Fulfilled and Fulfilling

By Sharron R. Blezard, December 7, 2016

Third Sunday of Advent, Narrative Lectionary, Year Three

December 11, 2016

Lessons: Isaiah 61:1-11; Luke 4:16-21

Theme: God’s faithful and generous folk are called to follow Jesus, in whom scripture has been fulfilled, and to be about the work in this time and in this place of fulfilling of his reign. We are commissioned as stewards of this amazing promise of hope, grace, and love.

Key Scripture:  The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn . . . – Isaiah 61:1-2

Preaching/Teaching Reflection

It’s Advent and the narrative lectionary reading this week, along with the accompanying passage from Luke’s gospel, abound with hope found in the fulfillment of prophecy. For those to whom Jesus is reading, they are actually hearing the scripture being fulfilled, witnessing it before their own eyes. What an experience that paul-vanderwerf-ccmust have been! I wonder if those present in the synagogue had awareness about what they were witnessing, or later did they look back and say “I was there. I heard Jesus announce his anointing to bring the good news.”?

Think about it. Today when we see a superstar or witness history in the making we treasure those moments, savor them, share them, and recount them. I still remember seeing Mark McGwire hit a home run for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 on his way to overtake Roger Maris’ single season home run record. It was exciting fulfilling even though as a marginal baseball fan I had no real clue what I was seeing. But that brief moment in time in a pro sports stadium is nothing compared to what it must have been like to witness Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah and to hear that prophecy was being fulfilled right then and there. No need for fireworks!

Just as the prophet announced his purpose to bind up the brokenhearted and set the captive people free, Jesus in reading this passage was announcing his purpose, the people to whom he had come, and his intent to make right this world. This is really good news! God was up to something with the restoration of the people from captivity, God was up to something through the incarnation of Jesus to set all humankind free, and God is still up to something by anointing us to continue to proclaim this good news today.

We, as God’s beloved people today, are part of this epic narrative of redemption and restoration. We have been anointed with the Holy Spirit, set apart, named and claimed in baptism, and equipped to proclaim good news to a hurting world. Because we have encountered the living God in water, Word, wine, and bread we can beatrice-murch-ccindeed proclaim this life-giving, life-saving news. We can tell the world that there is hope for the hopeless, liberty for those who are in bondage, grace for the debt-laden, joy for those who mourn and sorrow. In short, there is a place at God’s table for all people. There is room enough for everyone.

In this season where we are bombarded by messages to spend, to buy, to get, and to give all manner of stuff and nonsense, we know that Jesus has the words of eternal life. We have a countercultural message of real substance that has been fulfilled in God made flesh, and that continues to be fulfilled through our hands doing God’s work in this world.

Dear friends, we have the gift that keeps on giving. We have something of great value that trumps anything that plastic can buy in the marketplace. We have reason to celebrate and praise God. We know Jesus; we have seen the prophecy fulfilled wherever two or more are gathered in his name. We know the power of grace to set the captive free, and we know love beyond measure. There is enough for all people. In this season of Advent, prepare the way. Tell everyone what God has done and is doing. Give the gift that you have been given. Pass it on. There is enough and then some.

In Worship

This is a good Sunday to encourage praise and thanksgiving in worship. Consider singing “Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness” by weaving it throughout your sermon. Remind people that in this season of pressure for the perfect Christmas, we already have the perfect Christ. It is Christ for whom we wait, and Christ whom we proclaim and praise.

With Youth

A Forest of the Faithful

Consider the last part of Isaiah 61:8, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.” How might we as faithful followers of Jesus be like “oaks of righteousness”? Can we become ever more rooted in Christ, learning and growing and becoming the kind of disciples who indeed point the way to Christ? When we flourish, how is God glorified? How can we help others become deeply rooted in Christ so that they may flourish? What are we willing to do to stand for justice, bind up the brokenhearted, and set the captive free?

With Children

A Garden of Praise

Use as your focus verse, Isaiah 61:11 (For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.). Talk with the children about how nature cannot help itself: It is designed to sprout, grow, and flourish under the warmth of the sun and fed by streams of water. As children of God, we too, are designed to sprout, grow, and flourish in the light of God’s love and grace and through the living waters of baptism. We are made to praise and give thanks to God. When we do, others see and want to know why we are so happy. We can tell them about Jesus. Finish be singing “Hallelu Hallelu” with the children and saying a simple prayer that God will help them grow strong and healthy in righteousness and praise.

Weekly Stewardship Bulletin Insert

We are stewards of God’s amazing grace, love, and mercy. This week’s lesson from Isaiah 61 reminds us that Jesus fulfills the prophecy and we, too, are anointed “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, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 18b – 19a). Our very lives are a hymn of praise to God. Consider this week how the way you live is pointing others to Jesus. Give your very best so that others may see God glorified in you.

Stewardship at Home

Read this week’s lesson (Isaiah 61:1-11) and talk about ways that the Spirit is moving you to serve others. Choose one ministry or organization that works with the poor, with those in prison, those enslaved through human trafficking, or those who grieve and either volunteer or give to support their work. Learn about the ministry or organization’s work and why it is vital to proclaiming “the year of the Lord’s favor.” Finally, pray every day for those who are served by the ministry you choose, and ask God to help you find even more ways to serve others.

Photos: Paul VanDerWerf and Beatrice Murch. Thanks!

Note: Reprint rights granted to congregations and other church organizations for local, nonprofit use. Just include this note: “Copyright (c) 2016, Rev. Sharron Blezard. Used by Permission.” Other uses, please inquire: thewritelife@hotmail.com.

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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