Epiphany 3 (January 24, 2016)

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Luke 4:14-21

Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it. (Luke 4:21b, CEB)

What do you do after forty days of fasting, after being challenged by the Devil himself? When you’ve chosen hunger over bread, declined kingdoms, balanced on the tips of temples?

You go home.

After the wilderness, the fasting, the temptations, Jesus went home to Nazareth. He went to his home synagogue to worship, and the people there still knew him from the old days. The assistant handed him the scroll, and Joseph’s son stood to read. Maybe the old folks gazed at him with pride, as they do in congregations everywhere when the kids they raised up in faith come home to visit. Maybe they whispered “Remember when’s to one another. Maybe they smiled as he flawlessly pronounced the hardest words, and maybe they had to adjust their hearing to discern the changed inflections of his speech, and the new layers of confidence in his manner.

He read to them from the prophet Isaiah; familiar words, beloved words. Promises to cling to, hopes for a future: good news for the poor (that’s us!). Release to prisoners (that’s us!). Sight to the blind (that’s us!). Liberation of the oppressed (that’s us, too!). The Lord’s favor will be ours. Thanks be to God!

But wait, there’s more! It’s not just a “someday” thing, Jesus told them. Isaiah wrote the words, but the Lord’s favor begins here. The Lord’s favor begins now. Even while the home folks heard the prophecy being read, Jesus said, the words were coming true! The worshipers who gathered that day were not merely rehearsing familiar texts, they were witnessing a long-awaited work of Yahweh. For generations they had prayed, hoped, expected, longed for the prophet’s words to become a reality. As Jesus, the hometown boy, read the scripture, the sound they heard was more than accents and alphabets, more than syllables and sentences.

The sound was shackles dropping to the ground. It was growling stomachs satisfied. It was the shock of light in darkened eyes. It was cheering crowds tasting their first freedom.

The sound was the people at worship.

The sound was the Spirit of God.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.