Anointed for Revival!

Epiphany 3C, January 27, 2013
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.” [Nehemiah 8:3b]

Oh that this would be true not only this morning, but whenever a minister of the gospel and the saints of God share His Word with those  who are lost in sin and separated from their God of love!  But let’s not pray only that ears are attentive to the word, but hearts as well.    Let’s keep praying as a church that we would see the gift of faith go out from us and be received by our family, friends, and neighbors in  a way that a great revival of the church will appear before our very eyes.

Let’s pray for this revival, not so that our pews and the offering plate will be full, but so that the kingdom of God grows and the kingdom  of the devil diminishes.  Let’s pray for this great revival so that those who are blind to God’s presence would be allowed to see His  power.  Let’s pray, that God would allow the spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear His real presence among us and receive His  forgiving love.  Because when that happens, when His Word is received, our family, friends, and neighbors, who are being held in the  bondage of sin, death, and the devil will be freed and the kingdom of God will advance, one forgiven sinner at a time.

Yes, let’s pray for a revival, but before we do, let’s understand that this revival can only come through God’s anointing!

In our Old Testament reading (Nehemiah 8:1–10), we see this very thing happening among God’s people who were gathered on the tenth day of the seventh month, a festival commanded by God to celebrate His presence and forgiveness.  The people of God had been released from the bondage of foreign oppressors and had recently returned to their homeland.  It had been many generations since the people gathered as one to worship their God; it had been just as many years since they gathered for the public proclamation of His Word.

As men and women and even children who could understand gathered and heard, something wonderful and mysterious began to happen to them… the Word of God began to speak to their hearts and they were able to listen and understand.  Please don’t miss this point, because it comes in two parts, listening and understanding.  The ears can always hear but in order to listen, well this requires a certain gift from God.  It requires wisdom and understanding, which are words that are synonymous with faith.  And faith is always a gift from God that comes through the hearing of His Word and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

So you could certainly say that that the Holy Spirit was present among His people that day.  He caused the spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear, and through His Word He set His people free from spiritual captivity, just as He set them free from physical captivity earlier.

And what was the people’s response?  Well, they wept because God, through His Law showed them their sin; He showed them their lack of love and their self-serving hearts.  But God would not allow them to stay in this valley of death, which the Law had spoken into their hearts; no, you see, He also spoke the gospel, the good news that their sins had been forgiven, and they were free to be the people of God.

All of this wonderful work of redemption took place simply through the proclamation of the Law and Gospel of Jehovah-God.

Oh that this would still happen today; that it would happen here among us!  Do we as a church still have hope of that that kind of revival will take place among us?  Yes, and again I say yes, but it only happens according to God’s means and according to His will.

In our Gospel reading (Luke 4:16–30), Jesus shows us both the will of His Father and the mission of the church, that is, He shows us our mission.  As He stood up and preached in a synagogue in Nazareth he read these Words of the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”” [Luke 4:18-21]

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Him… He has been anointed to proclaim the good news.  The proclamation of this good news is nothing less than the very power of God that comes through the Word of God; both law and gospel.  But this proclamation is not about a thing, but about a person… the Messiah, the very Son of God, Jesus Himself.

In His baptism the Spirit of the Lord descended upon Jesus and the voice of the Father declared Him to be His only begotten Son.  After His baptism He went immediately out into the world, into the wilderness and was tempted in ways we could never fathom, and yet just as before this wilderness experience, He never faltered and He never failed to please His Father; that is He never sinned.

He went out proclaiming forgiveness of sins through the anointing of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.  He proclaimed that God would redeem His people; God alone would atone for their sins.  And how was He received?  Well in our gospel lesson, we discover that even the good people of Nazareth, His home town wanted to throw Him off a cliff; they wanted Him dead.

And so is the desire of all sinners who will not hear; who will not be baptized into His name.  But amazingly, that was also the will of God; it was the will of Jesus that eventually He would not mysteriously pass through their presence, but He would allow them to arrest Him and crucify Him simply for speaking the truth and proclaiming the forgiving love of His Father.  It had to be that way, you see…

Jesus was anointed to suffer and die for your sins so that you would not have to; He was anointed to bring you back to your Creator and make you right with Him.  In your baptism, you too have experienced the descending of the Holy Spirit, and He has been content to exist within you.  In your baptism, the fruit of the cross, which is the forgiveness of sins, has been made your personal gift, and you have been redeemed and sanctified.  But you have been sanctified for a purpose, and this is where we can say, you have been anointed!  You have been anointed with a purpose, but what purpose?  So that you can become part of the many that are one!

We are the church.  We are many sinners saved by God’s anointing through the washing of the water and the Word, yet we are one, the body of Jesus Christ.  Each of us, on our own are foreign and hostile to God, and yet through the preaching of His Word He gathers us together, shows us our sin and then assures us that through His Son He has forgiven us; He has opened our eyes to see and our ears to hear that we have been redeemed.

Now this alone would be enough to bring us peace, but He doesn’t stop there.  No, you see, He also tells us that we have a purpose… a mission.  We are to allow Him to sanctify our time, talents, and treasure, that is we are to allow Him to bless all the gifts He’s given to us so that we can be a blessing to His body, the church, that is each other, and then to the world.

You see, God’s forgiving love is not only for us, but for them.  You know who “them” are don’t you?  They are “those people,” the ones that you once were a part of.  They are blind and deaf to God’s will and His love.  They are the unlovable.  But they are also dear and precious to Him just as you are.  They are part of that world that God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son upon the cross for, all so that “they” would not die in their sins, but believe and be saved.

Many years ago in the south, during the depression, an elderly black man knocked on the door of a southern mansion.  An equally elderly white man, the owner of that estate answered the door.  The black man was begging for food, because he was alone and hungry.  The owner told the beggar to go around to the back door, which was socially proper at the time, because of his color and status.  He assured him that he would meet him there and help him.

The old rich man met the old beggar at the back door, with a piece of bread, and said that they must say grace over this gift from God.  He said, “Now repeat after me, ‘Our Father…”  The beggar said, “Your Father…”  The rich man asked the poor man, “Why do you insist on saying, ‘Your Father, when I keep telling you to say ‘Our Father?’  The beggar answered, “Well, boss, if I say ‘Our Father,’ that would make you and me brothers, and I’m ‘fraid the Lord wouldn’t like it, you makin’ your brother come to the back porch to get a piece of bread.”

Dear friends, in our baptism, we have been anointed to both celebrate God’s forgiving love and to share it.  We are not to discriminate in any way who hears that or who we will receive as part of our congregation, after they believe.  We are simply to speak and to become all that God has willed.

Now it’s true, that as we go out proclaiming this message of forgiveness and inviting those who hear it into our congregation, the kingdom of God will grow; and it is also true that this place will be loaded with sinners; sinners that can bring a self-serving spirit of confusion that can cause division.  But the solution to this problem doesn’t rest with us, but with the same God that is anointing and reviving sinners.  It is the same solution that we gather to receive every day.  It is the same solution God used long ago among His people in our old testament lesson.  It is His Word.  His Word of Law and Gospel; repentance and forgiveness.  It is the message about His Son and it is a message about you and me, and even a message about them, “those people” who also need a Savior.

May God continue to use us and forgive us so that others can be forgiven and use to bring this same message.  And together, may we see that we have been anointed for a revival.  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

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