Sermon for Third Sunday after the Epiphany -
Vicar Julie A. Kelly -
Have you ever had one of those “this is going to happen moments?” For me, this past week I purchased airline tickets to my graduation in May. I remember thinking, after 11 years of working and waiting, I am suddenly here and this is getting real. While I have the tickets and the clock is ticking down, a small part of me still doesn’t expect it to actually happen. Then my friend Nicole said to me, “Julie, this isn’t getting real. It IS real. We are graduating.”
My family recently looked at images of the Northridge earthquake and while we have made preparations at home, between that and watching San Andreas, living in an earthquake zone suddenly got very real for them… but I still don’t think they really expect it and they probably won’t until it actually happens. You see there is this weird place we sit when we think we are prepared and are expecting something and the reality of it actually happening. How we respond in the midst of both waiting and witnessing is very important. Failure to prepare can be devastating. Failure to stay attuned can be just as devastating.
And speaking of things actually happening, here is Jesus- he has returned home and word about him has spread in all the best ways. He gets up to read in service and in short order tells them “Things aren’t getting real, they are real.”
By declaring he read scripture fulfilled in their own hearing, Jesus is telling them, the wait is over. The 400 years of silence is broken not by another prophet, not with yet another promise, but the actual presence of the one who would come to save them. In other words, this is really happening, now.
Sometimes the wake up to what is happening now is ugly and cruel. My friend Peg had fire alarms and knew all the right things to do for a fire, but at Christmas in 1991 when she was a single mom her house caught fire with her family inside. She had not been actively expecting a fire, but like all of us she knew it might happen, so she prepared and went about life. But as she stood in the street watching her house burn with her children by her side I assure you, she thought of things she could have done differently.
In the coming weeks the Luke will lead us through a revealing of Christ as Messiah, weaving threads back and forth from the Old Testament to Mary’s Magnificat and tying it up at the cross. In each step, the declaration is the same though. This has gotten real. We are not Israel, still waiting for Christ to come, because he has already come, he has already redeemed us and we are free. Not only that, but we are given the answer to what is next- we have the advantage of looking back to see forward.
And because we can look back, we also bear the burden of acting in response to this knowledge. When Christ read those words and declared them fulfilled in their hearing, he was not proclaiming something to come, he was declaring it already happening. This is important for us to hear and understand, so let me get a little Bible greeky on you. There is this grammar thing called the perfect tense. It means that something has happened actively and is still happening. Kind of like a volcano erupting that is still doing so. According to a fellow Greek student, D. Mark Davis, Jesus is both being sent and sending away in liberty those who have been shattered. In other words, God is a sending God who has sent Christ in order for Christ to send the church into the world. Not shattered anymore, but once shattered, now whole and sent out free and joyful to the world. Put it all together and this was actually happening for those folks in the synagogue that day with Jesus and is still happening today. The scripture is still being fulfilled in our hearing.
I want to share one more story of life getting real. She knew he had cancer. She knew her father was dying. But somehow, as she stood over him and he took his last breath the truth of the moment came rushing in. “My father just died of cancer.” In that very moment many promises became real. The promise of death was real to be sure, but in that very moment, so was the promise of life. You see, her father was a man of deep faith and in that moment of life where death became real, so did the reality of salvation and eternal life. But here is the kicker, it was already real. It was already happening before he died. He was already saved and no longer shattered, we are already called, already sent, already fulfilling the words of scripture.
While I will assuredly proclaim the very same promise of eternal life for you here today I want to invite you as well.
I want to invite you to wander with us in the weeks to come, to watch Christ be revealed to us in the most shocking and often most unrefined way possible, through the stories of normal people like you and I, but more importantly through the stories of the those society and maybe even they themselves thought were not worth saving. Watch Christ be revealed through the eyes of the blind, the chains of the slaves and the backs of the oppressed not only in the past, but now, here, in our own communities. Be present in your own sending.
As you hear and see Christ revealed, finally and outrageously on the cross, ponder for yourself, what does this mean for me? How will I live in response? What changes when I consider it is already done and I am already free? Let yourself be amazed, let yourself stand in awe and recognize this is no longer “getting” real, it is real. Christ has come. He has died, we are redeemed and we are free.
Julie A. Kelly
Vicar - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
It Is Real
Sermon for Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Written by Julie A. Kelly
January 23/24, 2016
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California