. Your presence matters to God and to me and to St. Luke’s. You are wanted, you are loved for who you are, you are good enough for Jesus and for us. So, share yourself and your gifts in this new year, as we all make St. Luke’s a place where “spirits come alive!”

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Linda Anderson-Little

Quotation of the Week

The church does not have a mission in the world, God's mission has a church in the world.

 

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