Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Christ's Inaugural Address -- a sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany

Preached by the Rev. Chester Hines at Christ Church Cathedral at 8 am on Sunday, January 24, 2016

In scripture, Jesus starts his ministry this morning. He just won the election, in this case the selection by God as His beloved Son. He is filled with joy and the power of the Holy Spirit. If he did not know previously, He knows now He has been anointed by God to do something special. He understands He is to go out into the communities and tell the people who He is. He knows He will need to lead the people, encourage the people, empower the people. He knows His message is the message necessary for the salvation of the people.

History shows us he was willing to work hard to spread his message. He lays down the foundation of what he intends to accomplish. He begins immediately during His inaugural address to those gathered in the synagogue to paint the picture of what his platform will be; The Spirit of the Lord is upon Him because he has been anointed by God to go and do this work.

God anointed Christ just as Christ anoints each of us each Sunday through the blessing of God we receive from our priest or bishop. It is this blessing that anoints us continuously to go and do the physical work of Christ and be the spiritual influence of Christ here on earth.

Christ was created and set apart for a specific purpose. Know in your mind and heart this morning that the purpose for which Christ was called is the purpose for which each of us is called. To proclaim good news to the poor; not just the poor financially and economically but also the poor in spirit, the poor in mind and body, the poor who are shut out of the mainstream of the communities in which they live; the poor who are seen and not heard; the poor who live among us and their voices seem like a cry in wilderness unheard and unanswered. The poor who suffer from lack of resources to afford housing, food, clothing, healthcare, all of the necessities of life. The poor who live in danger of violence from others in the community, from the police, from the criminal justice system and this list goes on and on.

Even the financially wealthy are poor in spirit concerned about whether friends and family will ask for money or loans; they wonder if they get sued, they wonder if they will have enough money to last, they wonder if this person is my friend or a friend to my wealth. And lastly, many are poor because of the torment that they have all that money can buy but lack happiness and emotional comfort. Christ has come even to bring good news to all of us who suffer from some type of poverty.

Christ was sent to proclaim release to the captives. Who among us are captive this morning? Clearly we are not living in the many prisons, jails and other institutions of incarceration because we are here at Christ Church Cathedral. But how many of our minds and hearts are incarcerated by the vicissitudes of life, challenges in family, loss of employment, concern over lack of health care, concern over world issues, the middle east conflict, the worldwide economy, the terrorism occurring all over the world and in our churches, in our schools, on our college campuses. How many have been in captivity this week as the stock market bounced up and down loosing over five hundred points in one day, watching helplessly as the value of the portfolio dwindled.

Belief and faith in a God in heaven who sent His son for us to emulate can release all of us from the punitive incarceration put upon us by environmental and other life hindrances.

He has sent me to recover the sight of the blind. Jesus is not just talking about those who cannot see physically. He demonstrated he could bring sight back to the blind when he restored the sight of blind Bartimaeus. Jesus here is talking about another type of restoration; He is talking about recovering our sight from spiritual blindness to a spiritual re-awakening and seeing. He is calling you and me to turn away from the darkness of the world to the light of the world, from the power of Satan, to the power of God; to move from the trials and tribulations that blind us and keep up from having a full relationship with Christ. A relationship that gives us unlimited sight. To receive remission of our sins and to be sanctified by the grace given to us by Christ and to be faithful to our call to live a life filled with Christ. Christ is telling us to look and see that which is beyond the things that are visually present to us to the things that are spiritually present to us.

He has sent me to let the oppressed go free. Where is our oppression this morning? Is it in the addiction from drugs, abuse of medications, tobacco, alcohol; is it in the fast food restaurants, is it in the rejection from a job loss or a relationship broken, is it in chronic worries, is it in traumatic conflict, is it in the neglect we do regarding the things that are important to us which are pushed aside because we believe we do not have the time? Is it the oppression that has our children carrying guns and killing each other? Is it the oppression that has our children experimenting with all types of chemicals in an attempt to get to the next high? Is it the institutionalized power that has been historically formed and perpetuated over time; the oppression that allows certain groups of people to assume a dominant position over other groups; the oppression built into institutions like governments and educational systems; governments that illicitly charge residents in order to raise money to continue an oppressive government; educational systems that consistently look for excuses for our children not receiving an education.

Oppression is all around us and takes many forms, comes in many shapes and acts in strange and confusing ways. Oppression can enslave us and lead us into chaos and confusion which seems to have no end.

Christ continues with His inaugural address when He informs those gathered that He has come to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. How do we know when we have the Lord’s favor? Those who are favored by God know that God is with them and that nothing can tear them apart from His good purpose. They rest in a quiet confidence that their sins are forgiven and that they are within the plan of God. God is love and when we give and receive love, we have the Lord’s favor; God requires justice and when we have a concern for justice, peace, and a genuine respect for all people, we have the Lord’s favor; God’s holiness is the natural expression of His righteousness. God is infinitely pure and He is opposed to all sin, and that opposition to sin is constantly demonstrated in His love for our sinful world. Our righteousness is expressed every time we make the decision to live a life without sin. God has given us a covenant. This covenant is expressed in the first and second commandments. He is declaring that He will not tolerate unfaithfulness and competition with anything else. An idol can be in the form of anything that you might place in a higher priority over God. God requires that He is first in our life; when you put God first He knows your faithfulness.

Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. If you are a Christian, Christ’s inaugural address was written for you. You have been called to duty and are a part of the great administration; you have been prepared to take on the great challenges of righting the wrongs of the community; you are being sworn in, taking the oath of office to go and do and be the presence of Christ in the lives and places where Christ is absent; to go and do and be Christ in the presence of great challenge and unbelievable odds. We are called to be in the places of pain and discomfort; to be the salve of healing to those who suffer from the inequities of life. You have heard the words, we know the tasks, we are the children of a God who will never change His mind in regard to us or His calling to us; He will never write us off, never leave us or forsake us. We are a part of God's family and He requires us to do His work. Let us go forth with the enthusiastic call and doing a feverish work of peace, love and justice for all of God’s people. Amen.

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