Audio 3 Epiphany Yr C Jan 27 2019
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Luke 4:14-21, Psalm 19
We begin the celebrations! Looking back, looking forward, celebrating 175 years of Trinity Church’s mission and ministry in Janesville. We are the inheritors of this amazing place. I am thankful for those who came before us and wanted to have this Episcopal Church presence in Janesville. Southeastern Wisconsin is a mighty Roman Catholic region, and those who planted this Episcopal Church must have valued the via media, the middle way of the Episcopal Church. Our heritage runs deep in the western territories, which was at one time the mission field. These people in front of me, James DeKoven, James Breck, and Jackson Kemper, represent those who brought the gospel to the frontier.
During this 175th year we will learn and be reminded of those who came before us. And, we will look forward with hope. The mission has not changed. We are to be God’s reconciling and healing presence in the world, in our community. We are to bring the light into all the dark places in which we find ourselves. We are to Love God, Love others, and Show It!
The ministry has taken on different faces. Trinity has a robust history of social justice in Janesville. In the Atwood parking lot stood a house, with Nearly New, a thrift store run by the people of Trinity. Trinity housed the beginnings of what is now ECHO (Everyone Cooperating to Help Others) in the lower level of Ortmayer Hall. And then, it was people at Trinity who envisioned the homeless men’s ministry that was housed in the lower level of Ortmayer Hall, which became GIFTS (God is Faithful Temporary Shelter) and found it’s own home on Washington. Lazarus House, a related ministry of the Diocese of Milwaukee, is housed in the former Bostwick House on the backside of our property, and is a ministry with men in recovery transitioning back into the community.
The question for us today is what is God calling us to now? The work God calls us to takes us outside our walls and calls us to use our buildings for the building up of the community in which we live. How does God call us outside of our walls to be the light in the world? I wonder what community activity/outreach Ortmayer Hall may be used for? How do we offer Ortmayer Hall for the good of the community? Church is not our buildings, church is us. We have been transformed by God’s love. We have been transformed by the reality of God with us, Jesus. We are followers of Jesus.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we hear this amazing description of what we look like. This awesome and mystical body of Christ. Where no one part is more important than another, where no one part is better or worse than another, where every part is necessary to the proper functioning of the body. We are a community belonging to Christ.
And Paul writes that we, if in the south that would be all y’all, a very useful turn of phrase meaning the collection, the community, the church, are the body, and each one of us is a part of the body of Christ, we become a Christ informed community. And we cannot do it all by ourselves. We are all in this awesome and mystical body of Christ together.
And then we have Luke. I think the most profound thing I hear in this reading is Jesus saying “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus claims this proclamation, Jesus claims to be the one 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 the year of the Lord's favor." And I think what is most profound about this is that this is Jesus’ inaugural sermon. It’s the first time Jesus stands us and proclaims the good news. And I think this sermon of Jesus is ours make sure keeps on happening.
You see, everything Jesus is and taught is not stuck in the past. It is not history. It is a living, breathing, body. And you and I are a part of it. We pick up the gift of the past, the gift of the people who sat in these pews over all these years. We pick up the faith they carried, the good news they proclaimed, and we make sure it keeps on happening. Proclaiming God’s love in Jesus never gets old, never gets stuck in the past. That’s what we must do. Bringing good news to the poor, the poor in spirit, the poor in resources, never gets old. Proclaiming release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, these are things that are urgent in our world today.
We live in a culture not at all different than the one in which Jesus first spoke. Then as now people were held hostage to the illusion of wealth, or happiness, or safety. So many of our neighbors remain captive to fear. Jesus first sermon reminds us that it is only in God’s love that we are free. And Paul’s picture of the body of Christ presents to us the reality that we are not in this life alone. Jesus makes us into a body in which our gifts are valued. And when we are not present, we are missed, the body just doesn’t work right.
And we acknowledge the church of the past does not look like the church of the present, and we who are here today do not look anything like the church of the future. We come here and we pray, heal us, put us back together again as your body Jesus, send us out into the world to do the work you call us to do. Let us rejoice in the ministry we are given, to love God, to love others, and to show it. We celebrate those who came before us, we are grateful for those who are around us, and we look forward with hope.
In the body of Christ, we give thanks for the saints that came before us and gave this beautiful building into our care. We give thanks for the saints that are here today, braving this snow and cold, that we continue to bear Jesus’ words of love, of hope, of healing into our work and our school and all the places we find ourselves. And we pray for the saints that will hear Jesus’ words of love, of hope, of healing after we are long gone. Amen.