Scripture: Luke 4:14-21
Sermon Title: Tomorrow Has Begun Today
Rev. Carol Prochaska
We human beings have a deep hunger for good news words. With all life’s challenges we need words chosen and arranged in such a way that we may be comforted, encouraged, or enlightened – and in some way transformed. Words can be like a blanket to wrap around our fear. Words have the potential to be as a light in our darkness. Words can be like a bugler’s summons to rise up and get on with life! The power of words – if we take-in those words. If we own them.
Moments ago we heard Jesus say: “Today, in your hearing, this scripture passage is fulfilled.”
Fulfilment is a completion. Something has been accomplished and that something is deeply satisfying to the soul. We might say there is fulfilment when we go from stuck to unstuck and in this new place of being unstuck we cannot help but offer praise and thanksgiving.
The biblical words Jesus read from Isaiah were most likely familiar to those who were in the synagogue. But on this day, Jesus says when these words are heard, there is in the hearing-fulfilment. Is that not astonishing! Even unbelievable.
However, in reviewing the four groups of people, it becomes apparent that they are stuck and they need help. We’ve been there. This isn’t anything new to us.
Jesus says “the Spirit of God is upon me to bring Good News to those who are poor” that is to those who are “broken-hearted.” We’ve dreamed dreams that never became a reality. We’ve experienced doing our best only to fail. Some of us have shaken our fist at the heavens and most of us know what it is to go to bed in despair. Jesus has been sent to “captives,” to those whose lives are in some way confined. Thirdly, Jesus promises “recovery of sight to those who are blind” as in metaphorical blindness (the Greek word includes self-conceit). The fourth group are those in prison, as in those who have been crushed. It may be helpful to know that the words “liberty” and “release” include not only freedom but also forgiveness. Ancient words –yes! And also contemporary words.
We know fulfilment in creation. A crawling caterpillar becomes a clinging cocoon that becomes a winged butterfly: fulfilment. We plant carrot seeds and one day there we are eating carrots: fulfilment.
Back in the early 90’s John and I were called to be co-ministers in a congregation near Houston, Texas. It was for us a fulfillment. We saw ourselves serving this church until our retirement. However, in the ensuing months, the difficulties loomed large. Financially the church was going under. During the oil boom, the land had been purchased and the building erected at an inflated price. In the oil-bust, the congregation had shrunk in numbers as unemployed people moved away.
The previous minister, still in the community, was dealing with an addiction relapse and chose to lead evening worship services in his own home with some of the members. John and I compassionately supported those suffering from AIDS and HIV Positive. To the dismay of some of our members, we observed World AIDS Sunday. Publically we affirmed and ministered to LGBTQ folks. Although same-sex marriage was illegal, we performed same-sex unions. And all the while there was a large church from a mainline denomination publically persecuting the LGBTQ community. So these and other factors led to the closing of the church.
It was a time of broken dreams. Our resumes were circulating but any kind of fulfilment was not apparent to us. We packed up our belongings and moved to Wyoming to live in John’s brother’s double-wide trailer house. It was nice – and it was comfortable. One day, we received a phone call from the Nebraska Conference Minister. Nebraska? It was not on our list of possible places to do ministry. We had not the slightest interest in going to Nebraska! Fulfillment? No. But we needed work. And so it was that a month later we arrived in Falls City, Nebraska to be Intentional Interim Ministers.
On our first day, we joined most of the town at the local theatre to see a premiere movie.
And we entered into their pain. The movie: Boys Don’t Cry. Some of you may remember that the lead role was played by Hillary Swank. This movie is based on the real-life events of a Nebraskan transgender person who had adopted a male identity. He attempted to find himself and love in his home state of Nebraska. Tragically he falls victim to a brutal hate crime perpetrated by two male acquaintances. Not only did this event take place close by but there were folks in that community related to both the victim and the victimizers. Those not related were acquainted with the involved families. With the release of the movie old pain and old prejudices surfaced. Those folks fit all four groups named in our scripture passage: they were brokenhearted, captives, blind, and crushed.
It would take every bit of our training and experience and a heap of help from God.
We would go on from there to serve as interim ministers for two other churches in Nebraska. And as well, we worked for a time for the Nebraska Conference. Nebraska became for us, fulfillment.
To this day we remember our time in Nebraska as the most fulfilling ministries we did together.
Fulfilment in our hearing asks us to claim God’s intent and design. Fulfilment in our hearing asks us to believe that tomorrow has begun today. It may not be what we expect! It may even seem impossible.
Our concluding hymn this morning is “In the Bulb There Is a Flower.” We will sing “from the past will come our future; what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.” From our scripture passage, there is so much that is unrevealed until its fulfilment – until we look back in hindsight and smile! We were stuck – now we’re unstuck!