Fully-Filled Epiphany – 3C

Luke 4:14-21
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When 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, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “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.” And 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. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Some time ago now, I was in conversation with a a lady who expressed concern about her adult son. “It is so sad”, she reflected,”that my son hasn’t accepted Christ.”

“I hear your concern.”, I replied,”But isn’t it wonderful that Christ has accepted your son?”

This conversation once again highlighted, for me, just how ego-centric and individualistic our culture has become. Right to the point where salvation is seen no longer as a work of God’s amazing grace, but is something that we do and achieve by our decisions and actions.

Jesus comes to his home town of Nazareth. To socio-politically oppressed people, poor people. Dare I say, desperate people?  If salvation was something they could do, something they could decide to accept by an executive decision, don’t you think they would have done it as quickly as you can say Roman Empire?

The fact that they didn’t, is all because they couldn’t.
If you have ever been lost, oppressed, abused, depressed, hopeless, you will know the impotence of not being able to change anything by an executive decision of your choice. No plan, no strategy, no act of will can save you in those moments.

That is what makes this one-liner sermon of Jesus so powerful.

Jesus, in his home synagogue,  is given the scroll of Isaiah to read from.  He  is no doubt, expected to teach from the passage and expound in great rabbinic tradition, the meaning of the words he has read. The people are expectant. Luke tells us, “a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone”. The expectation in the synagogue is palpable.

What powerful words he has to expound from:
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.”

This text would be a Liberation Theologian’s dream. Words of exhortation to revolt and resistance spring easily to mind.
It is an Evangelical’s dream text. Words of of invitation to make a decision for Christ and cast off the shackles of sin flood this preacher’s imagination.
It is a text tailor made for a Faith Healer’s sermon. “Oooooh Jeeeesuhs, I know you are telling me right now that there is someone here this morning who is blind and who want’s to see! Come forward, my sister, my brother, Jeeeesuhs want’s to heal you!”
There probably isn’t a genre of preaching that could not mine this text to profound and dramatic effect.

But the home-boy Rabbi applies none of these techniques.
With every expectant eye rivetted upon him he sits down!
And then in a simple one liner says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

It is almost as if he has run out of steam. In my imagination I hear those words not shouted or ranted, but almost whispered, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Our parents in the church who set up the lectionary were very skillful to break Luke’s record at this point. Next week we will pick up the thread and see the reaction of the congregation to this one sentence sermon, but for now, we are left to allow those nine words to sink slowly into our contemplation.
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In a world where I have been told that is all depends on me, my actions, my strategies, my plans, my decisions; to be confronted with the fact that there is nothing to DO is a conundrum.

The word that is translated, “fulfilled” means exactly that, “filled to the full” Pleroo is defined as: to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram a net, level up a hollow, (hints of John the Baptizer’s valley filling sermon here). It is a word that describes complete accomplishment.
There is nothing for me to do here, and it drives my Western activist mind nuts!

This is why I am so grateful for the blessed times I have spent in dialogue and practice with my spiritual siblings from the religions of the East.  Hindu and Buddhist alike have a rich tradition of contemplation that invites the practitioner to simply “Be here now” in the phrase of Ram Dass.
A practice that does not rush to change what it has not yet fully understood, a practice that sees the perfection of the lotus flower growing in the pond of raw sewage.
It is a  practice that makes me understand Jesus far better and enables me to make more sense of that nine word sermon. As I become still, I know… that God is… Good News.
The good news is that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us,” that there is “good news for the poor,release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. There is good news that the oppressed are free, and this is the year of the Lord’s favour.

This reality already exists right here right now, if I will only stop trying to recreate and relocate all the world to a place where they all resemble my culture, my creed and my economy.
Living in Africa and having spent time in India, I have seen and every now and then realised=(made real):…

  • the perfection of the poor unfairly made poor,
  • the freedom of prisoners unjustly imprisoned,
  • the deep inner sight of the alleged blind whose vistas are bleak and dark,

and I have realized that the scripture has already been fulfilled.

This does not mean no action, but it does mean no cultural imperialism.
This does not mean no compassion, but it does mean no whimsical feelings without my being there with and alongside those who are before me (the COM in compassion means “with”)

It means realizing, recognizing, accepting, that the one who reads the scroll, knows what he is doing,and so will I, if I stay close to HIM.


12 responses to “Fully-Filled Epiphany – 3C”

  1. Peter avatar

    Thanks Dr John,
    It is hard as westerners not to become “human doings” isn’t it?
    Appreciate the visit and the insight.
    Blessings on you and your work

  2. John M avatar
    John M


    Thanks once again. I live and work in a parish where the poor, the oppressed and the prisoners are a daily flesh and blood reality. There is such pressure to “do something.” The challenge of ministry is in discovering that sense of fulfilment, what God has already done, and somehow bringing that into view.

  3. jekheli avatar

    Thanks Peter for your reading of Luke.
    Its given me a great insight for my sermon preparation. Being from India and now living in New Zealand, I have been blessed with a hugely varied context, and still dealing with the same text.
    The power of the Word!

  4. Peter avatar

    Hi Bonnie,
    Thank you so much for stopping by The Listening Hermit, and for your encouraging comments.
    Living in Africa, as I do, suffering is at the door but as you say, Haiti is such a challenge for COM-passion.
    Blessings as you prepare for Sunday

  5. Bonnie avatar

    I followed the link to your website from textweek. Thanks so very much for your rumminations and sensitive insights. With so much suffering in Haiti and around the world we could use more voices like yours crying out in and for the socio-political marginalized and disenfranchised. I hope to mirror your attitude in this week’s sermon.

    Peace, Bonnie

  6. Peter avatar

    Thanks Don. Your encouragement is most helpful. PW

  7. Peter avatar

    Dear Dianne,
    Many thanks for visiting The Listening Hermit and for your generous and encouraging comment. Blessings, Peter

  8. Don Scrooby avatar

    Thanks Peter. Certainly speaks in to that all pervading Christian imperialistic attitude which I find to be so disturbing. I think that a presence which is simply present without the need to shape and mould has within itself immense transforming power. Great post.

  9. Dianne avatar

    Dear Peter – I stumbled on your website through textweek last week. And now twice your insights have compelled me and caused me to think in a new way about how to preach the passage at hand. Thank you.

  10. Doreen avatar

    It is so magnificent! Thank-you Peter.

  11. gus avatar

    Thanks Peter… loving it.

    This week I am trying to relate the work and gifts of the Spirit – 1 Cor 12,13; to the Luke reading. Strangely related… fun, and full of promise.

    Look after my beach!

    God Bless

  12. irene avatar

    Wow… thanks for the reminder. Reading this morning something from Merton were he talks about the truth of the reality of being in the now… don’t have the quote infront of me…
    We always try and explain so much away…
    Bless you

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