After his baptism, after his temptation and fasting in the desert, Jesus comes to his hometown synagogue where we suppose he must have grown up. He comes to the liturgy to make an announcement of the beginning of this mission.
Jesus reads a portion of Isaiah, which is a missionary text. It is active. Captives released! Sight restored! It’s a brief statement about healing the world, about changing the world. And Jesus preaches from this text. It’s a very short sermon. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. It is fulfilled by me.” [See the readings appointed]
It’s a bold thing to say. Shortest sermon ever recorded, I think. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. You’ve heard all this stuff that Isaiah wrote about how God is going to set things right and fix the world? You’ve grown up hearing it? Our parents and grandparents and generations of our ancestors have heard these prophecies and today they are fulfilled.
“They are fulfilled by the one standing before you.
“They are fulfilled today.”
Now, Jesus fulfills this word. St. Paul told the Corinthians and he told us that we are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And because we the church are the body of Christ in this world, this word is fulfilled by the church as well.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us,
because he has anointed us
to bring good news to the poor.
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
It is the mission of the church, filled with the Holy Spirit and anointed, each of us and all of us together, the worldwide church, the Anglican part of it, The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Fond du Lac, and this Trinity Parish. Now we are the body of Christ and individually members of it. It’s what we are called to do: to testify to God’s boundless grace that has already brought us out of death to life and freed us from sin so that we can be free and joyful.
Now, the only way we are able to do all this is to work together. No Christian is a Christian by herself. No Christian can be a Christian without the church. We can only fulfill the words of Christ as the church, each doing our part to live out the mission we have been given.
Each of us, and all of us together in this shared ministry of the church. No one ministry more or less important than the others. Every ministry an essential component to the whole.
Of course it doesn’t always work that way. Jesus tells us that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. There’s always more kingdom work to be done than people to do it, and we have a natural tendency to think that the things that I care about are more important than the things that I don’t care about. This can put strain on any congregation.
That’s a bit of what Paul’s getting at in his epistle today, with the squabbling body parts. It’s hilarious, by the way. I love it. Sullen ears and bitter feet. Eyes resenting hands. Paul makes an amusing mental image but he’s talking about a serious problem that can show up in all sorts of congregations.
He was encouraging the Corinthians to recognize that everybody’s work is important, and that everyone’s presence is important. It’s true for us here: the lectors and the altar guild and those who help with Loaves and Fishes and youth ministry and the clergy and the Vestry. We each have our part to play. And those of us who aren’t actively involved in anything right now, even your presence here on Sundays adds to the heart of our community’s life, which is the worship of the most high God.
We each have a part to play, we’re each necessary, and we’re each a blessing to the whole community. We create the congregation that we wish to see, guided by the Holy Spirit.
And so later, during our annual parish meeting, we’ll remember this shared work, this shared sacrifice, this shared offering, this shared ministry, this shared mission which is Christ’s, and which, therefore, is ours.
Above all, let us remember with gratitude that the heart of all our ministry is this: when Jesus stood up and proclaimed that the words of Isaiah have been fulfilled in him, they are fulfilled by his saving work for us
We were the poor who have heard good news.
We were the captives who have been released.
We were the the blind who have been given new sight.
We were the oppressed who have been freed.
For we are sinners redeemed by Christ and saved by his love. Our ministry is in the end not our own, but an echo of that morning when Jesus said “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” We simply carry on what he has accomplished, to the best of our ability, and in deepest thanksgiving.