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Jesus, the fulfillment of all Scripture.

Wow. If ever there were a day in the lectionary well suited for a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity today is it. Before I even put my Bible down reading today’s passages, snippets of lectures, and discussions started swirling in my head. The entire army of very online pontifications from Twitter and Facebook that seem to only spring up on MLK day and when tragedy arrives in our country came immediately to my mind. The great crowd of the peers I have and continue to spend much time around seemed to pressure me with invisible force to take it there. And I’m preaching in the “despised” Williamson County and the City of Franklin at that. Lord have mercy!

Thankfully for you and for me, God has not taken me to those places. I experienced far too much law in my past to ever neglect the soothing balm of the gospel. That is not to say that a sermon on today’s obvious themes wouldn’t be true. Time and time again in the Old Testament and again in the New, God shows his special care for the oppressed and poor. They are a foundation of the ethics of the Law given to and taught by Moses. Isaiah and the prophets condemn Israel when they neglect this special call and act like their worldly neighbors. The Blessed Virgin, more intimate with God than likely any human who has or will ever live, swelled in song rejoicing of the God that “hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek” and “hath filled the hungry with good things: and” sent “the rich … empty away.”

God cares about the poor and the oppressed. He judges his people when they neglect the least in his upsidedown kingdom. In our baptism, we share one Body with our Baptist neighbor (even if he doesn’t believe we’re baptized), the Roman Catholic sneaking across the border (even if she’s breaking the law), and the man on death row who in the pit of deepest despair met the God of Life (even if he’s guilty of the deepest sins imaginable). These truths are uncomfortable. These truths sure as heck complicate things. To live as we are called by our God requires us to step outside of the simple black & white world of the contemporary political landscape.

There is a reason the Bible is full of prophets calling God’s people to remember the oddness of His kingdom and our complex and uncomfortable duties within it. The Christian life is hard and complex, and the Devil sure does his best to make it real confusing sometimes. Because of this, we should listen to the voices in our own day who are shining a light into clouds of confusion and are calling us to acknowledge the Body of Christ in our midst today.

But, again, I’m not preaching that sermon today.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Let me read that again

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

This is what I want to preach on this morning.

Sometimes I think it’s easy for us to get caught up in the morals of the Christian faith and lose sight of the reality of what happened in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Just like this passage, we jump immediately to the “doing” of Christianity. Preaching, healing, helping, freeing. Again, these are all good things.

Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

I strongly encourage everyone to be about the business of doing Christianity. Fruits of the Sprit, sanctification, acts of mercy and charity, etc., etc. All good things. But,

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Y’all, God the Son, eternally God, eternally beloved of the Father. God, lacking nothing, became human for our sake.

Here, standing behind the Isaiah scroll in a mediocre synagogue, in a backwoods unimportant town, and in a conquered region of little importance to the empire, God in human flesh, quoting human words, declared that it was all true. Every word of the Law, the prophesies of Isaiah, Daniel, and Jeremiah, they were real, and they were happening.

The great Exodus of Moses was being reduced to a mere parlor trick. God was about to part the waters of sin, to make the final sacrifice, to free all of humanity from the bonds of sin and death. Satan would be trampled under his feet. Right there in front of unimportant people whose names are lost to time, God in the flesh declared Satan defeated. God declared an end to death. God opened the gates of his kingdom, and you didn’t even need a golden ticket to get inside.

I get chills thinking about it.

It seems far away now, but just a few weeks ago we were singing songs of praise and joy at our Lord’s incarnation.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,/Christ, the everlasting lord/Late in time behold him come,/Offspring of a Virgin’s womb/Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,/Hail, the incarnate deity/Pleased as Man with men to dwell,/Jesus, our Emmanuel.

With the culture around us, we were often mindlessly proclaiming deep and cosmos-changing truths. God became human for our sake. Eternally, God has taken on our material bodies to save us.

But, like the rest of the world, we’ve moved on. We’ve taken down our trees. The lights have come down, or — if you are like me until just a few days ago — your lights might still be up, but you’re not turning them on anymore.

Sometimes I think we treat Epiphany as a break. It’s that cold and dark wintery time before we get serious again in Lent. After the craziness of the dual secular and Christian Christmas seasons, we’re exhausted and ready to hibernate a little bit. Today’s Gospel lesson, however, calls us out of this pattern.

Scripture has been fulfilled.

Jesus is more than a great teacher. The Good News is not primarily an enlightened ethic or a spiritual health scheme. In Jesus, God’s desire for humanity has been fulfilled. When that stone rolled away that first Easter day the entire universe was changed.

We aren’t waiting for a king. We’ve got one. We aren’t looking for a kingdom. We’re living in the one he’s established.

When the world sells us death, we proclaim our rebirth in Christ’s living water.

Jesus sits already resurrected, already enthroned. Heaven stands at the brink ready to invade our earth and establish God’s forever throne here among us. We stand at the foundation of the New Creation. Where the world sees darkness, we see the first light of the new dawn that is covering the earth.

Epiphany is a time of revelation. We recount the revealing of the reality of what Messiah actually meant. When people opened their eyes and saw the universe-changing reality of Jesus, they did things only a person rocked to their core would even contemplate.

As [Jesus] walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers […] casting a net into the sea […] And [Jesus] said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion. […] Jesus […] said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” And [the former demoniac] went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.

Satan and the agents of his reign want to confuse and complexify. They sow doubt. They move us to fear. Let us not be deceived!

In Holy Scripture, in the lives of the Saints, in the community of his Body formed around this table we experience the epiphany of the universe as it actually is. Jesus truly reigns. Baptism washes us and unites us forever to each other and to him as one Body of many parts. Satan is defeated. The captives have been set free. We can live without fear. We are free to love each other and to care for those that make others uncomfortable. We rest secure in the once offered sacrifice of love upon the cross.

Psalm 113

“This” and all “scripture has been fulfilled” in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Receive Christ, join his Body, and then turn boldly to the world he so deeply loves, safe and secure in the reality of his eternal victory.

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

In the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.