Old Testament: Nehemiah (8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10)
All the people 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. Accordingly, 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. He 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. And 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. Then 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. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And 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. Then 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.”
The Response: Psalm 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2 One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3 Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,
4 Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.
5 In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6 It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be
acceptable in your sight, *
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
The Epistle: Corinthians (12:12-31a)
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. For 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. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If 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. And 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. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The 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.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and 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; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And 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. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.
The Gospel: Luke (4:14-21)
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.”
by the Rev. Mike Kreutzer
It has now been two years since we, as a nation, heard an inaugural address, and two more years until we will hear another one – except for the one that Fr. Jim just presented to us. The gospel according to Luke is unique in that it portrays Jesus as giving an inaugural address: one that sums up his entire self-understanding and his entire plan for his life’s work.
“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.” Those words, which Jesus read from the third part of the book of Isaiah, describe exactly what Jesus’ entire public ministry will be about: the work to which he will dedicate the rest of his life. As such, they set the agenda for what our entire lives and ministries must be about, too.
Jesus began with a reference to his being anointed by the Holy Spirit for what he had been sent to do. But so have we. In the rite of Baptism, the bishop or priest anoints our forehead and declares to us (The Book of Common Prayer, page 308), “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own for ever.” Jesus’ work is now our work as well. It is a work of proclaiming by word and example the Good News that the reign of God has come into the world and of making the coming of that reign a reality by working to transform the world to be more what God intends it to be. It is a work of going out and touching and changing lives.
That’s an appealing idea, a nice theory. But it is one that we can place up here in the air somewhere and simply walk away, carefully keeping it at a safe distance. We can try to relegate it either to the distant past or to some indefinite future. We can try to fool ourselves into thinking that Jesus did it all for us long ago, or to deceive ourselves into imagining that it is something that we might actually do someday – someday, just not now.
We human beings really don’t seem to change very much from age to age. Jesus’ original audience at that synagogue in Nazareth might have tried to do the same sort of thing. But Jesus quickly put an end to it.
Here’s a bible trivia question for you. In the gospel according to Luke, except for that brief quotation from the book of Isaiah, what is the first word that Jesus utters in his entire public ministry? You heard the answer in the gospel reading. It is the word “today”: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Not 2000 years ago. Not in some fictitious future. But today. And “today” is the most challenging and frightening and demanding time of all.
For over 80 years – for almost 30,000 “todays” – the people of St. Mark’s Church have been at work, trying to live out Jesus’ commission, trying to live out our baptismal promises. Inevitably, some of those daily attempts have been a lot more successful than others. And now it is our turn.
As we gather for our Annual Parish Meeting, we review what we have done and what we have accomplished in our ministry over the past year. And we look forward to the challenges and opportunities that wait for us over the coming year. But most of all, we rededicate ourselves to living in that most challenging and frightening and demanding time of all: today. We ask God blessings in giving us each “today” our daily bread; so that, in faithfulness to our call and to our anointing with the Holy Spirit, we might live into Jesus’ vision and live out the gospel each and every today.