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Epiphany Year C

RCL Year C

3rd Sunday after Epiphany:

January 23, 2022

Highlighted Text: Luke 4:14-21

Summary of the text: A Tough Way to Start Ministry

In this captivating passage Jesus’ new followers discovered early on this was not going to be a ‘pleasure cruise.’  Jesus’ inaugural ‘sermon event’ back home in Nazareth turns into an angry crowd seeking to throw him over a cliff. Beginning new chapters in life can be stressful.  I can remember one of the first sermons I gave as a collegian driving to a little church in Colby, Kansas. I must have gone on too long because afterwards a farmer greeted me at the door and said ‘Nice sermon son. By the way, when you’re done pumping, just let go of the handle.” In today’s lectionary Luke puts his own stamp on this event that both Matthew and Mark record. Jesus has already faced the Tempter and is now beginning the “great Galilean mission.”

Right from the beginning Luke show how Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Isaiah. As he enters the synagogue as an honored guest he is invited to say a few words from the Scriptures. It appears the synagogue system in northern Palestine at this time did not have a ‘Clergy Rabbi or Pastor’ per say but different respected people were asked to do that Sabbath’s reading. They handed the scroll of Isaiah to Jesus. He finds the well-known Messianic passage of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God into this broken world. Jesus reads it standing up  in honor of the Word.

He then sits down (yeshivat) to take his role of the teacher. As the room quietly waits with every eye staring at him to hear his commentary, Jesus unloads the bombshell of ‘this scripture is fulfilled right now; right here.” He then reminds them that God’s work is for Gentiles as well as Jews.  Luke then describes in the next verses they are so offended they took him to a cliff to throw him over and kill him. But Jesus just walks through the middle of the enraged crowd and into the next stop of his ministry. Preaching can be dangerous. It takes courage to be faithful to God’s call.  Every generation of preachers has known this, but today it may take more courage than ever ‘to speak the truth in love’.   

I learned early on from a Messianic mentor of mine many things. He was a Polish Jewish survivor who had lost all his family to the Nazis. He discovered Christ as his Messiah and spent the rest of his life sharing in mostly hostile settings.  One thing stuck with me deeply. “Mark, never preach to your fans – or to your critics. Simply tell the truth.”  Jesus lives out his ministry to the Father, on behalf of the world, in such a single minded way.

When we face criticism it is hard not to ‘take a few shots’ from the pulpit at our opponents. It’s also just as hard not to ‘take the bait’ of our well-meaning fans and ‘go to the popular menu’ for the morning. This passage reminds me as a pastor to do the work God has called us to while leaving the results to Him. As I learned from a professor in St Andrews through his thick Scottish accent “Ye canna convince people at the same time that you are a great preacher, and Christ is a great Savior. Pick which one you want.”

Mark Brewer

Rev. Dr. Mark A Brewer is a third-generation Presbyterian clergy. Previously Mark was the Sr. Pastor of four churches – Cherry Creek Presbyterian in Denver (1980-1992), Ward Presbyterian in Detroit (1992-1994), Colorado Community in Englewood Colorado (a multi campus/ multi-racial church 1993-2001), and Bel Air Presbyterian in Los Angeles (2001-2013). Two of these Mark was the founding pastor. Dr. Brewer was also the president of The Ministry Lab Network from 2013-2016,  bringing an innovative approach to training ministry leaders about the nuts and bolts of lived pastoral ministry.

Mark’s holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Colorado State University. He holds both a Masters of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. Mark has also taught as an adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary. and authored two books “A Walk into the City” and “Spiritual Intelligence.” 

Mark has been married to his wonderful wife Carolyn (an Occupational Therapist) since 1978 and have three married children of their own as well as seven grandchildren. His greatest accomplishment other than his wife and wonderful family is becoming a board member of The Pastor’s Workshop in late 2021.

Sermon Resources

Key Quote

When you take “personal” attacks personally, you unwittingly conspire in one of the common ways you can be taken out of action-you make yourself the issue. Attacks may be personal, understand that they are basically attacks on positions you represent and the role you are seeking to play

Marty Linsky & Ronald A. Heifetz, Leadership on the Line

Key Illustration

Only The Dead Go with the Flow

By illustration, I have been told that when a cow is born, she innately senses that her departure from her mother’s warm womb to a cold, scary, unknown world outside is upon her. In response, she will resist birth and try to stay in the womb. On the other hand, the absence of such resistance is often a sign of a stillborn calf. Relating to our world of death, “going along” is a sign of death. Living fish swim against the stream.

Only the dead go with the flow.

Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Location 156.

Additional Sermon Resources

Liturgical Elements

Call to Worship

O Lord, Open our lips

And our mouth shall proclaim your praise

O Lord, Open our eyes

And we shall see the marvelous things you have done in and through your Son, our Savior

O Lord, Open our minds,

And we shall discern your holy love and redeeming ways of entering our world

O Lord, Open our hands

And we shall reach out to bless those around us who are in need

 

Prayer of Confession

Great and gracious God, we have run after things and others instead of coming home to You.

We have lived as though we were the centers of our universe.

We have avoided the harder issues in life  so others will approve  of us.

We have let the world squeeze us into its mold,  and refused to be transformed by your Spirit.

We laugh at what we should weep over, and grieve over things that are passing away that are unimportant in Your Kingdom.  

We have thought evil of our brothers and sisters simply because they do not agree with us on things of this fleeting world.

 Oh Lord, have mercy upon us. Restore us to the sanity of your ways and remind us of your infinite love and healing,  and lead us in the way everlasting.

Mark Brewer

Assurance of Pardon

Psalm 103:8-12

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Benediction

Psalm 121:7–8

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

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