Third Sunday After Epiphany
Sunday, January 27, 2013
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
It was a long week and a short night. I ran out of energy and literally out of time. I looked at the clock on the bottom of my computer screen and realized that I needed to go to bed.
The prospect of not having a sermon prepared for this morning did not prevent me from falling asleep almost immediately. But before that occurred I thought about old Wailuku Town again.
It seems Wailuku has become a haven for social service organizations. There are those who lament the changes. But state, federal and county agencies are primarily located in Wailuku and provide support in various ways for the social services that are provided by churches and other non-profit organizations in the community.
Some have said it is difficult for small businesses to survive. Others complain about the decline in real estate values.
A residential facility for teenage boys is located not far from where I live. Across the street and a block further south is a health center for the poor. Several streets up and a couple of blocks further south is a residential facility for men.
Nearby is a housing complex for the poor. Two blocks south and four blocks north are three hostels for visitors traveling on a tight budget. West of Wailuku is a correctional center as well as a homeless resource center.
There is a church that provides a free meal every Sunday to those in need. There are several other Christian churches as well as Buddhist churches in town.
Urban renewal is on the minds of many. Discussions about how to revitalize the downtown area continue.
I imagine if Jesus were to pay a visit to Wailuku, he would marvel at the commitment many have made to serve those in need. That message is clear in our reading from The Gospel According to Luke.
Robert Brearley is a Presbyterian pastor. He writes: “Luke wants us to know that it is the Holy Spirit who leads Jesus in saying no to false options in the temptation story and saying yes to a mission that is given to him by God. When Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue in Nazareth, he is declaring that ministry in the Spirit as the Messiah of God calls him to be an agent of mercy to the downtrodden in this world; he will be good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and new beginnings for all who have failed.” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 1, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2009, page 286)
Brearley contends that if the Spirit is in our lives, the Spirit will give us “something to do for God.” (Op. cit.) So the question of faith may be not “How are we doing?” but “What are we doing?”
Walter J. Burghardt reminds us that the time of the Holy Spirit is now and addresses that urgency to each of us when he writes: “Child of God, live this day as if it were your first day, as if it were your last day, as if it were your only day.” (What We Don’t Have Is Time,” Best Sermons, Vol. 3, Harper & Row, New York, 1990, page 57)
So if this were my first day or my last day or my only day to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, I would say that God’s grace and mercy is to the downtrodden of the world. I would say even further that God’s grace and mercy is to those of us who may not feel we are in need of God’s grace and mercy. We may live lives of comfort with work and family and good health. But the comfort we seek and may be able to achieve is transitory.
Jesus made clear he will be good news to the poor – to those who are crushed by poverty. And as crushing as poverty may be for those who have no access to food, water, shelter and health care, there are those among us who may be poor in other ways. We may be lacking in compassion. We may make poor decisions about the choices we make in our lives and in our living.
Jesus will be good news to the captives – to those who have been held and imprisoned because of who they are and what they believe. But he will also be good news to those among us who may be held captive by drugs or alcohol; by greed or pride; even by anger and despair.
Jesus will be good news to those who are blind and to those who are disabled – to those who are unable to see through no fault of their own. But he will also be good news to those among us who are blind to the pain and suffering of others; to those who cannot see that we are all brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of God.
That is good news, indeed.
So if today as my first day, my last day, my only day I would agree that “the Holy Spirit came and taught Jesus what was real: to say no to false options and temptations in this world and yes to God’s good purposes for all people; to say no to self-glory in all its forms and yes to helping the poor and the captured of all kinds; to say no to trying to get ... God to work (us) and yes to working for . . . God with urgency and compassion.” (Ibid., page 288)
Buzz and Alex Fankhanel were here this morning at 6:00 a.m. to help open the church and the parking lot and to help with the work of setting up for our time of worship. Buzz walked by my office and looked in as I was sitting at my computer and said: “Good morning. It looks like you didn’t finish your homework.”
“No,” I said. “I couldn’t stay awake. I went to bed.”
“I know there are days like that when you just stay awake,” he said smiling.
Jesus went forth in the power of the Spirit as an instrument of God’s grace and mercy. So it is that we go forth in the power of the Spirit to be instruments of God’s grace and mercy in the world. We go knowing that in order to do so it really does help to have a good night’s rest.