Download or listen to the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, “Broken” (Luke 4:31-44)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When Jesus comes into this world, He comes into a broken world. He comes preaching that the Reign of God has come on the earth, that He is the bringer of that Reign—that He is, in fact, the way that God reigns on this earth. And he comes preaching that Reign in a broken creation. It’s not until we see the Light shining in the darkness that we realize just how dark it is. It’s not until we taste the Living Water that we realize just how parched our throats are. We can easily become acclimated to this darkness, this desert, this broken world. We can find it very comfortable. But when Jesus comes, when the dawn breaks, when the water starts to flow, it’s almost as if He’s fumigating the world; the demons start coming out of the cracks. All Jesus is doing is preaching the Reign of God, declaring that the words of Isaiah and all the prophets are fulfilled in Him; just preaching. But that’s all it takes for the demons to come out of hiding. When Jesus comes to fix this world, when He comes bringing the new creation, the symptoms and the consequences of sin come out of the cracks of this old creation: fever, weakness, sickness, death. And He has come to bring the same thing to you today.
But it all depends on where you’re standing; how you hear Jesus’ words and what He does depends on where you are, how you’re acclimated to this world. I was talking to a Marine the other day and he said that while he was in Afghanistan, there were men huddling under blankets in 60 degree weather, because of how hot it was during the day. You know the opposite: when it gets up to 40, you’re ready to take off your jacket and wear short sleeves, because of how cold it is now. See, it all depends on how you’re acclimated to the current weather, the current climate. So it is when you hear Jesus. When we hear that Jesus has come to fix a broken creation, when we see the beginnings of the new creation, we sinners are tempted in two opposite ways.
For most of us in the United States, we are very comfortable with the way things are. We are acclimated to the weather of this culture. When things change too much, when the temperature goes too far up or down, we start to worry, though we are a long way from suffering. What we think of as hardship would be welcomed by most of our brothers and sisters around the world. How many of us are really concerned about not having enough food or clothing, or a place to live, or how we’re going to pay our bills? If we do worry, it’s usually not for very long. And so we might be tempted to think that this creation is not really as broken as the Scripture say it is. Sure, sometimes things are bad, but it’s not that bad. Because if we really believed that this creation was broken, we would long for the words of the only One who can fix it. We would search for His words as we would for an oasis in the desert. We would seek Him as for shade from the sun, or a warm coat from the cold. We would receive His gifts for what they are, life itself. Because in this broken creation, everything but Jesus ultimately ends in death. His words and His Body and Blood would be to us life itself. If we really believed that this creation was broken.
But sometimes events around us conspire to shake our comfortable existence. Sometimes we know all too well that this creation, and everything in it, is broken. Our health goes bad, our relatives die, our jobs go away, our families break up. We face the consequences of what we’ve said or done. At those times, our temptation is not to think that this creation is not broken, but to think it’s too broken, even for God. “We live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright” (Collect for Epiphany 4). Where are the miracles? Where is the healing? Where are the words of authority over our circumstances? It all seems too little, too late. We get cynical, we close ourselves off, we take care of ourselves, make sure our souls get to heaven when we die. Because if we really believed that the creation was broken, and believed what Jesus says and does about it, we would long for the only One who can heal this broken creation, not by putting a band-aid on it, not by giving it some oxygen, not by resuscitating it, but by resurrecting it; by restoring it, and everything in it, including you. We would cling for dear life to the promise of our baptism, that Jesus will make good on it, and finish it in resurrection.
This creation is broken. It is broken from the inside out, and if you cannot see it or quite believe it, believe the Scriptures when they testify to how broken every person and every part of this creation is. But this creation is not too broken for the God who made it. He is the only one who can walk the line between not broken and too broken. But He walks that line right into death. Because the only way to fix this broken creation is to be broken in it, to be broken by it, to have His body broken and His blood shed. This creation cannot be fixed as it is, but when Jesus rises from the dead, He begins its restoration in His own body. He is the firstfruit of resurrection, the firstfruit of restoration, the firstfruit of new creation.
This is the only story there is: the story of creation, fall, and resurrection. Every other story either repeats this story or rejects it. Even something like the movie Lion King. Just a cartoon, right? But think about it: as long as Mufasa is king, everything is in good order, the grass is green, and the water is clean. But as soon as Mufasa dies and the hyenas take over, everything dies, and the animals are starving. It’s not until Simba returns and takes his throne that things are put right. The grass and vegetation return, and the water runs pure and clean.
And so it goes: the King returns to reign, and everything is put right; the whole creation is restored. Your King has laid His hands on you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; “This one is marked for resurrection; this one is Mine.” For now we only see our outer nature wasting away in this broken creation; but the One who knows, who entered this creation, and Himself died, He is the one renewing your inner nature day by day, according to His baptismal promise. His Word of authority over sin, death, and the devil was confirmed by His resurrection. His Word will be accomplished, also for you.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 2/2/13