Inaugural Sermon

Sunday, January 17, 2021
Pastor Mark Aune

Luke 4:14-30

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

On Wednesday, January 20th, we as a nation will inaugurate the 46th president of the United States along with a new vice-president.

This hallmark of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power, comes on the heels of a shameful mob attack, fueled by the lie of a fraudulent election, and carried out by what many are calling domestic terrorists.

Like many of you, I was deeply saddened by the events of January 6, which in our church calendar is the feast of the epiphany, when Jesus, the light of the world is revealed to the magi and to the all the nations of the world. I found it ironic that the light of our nation’s democracy was threatened on that day.

Hearing the mob chant hang Mike Pence was chilling.

Seeing how all our elected representatives and senators, aids and law enforcement were put in such danger was both frightening and almost beyond belief.

On Wednesday, January 20th, president elect Joe Biden will give his inaugural speech. He will speak to our nation and he will remind us of who we are as a country, the ideals we hold sacred and true, and he will lay out a path forward.

Not everyone will agree with what he says but for all the good people in this country who condemn violence and injustice of any and all kinds, we will do our best to move forward, holding onto that which is right and true and good.

We witnessed firsthand last week, that our democratic institutions, represented by the capitol building itself, are strong, built on a firm foundation, and still standing.

We learned, once again, that words matter. What our leaders say matters. For good or ill. And it is not just our leaders, but it is you and me as well.

Our reading for today is an inaugural. It is an inaugural sermon, given by the newly baptized Jesus of Nazareth, in his hometown.

His words matter. They mattered in that synagogue where he worshipped as a boy and now returned to as an adult.

His words matter today as you and I, Jesus followers of all shapes and sizes, listen again to what he says.

Notice how Luke describes the scene.

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee. This is a different Jesus than the 12-year boy who frightened his parents by staying behind in Jerusalem after the Passover Festival.

He has been baptized. He was tempted by the devil for 40 days in the wilderness. Now he is home. Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Inspired by that Spirit, the reading he chooses for his inaugural sermon is Isaiah 61. It is a powerful word of hope, transformation, freedom.

“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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he sits down and says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

It is a declaration to the hometown crowd of who he is and what his mission will be.

It is an inaugural address, and the words matter because now the words are in the flesh in the person of Jesus.

He sets the direction and focus of his ministry and in effect sets the direction and focus of the church’s ministry.

We who not only confess that Jesus of Nazareth is the anointed one but that in him and through him, this scripture is fulfilled today. In our lives. In our church community.

Today, you are anointed.

Today you are inspired by the Spirit.

  • to bring good news to the poor.
  • to proclaim the release of the captives.
  • and recovery of sight to the blind, 
  • to let the oppressed go free,
  • to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

I am wondering how this mission has been fulfilled in each of your lives.

  • What good news has been proclaimed into your poverty?
  • What captivity, what darkness, what sin have you been released from in your life?
  • How has your blindness been lifted and what do you see with your new eyes?
  • From what oppression have you been set free from or who have you stopped oppressing yourself?
  • And how do you, in your daily life, by the choices you make and the words you speak, proclaim the Lord’s favor?

If this mission, this vision laid out by Jesus in that small synagogue in Nazareth is going to be lived out, in the flesh of the church, then it first needs to be lived out in our own flesh.

Today and everyday this Word needs to be fulfilled in the choices we make and the way we serve and love our neighbor.

And sometimes, very often in fact when this Word is fulfilled in our hearing, conflict arises.

Before this Word started to sink into the hearts of those who heard it the first time in Nazareth, they say, what a nice young man. Isn’t it wonderful to have him home with us?

Is not this Joseph’s son. They hear it but they are not listening.

And when he says to them, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. And then he speaks about the time of Elijah, when during a severe famine was sent to no one except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon, an outsider. And again, in the time of the prophet Elisha, the only leper cleansed was an outsider, Naaman the Syrian.”

The hometown crowd turns on Jesus.  When they hear this, everyone in the synagogue is filled with rage. It is a mob. Angry at this living Word that the good news he proclaimed was not only for them but for people who were outside the promise. This is why they are enraged. They want to hurl him off the cliff.  But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

They did not like the inaugural sermon after all.

It is filled with compassion. It inspires hope.

And even though it creates conflict, this Word, fulfilled in our hearing and in our lives every day, has the power to pass through the mob. It can not be stopped. It is Spirit driven.

It gives us power to be the church Jesus calls us to be.

It gives us power to be the people Jesus calls us to be.

  • to bring good news to the poor.
  • to proclaim the release of the captives.
  • and recovery of sight to the blind, 
  • to let the oppressed go free,
  • to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Let this be the church’s inaugural sermon today and every day. So that regardless of the mob or those who want to put restrictions on God’s grace and power, the carpenter from Nazareth will lead us through and all will know the Lord’s favor. For that mission and the hope it brings we say thanks be to God. Amen


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