A Sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 24, 2016 The Rev. Linda Hollis, Deacon
“Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to the Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.”
“Power” – Sometimes we do not comprehend our need for power until we have a power failure.
While visiting foreign crew on a large roll on roll off car vessel with containers stacked on top as well, I entered the small 4-man elevator with a deck hand to go up 13 decks to the crew mess. About 4 decks up, the elevator STOPPED DEAD! The air circulation stopped, the lights went out. John, the Filipino deck hand with me, grabbed the flashlight and phoned the engine room. After much talking between John and the Chief Engineer, the elevator was cranked to the top deck. The hatch opened, I handed my backpack up to another crew member, climbed up the built in elevator wall ladder, out the hatch and stepped around the cables and pulleys to another ladder down on to the 13th deck.
Quite an adventure, but there was more to come. After visiting with the crew, sharing magazines and arranging a shopping trip, the Chief Engineer came into the crew mess all breathless from the engine room 13 decks below and the Master from the bridge above. They came to apologize to me for my elevator ordeal. I assured them I was unscathed and considered it an adventure. The Chief Engineer asked me if I would like to visit his engine room. The Master nodded yes and I jumped at this chance!
Talk about POWER – The engine room is at the very bottom of the vessel and goes on down 2 more decks to accommodate the HUGE engine. The drive shaft went the length of the vessel – football field length at least – and was driven by 24 Hyundai pistons – 12 on each side on the main part of the drive shaft. The pistons were the 3 decks in height. At the very bottom of the pistons is where the oilers and wipers work in the engine room, when under way keeping everything lubricated and cleaned up – these guys are at the bottom of the food chain.
I saw the large powerful SUV size side Mercedes thruster engine that had to engage the main drive shaft when the 24 pistons were not working in order to bring the vessel alongside the dock.
Then came the control room for all this POWER! It is the size of this nave from the bell tower to the altar. Computer Power surrounded me and I was over Whelmed!
When engine room fails on stormy seas, the vessels flounders and sinks!
Now Power comes in many other guises: wealth, political, physical, but none of this POWER compares to the POWER of the Holy Spirit! And Jesus is FULL of the HOLY SPIRIT when comes to Nazareth, his hometown.
Jesus announces this POWER in the synagogue by reading from the prophet Isaiah.
“Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, captive, blind and oppressed. And to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.”
This is POWER that sets others free – that seeks those at the bottom and builds them up.
How peculiar, how different from our notions of power. Indeed the power of God at work in Jesus pushes us to reconfigure our notions of POWER and re-orient our attention away from our-selves to those less fortunate.
It seems that God loves us all – even the oilers and wipers at the bottom of those 24 pistons. In fact, God’s POWER gives special to those people the world does not want to see, let alone care for.
Filled by the Holy Spirit, Jesus testifies to the fact that God’s power is always seen as peculiar, odd, abnormal and uncomfortable by the world because if focuses on those the world has overlooked, forgotten, those we humans often do not want to acknowledge or want to discarded —- on those lives that seem not to matter.
God’s power is all-inclusive. God does not have Power failures. We have power failures. We fail to use the power of the Holy Spirit given to us at Baptism.
In Corinthians Paul uses the image of the body to explain how we are to work with the Power of the Holy Spirit. For the Body to work all parts are important and all work together to function. If a part of our body is not well like a knee, or a hip, the brain, a private part, or the feet, that part has to matter more so the body will function again. When a part of our community is in pain that part “matters more”. Our community is calling for justice and healing too be focused on that part so the whole community can function as God intends.
As BAPTIZED CHRISTIANS, we are forgiven, loved and empowered by the Holy Spirit to go serve others where we work, live, shop and travel in our community. This is our Christian mission field. We are commissioned to be God’s hands, feet, voice, and heart spreading His Power, His GRACE, His GOOD NEWS.
Our weekly empowering station is here in this church community. Here we are forgiven, reminded of God’s love for us, fed by the sacrament so we don’t have power failures. We are made ready to serve God outside these walls.
Have you noticed that God is never satisfied with what Holy power we think we have? God loves us enough to CHALLENGE us like a good parent. God sends us out to love others, especially the ones that the world does not want to see. All Lives Matter. We are to help those that feel their lives don’t matter.
We are to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. We are the resource to ease suffering with God’s power. Jesus proclaims that in God’s Reign, economic injustice and social stratification that leaves people suffering without relief will be overturned. Good News means all people will know peace and wholeness – not at the expense of others, but in community that provides blessing and good news for everyone.
Even Ezra, at the time of Nehemiah, brings this forgiving, loving, caring news to the Hebrews coming out of Persian Captivity by reading and interpreting the Torah for the first in a long time. He tells them to share the good news in the portions of the fat and sweet wine “to those for whom nothing is prepared. For this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Share the POWER, Share the Love!
Think of ourselves as crew on a vessel on the ocean, we have to work together in order to sail on the rough and calm seas together. The Wipers and Oilers, deck hands, the galley crewmen, the Chief Engineer and the Master are equally as important to keep the vessel sailing.
“THE DAY THE POWER OF LOVE OVERRULES THE LOVE OF POWER, THE WORLD WILL KNOW PEACE.” Mahatma Gandhi.