Prayer of the Day
Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures to be written for the nourishment of your people. Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that, comforted by your promises, we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1All the people [of Israel] gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. 2Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
1The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
4yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lordare sure, making wise the simple;
8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
9the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lordare true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
12But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.
13Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31aBut strive for the greater gifts.
14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18“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,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
When we think about scripture passages that describe Jesus’ identity, his vision for his ministry here on earth, we have some real gems to choose from. He ate with tax collectors, cast out demons, washed his disciples’ feet, taught with parables like The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son. But today, on his return to his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus gives his inauguration speech.
Inaugural addresses are important. Presidents of this country use them to announce their priorities for the next four years. It’s more than priorities, it is a vision for what this country can and should be. Second-inaugurals have a storied history. The most famous is probably President Lincoln’s. He used his second inaugural address to do something no president had ever done before–speak in critical terms of the nation–in order to name the evil of slavery, the toll it had exacted in human flesh and warfare, and the need to stay the course and resolve both the war and its cause.
Jesus was first baptized in the Jordan River and then whisked away to the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. After the temptations he returned to Galilee, to Nazareth, his hometown. All along, including our story today, the Holy Spirit has been the driver. Jesus was a devout Jew and so he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. The story finally slows down here. Jesus arose to read. The book of Isaiah was given to him. Jesus opened the scroll and read. Then he gave his inaugural address. He laid out for the people in the synagogue his platform for ministry.
There is nothing surprising. Parts of the sermon echo the song his mother Mary sang when Gabriel told her who she would give birth to Jesus. The mighty one “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”
After Jesus is finished reading from Isaiah, he says: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The fulfillment of what? “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.”
Jesus announces the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision. It is a radical and powerful word. It is a message of spiritual nurture. It is a message of healing for everyone who is broken by sin or death. Salvation and healing are for all people to be sure. But there is more. It is also message of radical liberation. These are words of justice, or care for the real, physical, and social needs of the world.
One of the most radical signs of that liberation is Jesus’ proclamation of “the year of the Lord’s favor.” Behind this phrase is the Old Testament concept of the year of jubilee. It is described in the book of Leviticus. The jubilee year, the year of the Lord’s favor, was one of the most radical laws of Scripture. Every 50th year was to be a jubilee year, a year in which all land was returned free to the original owners and slaves were released. Imagine it—a clean slate.
The law protected the poor from their two greatest threats: the loss of land and the loss of freedom. We don’t have to stretch our imaginations to see how radical a vision this is. Simply imagine if there had been a year of jubilee in 2008 or 2009 in this country. In ancient Israel, the jubilee year was a hope for many. It was a challenge to all private ownership rights. It was an affirmation that God owns the land and that God’s economy supersedes human economies.
Now Jesus proclaims that his ministry is like the year of jubilee. “He has sent 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.”
I must admit that with my own frustration with the pandemic, the toll the past few years has had on so many people’s mental health, and daily conversations about exhaustion, every fiber in my body wants to spiritualize this text. In other words, I want to talk about the things we are emotionally captive to, how we are metaphorically blind, even how we might be spiritually poor. But if you look at Jesus’ ministry, the way he follows up his inaugural address with other actions and words, that is not a faithful reading or hearing of his first big speech. It is purely about those who never get to take up space in the center of the page, those whose voices, stories, and beings are instead relegated to the margins.
And so, we might ask, is his message good news or not so good new for those of us gathered at Trinity in Nampa, Idaho in 2022? We are not the richest of the rich. Nor are we truly poor. Most of our stories fall in the center of the page.
Maybe we read Jesus’ speech faithfully by acknowledging that we are not Jesus’ primary audience, at least for this inaugural address. It does not mean that we cannot listen in. It does not mean that there is no good news for us from Jesus. It simply means that he is addressing here those who are truly poor, and held physically captive, and literally blind. He is speaking to those who are marginalized by society, both then and now.
We might feel powerless in hearing Jesus’ vision cast. We are not his central audience, but what can we do to help bring about the redistribution of wealth, to move people from the margins to the center of the page? It was an odd experience to have this text in front of me while reading about the Idaho legislatures’ proposals to impact our economy. I scoffed at them giving rebates connected to income taxes instead of doing the more complicated work of reforming property tax code or giving relief through sales tax. But did I call or email our legislators? I confess I did not. But maybe some of you did.
Our own budget, which we will vote on at next week’s annual meeting, is one of many ways we articulate our mission for ourselves and the broader community. If you want to see what an organization values, look at how they spend time and money. We thank those of you showing up to ask questions and think critically about how our budget and spending matches our vision and mission. That is a gift. And others of you gift us with financial record keeping and auditing. Thank you.
In addition to our budget and time, we have our space. We have taken some good steps to take away barriers for people who are differently abled. What about people of color or people whose first language is not English? What do we need to keep doing or change to make sure our language, our songs, our physical spaces follow our guiding principle that all are welcome? What barriers are there? What can we change so that those on the margins feel welcome in our spaces? Some of you are particular gifted, because of your life experiences or just how you came out of the womb, to ask and answer these kinds of questions.
There are others on the margins. Last spring our church council talked about the need to create safe spaces in Nampa for LGBTQ youth and young adults. I was given the blessing to be open for where we might feel the Spirit nudging. After planting many seeds last summer, in what felt like a fruitless endeavor, an invitation came for conversation this week. The same Holy Spirit there at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is with us still.
We gathered here may not be Jesus’ primary audience. But we can listen in. And we can follow him to the margins. The vision he paints is vast and can be overwhelming, which is why I love that it is paired with Paul’s image of the body. The body metaphor in today’s text from First Corinthians is nonhierarchical, which is crucial. Every appendage, no matter the size or function, is crucial. And there is great variety in body parts and gifts. Jesus’ vision requires that variety.
It is a lot, and the work will never be done until as we say, Christ will come again. In the mix of grief and tragedy and cynicism we live with hope. We have an ultimate hope in the triumph of God’s purposes and an everyday hope. In his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, Martin Luther lays this open. We pray, “Thy kingdom come.” What does this mean? God’s kingdom comes indeed without our praying for it, but we ask in this prayer that it may come also to us.”
What’s more? We pray that we might help the kingdom break into the world here and now. We are a people of faith who have heard Jesus’ inaugural address. We know that we that we are drenched in God’s goodness and mercy. We respond to Jesus’ love as a community of faith.
Prayers of Intercession (from Sundays and Seasons)
The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.
The Spirit of the Lord is poured out upon us in abundance; so we are bold to pray for the church, the world, and all that God has made.
A brief silence.You reveal yourself to us in the reading of scripture. Fulfill your word through the faithful witness of your church. Send us out to bring your liberating good news to all people. God of grace,hear our prayer.
All creation proclaims your handiwork. Teach us to love the intricate and beautiful bodies that you have created. Bless tiny insects, enormous whales, and every creature in between. Sustain species at risk of extinction. God of grace,hear our prayer.
You desire that there be no dissension among us. Where we are divided in our society, nation, or world, come quickly to reunite us into one body. Ease conflict, dispel violence, and bring an end to war. God of grace,hear our prayer.
Anoint with your Spirit all who seek your favor. Grant provision and justice for people living in poverty, people living with disability, those living with pain, or those living under oppression (especially). God of grace,hear our prayer.
Build up the body of Christ in this place. Bless the variety of ministries in this congregation (especially). Empower us to freely welcome and deeply value each person who enters into worship and ministry among us. God of grace,hear our prayer.
Here other intercessions may be offered.In thanksgiving we lift before you the saints for whom the promise of salvation has now been fulfilled. Tend to those who mourn (especially). Bring us together in your everlasting glory. God of grace,hear our prayer.
Since we have such great hope in your promises, O God, we lift these and all of our prayers to you in confidence and faith; through Jesus Christ our Savior.Amen.