Texts: Nehemiah 8:1-10; Luke 4:14-21
If there is a place in sermon writing with which I struggle, it is the opening paragraph. Usually, if I can get my opening then the rest of the sermon will come clearly into focus. Often, when I comment to someone that I am stuck with my beginning, they will suggest that I go ahead and write the middle or the end and come back to the beginning. Rarely, if ever, has that worked for me. It seems, at least for me, that there is a progression or sequence to writing. Over time I have learned to appreciate this beginning struggle. Yes, it sometimes causes me panic, especially when it’s 6:00 p.m. on Saturday evening and I have written my opening paragraph at least ten times and I’m still looking at a blank computer screen. But in the end, if I can wrestle with the beginning I can usually see my way clear to what it is that I want to say. I thought about my sermon writing experience as I read Luke 4 and struggled with how to preach on this very familiar text.
The words of Luke 4 are familiar to our church. Much like Micah 6:8 they have guided us in our understanding of what it means to live out our faith. They are the only words of scripture that we have inscribed on a plaque hanging in our church. Do you know where? Underneath Bill Finlator’s picture in our fellowship hall. I don’t know if Luke 4:18-19 was Bill’s favorite scripture, but it sure shaped his ministry—a ministry that brought good news to the poor, that proclaimed release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom to those oppressed. Yes, Bill resisted what so many of us do when we read these words. We read them and think that they are only about Jesus—about his anointing and ministry. But the truth is that these words are for each of us who claim to be people of faith; who have been baptized, however that looks in our various traditions. We are the anointed ones—the very people whom God’s Spirit rests upon—the ones who are to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, restore sight to the blind, and set the oppressed free. But I’m getting ahead of myself.