Sermons Author: The Rev. Shawn Evelyn
Whether you are a long-time member or seeking a deeper connection with God, progressive, theologically-grounded teaching can be encouraging. St. James clergy and renowned guest preachers speak to issues of faith and public life that both challenge preconceived notions and call to action.
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January 23, 2022
The Spirit calls on us to act. The Episcopal Church has been known as many things, but one of the stereotypes associated with The Episcopal Church is the “Chosen Frozen.” We celebrate our rich tradition and culture so much that for some throughout the years, it has been more about pride than actual discipleship. Many who see the Episcopal Church see it as old money with a troubled history and a membership that is content with just their attendance on Sundays. Our very own Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Michael Curry, has made it a point to dispel this criticism by using his platform for churches to follow and highlight the Way of Love, a movement that allows us to look at what we do and how we live with a Jesus Centered passion. In talking about the stagnant nature of churches, it does not need to be said, present company excluded. As I am joining your community as your Interim Associate for Youth Ministry, I am fully aware of the variety of ministries and outreach available here at the cathedral. However, the stereotype still exists. There is nothing about Jesus’ ministry that was stagnant or complacent. Although we only get about three years of how Jesus lived, it was still a period of time that kept him on the move.
Our Gospel for today shows us Jesus on the move. Jesus goes back to Nazareth, in the region where the bulk of his ministry will be received. Luke’s Gospel is unique as the writers use this moment to officially start his ministry here compared to other gospels where this moment comes while Jesus is already engaged in preaching and teaching and healing. Before we meet Jesus here, we take note that the Spirit came to him in his Baptism, then the Spirit took him into the wilderness where he resisted temptation, and now the Spirit is with him as he makes himself known as the Messiah. In a bold move he reads from Isaiah, letting the people know that what was prophesied to come is now here. He is the one who will be there for the poor, release the captive, give sight to the blind, comfort the oppressed, and do all in the Spirit with the principles and energy associated with the Year of the Lord. The Year of the Lord, or Jubilee, is an ancient Hebrew festival that happens every 50 years. Found in the 25th chapter of Leviticus, it’s a time to be observed where slaves would be released, debts forgiven, and God’s mercy would be shared by everyone. This Year of Forgiveness or Sabbath of Sabbaths is the energy that Jesus is wanting people to have not just every 50 years, but every day.
Before we read any further in the Gospel, we see that the people whom he reached are happy. The places he taught all praised him and now he had everyone’s attention. The people have experienced so much, and the disparities of their community were becoming more apparent. The people truly needed an answer and what they have heard about for generations about someone coming to make things better was finally upon them. For us today, we can think of several things that we need to live better. An end to COVID, our planet healing resulting in an end climate change, student loan forgiveness, how would we react if someone told us all these would be fixed? It’s almost too good to be true. Jesus however is ready and able to be what these people needed and through his death, continues to make good on what was foretold.
The ability to be driven by the Spirit to act is not lost on Paul. In his letter we see today, he is showing us that we are connected to Christ. As the body is one and has many parts, whatever their job, whatever their function, they are still a part of that body, and they need one another to work. No one part is less than the other. Paul is reaching for us to understand that these different parts of the body are gifts, Spiritual gifts, and regardless of what we do, we are challenged to stive for greater gifts, strive to continue to function for the body.
We will continue to explore Jesus through the eyes of Luke. The version of Jesus we see in this Gospel for the next few weeks is one who in concerned about social justice and social justice issues. We also see the sacrificial nature of Christ as the emphasis of doing for others comes more to the forefront. As Christians we are called to act. I personally believe that the stereotype of being the Chosen Frozen is melting away in our efforts to walk the Way of Love. In our connection to one another and to Jesus we are to ensure we do not fall victim to atrophy. And although we still have issues that are affecting us with no clear answer in sight, our need for a Messiah is still great because we still need to get good news to the poor, release the captive, give sight to the blind, and free the oppressed. Let us make sure we are staying active. Most importantly let us remember that it is the Spirit that will help us to make it happen. It’s the Spirit that was with Christ in Baptism, with him in the Wilderness and while reading the scroll, and the same Spirit that will keep us going. May you always be filled with the Spirit, and may you continue to function for Christ. Amen.