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Mission Impossible

Date: 
January 24, 2016
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

THEME: Christ came to preach good news to the poor and help to the vulnerable – and he calls us to follow in his footsteps.

 

INTRODUCTION

  • An elderly couple was walking out of church one Sunday… The wife asked the husband, “Did you see that strange hat Mrs. O’Brien was wearing?”… “No, I didn’t,” he replied… “Bill Smith badly needs a haircut, doesn’t he?” commented the wife…. “Sorry, but I didn’t notice,” her husband replied…. “Well then you probably didn’t notice who was sitting right next to widow Jones.”… “You’re right, I didn’t notice.”… “You know, John,” his wife said impatiently, “sometimes I wonder if you get anything out of going to church!”  (Richard Fairchild – spirit.net.ca)
  • Luke tells us that Jesus went to “church” – the synagogue – regularly, to worship… it was his custom (Luke 4:16), and I’m guessing that he always got something out of it.
  • According to the Gospel of John, Jesus began his public ministry quietly at the wedding at Cana of Galilee where he turned 150 gallons of water into 150 gallons of fine wine… I preached about the first of Jesus’ signs or miracles last Sunday.
  • In Luke’s Gospel we find a different beginning to the public ministry of Jesus… In Luke Jesus begins his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth,  his home town, with a carefully chosen reading from scripture…
  • Cana – where the wedding took place – was a tiny village, almost impossible to find on the map…
  • Nazareth, by contrast, was one of the 200 towns and villages in Galilee, a densely populated region in the north of Palestine… Josephus, the historian, recorded that even the smallest villages in Galilee had 15,000 residents… Nazareth may have had a population of 20,000…
  • The synagogue was the real center of religious life in Palestine. There was only one temple, but the law said that wherever there were ten Jewish families, there must be a synagogue – so  in every town and village, it was in the synagogue that the people met to worship… the temple in Jerusalem was designed for sacrifice… the local synagogue was designed for teaching.  <Barclay>
  • This is where the ministry of Jesus begins according to Luke – in the synagogue in Nazareth.
  • After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went into the wilderness where he was tested by “the devil”… in reality, in the wilderness, Jesus was really trying to discern the very best way to lead

people back to God… “The devil” tempted him with three possible schemes, but Jesus rejected all three and said, “Get behind me, Satan.” The best way to lead people back to God, Jesus determined, was simply to embrace them with his love… to love them into a new relationship with God… (Luke 4:1-13)

  • Jesus came out of the wilderness filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and began to travel through-out Galilee teaching in the synagogues… people were praising Jesus for his deep insight into God and God’s ways, and the word began to spread that something powerful and profound was happening! Reports about Jesus spread rapidly through all the surrounding country.
  • And then Jesus came to the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown - the synagogue he had attended while growing up… all the people there knew him well, but he still put on his nametag J
  • It’s not as easy to go “home” as one might think… when Jesus spoke with authority, the people who remembered him playing in the mud puddles as a youngster said, “Isn’t this Joseph the carpenter’s son?”
  • When the time came for the readings in the worship service, Jesus stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him… He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: God’s Spirit is upon me; God has chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”  <Peterson>
  • He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was fixed on him… you could hear a pin drop...  Then he preached his sermon, the shortest sermon on record: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:21)
  • Up to this point, there had been rumors and rumblings about who he was. When he preached, it changed into fact. He went on record as the promised Messiah. <Wright>
  • There could be no misunderstanding. Jesus was claiming to be God’s Messiah… And we believe that he was!

 

THE READING

  • Jesus had a real purpose in mind when he chose the reading from the Prophet Isaiah… he wanted to paint a clear picture of who he was and what he would do…
    • He chose one of the familiar passages of scripture from the Old Testament that referred to the coming Messiah…
    • He selected this passage to help people understand how he saw himself fulfilling God’s call in his life…
    • Like a candidate hoping to be the party nominee for president, Jesus wanted to make it clear what he would do:  “Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to preach good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed.”  We might consider this to be Jesus’ inaugural address.
    • He makes it clear that he is on a mission from God… a mission that was to bring hope to those who are afflicted, regardless of their affliction… people would be his priority…

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

  • Long before there was CSI, and Law and Order, The Bachelor and American Idol, there was Mission Impossible – how many of you remember that television series?
    • I loved Mission Impossible… at the beginning of each show Mr. Phelps was given a challenging task to accomplish with his “M.I.” team – an international crime ring to destroy or a terrorist plot that had to be foiled…
    • No matter what the assignment was, it always seemed impossible, but of course this was television, and on television the good guys almost always win…  <Thompson>
  • Jesus read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me 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 seems like an impossible mission - this mission from God…
    • When he speaks of the poor, he’s not just speaking of being penniless… when he speaks of the blind, he’s not only speaking of those without vision… when he speaks of the captives, he’s not speaking only of those behind bars… there are many ways to be poor… there are many ways to be blind… there are many ways to be imprisoned…
    • His task seems overwhelming – impossible - but it’s not impossible because of the power he possesses… he is full of the Holy Spirit… full of the power of God…
  • It is the Spirit – the power of God – that makes the impossible, possible… with God all things are possible…
  • Jesus pours out the power of God, releases it into the world in which he dwells and into the lives of those he touches, and we see his mission being fulfilled – the blind do receive sight, and the poor do hear good news, and those who are bound by the power of evil are set free… <Thompson>
  • Jesus begins with the end – the goal – in mind… that’s the best way to begin any important undertaking… begin with the end in mind, and then figure out how you are going to do it… when you begin with the end in mind, the seemingly impossible becomes possible… you have to know where you are going before you can figure out how to get there…

 

GOD IS STILL SPEAKING

  • Jesus was clear what his mission was, and he was clear as to how he would accomplish it… people would be his priority, and he would love these people into life-changing encounters with God…
  • As a church, we need to be clear about what our mission is… we need to be clear about what our ministry is…
  • The ministry of Jesus Christ is our ministry… the mission of Jesus Christ is our mission – the ministry and mission of the church… we are called – chosen – to pick up where Jesus left off… we are called to love people into life-changing encounters with God…
  • As members of the United Church of Christ, we firmly believe that God is still speaking… we believe that God is still at work in the world today…
  • And, as followers of Christ and members of his church, we understand that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are Christ’s hands and feet, heart and mouth, eyes and ears at work in this world…
  • Christ has no other hands and feet than ours…

 

CONCLUSION

  • It comes down to this: Christ came to bring good news to the poor and to help the vulnerable – and he calls us to follow in his footsteps.
  • Jesus calls us to sing out the good news, to fill the bowls of the hungry, to minister to the sick, to proclaim our solidarity with the ones that society has left on the sidelines, and to listen for the people crying into the bleak darkness of their lives. <Wright>
  • He calls us to do all these things because the spirit of the Lord is upon us, too.
  • What are we doing at The Dennis Union Church to fulfill this scripture?

 

SERMON SEEDS

  • Daily Study Bible – Luke – William Barclay
  • Life Application Bible Commentary – Luke – published by Tyndale
  • Sermon preparation materials for January 24, 2010  from Sermonwriter.Com
  • Sermon preparation materials for January 24, 2010 from Desperatepreacher.Com
  • Stating The Purpose – a sermon by Randy Quinn (DPS.COM)
  • Mission Impossible! – a sermon by Rick Thompson (DPS.COM)
  • The Main Thing – a sermon by Bob Hostetler
  • His Mission, My Mission, Your Mission – a sermon by Todd Leupold
  • No Longer Silent – a sermon by James F. Wright

 

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