Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 Luke 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21
It became more and more clear to me as I was reading over and thinking about the passage from the Book of Nehemiah that we have heard that what was recorded in this reading is directly related to what we do when we gather together for the celebration of the Eucharist. Consider this: the people had assembled together. Jerusalem had been restored following its destruction and the exile of its leaders. First they listened to the Word of God as Ezra read from the “Law” the term used to describe the “Torah,” the first five books of the Bible as we know it. They are told to rejoice and then are urged to eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks.
So it is that we do week after week. We hear the Word of God, the Scriptures. Then we feed upon the richest of foods, the sweetest of drinks in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ that he gave to us in memory of himself.
As we do this today, we also hear of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus as it is presented to us by the Gospel-writer, the Evangelist, Saint Luke. God with us, in the person of Jesus Christ, announces how his ministry will seek to restore our relationship with God as it was destroyed by sin and mankind was exiled from God. He uses the words of Isaiah to describe his mission.
He is to bring glad tings to the poor. This does not mean those who are necessarily poor in material goods, but those who are impoverished as human beings through fear, anxiety and distress. That poverty is overcome by the calming assurance Christ demonstrates of God’s love for all mankind. Jesus proclaims liberty to captives, to those enslaved by envy, jealousy, prejudice or indifference.Jesus announces by his life that the real value of every persons is found in God’s unlimited love and mercy.
Jesus declares the recovery of sight to the blind, to those whose sight has been distorted or blocked by selfishness and self imposed limitation to or disbelief of the value and worth of themselves or others. It is the conviction that the limitless love of God is found in Jesus Christ that opens our vision to all the possibilities before us.
Finally, in letting the oppressed go free whatever burdens, whatever restrictions there might be in life are lifted by an awareness of being loved and cared for by God as is revealed in the words and actions of Jesus Christ.
This is the ministry of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul also reminds us today that this is our ministry as well. It is a ministry shared with one another, with those with whom we gather sharing our common faith, our common commitment. Doing so makes us one as the Body of Christ in our world of today.
We join with one another now in worship, hearing our God in Word and being nourished by our God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is in this manner that we are strengthened and encourage in proclaiming a year, a time, a moment that is truly acceptable to our good and gracious God.