Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Nehemiah 8:3-7, 8-10
Psalm 19:8-10, 15
Reading II I Corinthians 12:12-30
Gospel Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
This morning we celebrate the third Sunday in ordinary time. As always the readings are about God and his love for us and his mercy for us. In particular today our reading talks about the beginning of a fulfillment of a promise God made a long time ago to us, and the promise we made to him.
First of all, what is a promise? A promise is when we agree to do something and we follow through with it. In our world we have all sorts of symbols of promises. We have the wedding ring — which is a sign of love between two people. You go to the post office and buy a stamp and the post office gives a promise that when you put a stamp on your envelope or package, it will go to the address on the envelope in a timely fashion. When you go to the restaurant or the grocery store and use your credit card and they give you a slip of paper that you sign, that is a sign that you will pay for what you just purchased or the meal that you just had.
If we look at our world and look at Scripture in particular, a long time ago God made a promise, a number of promises and covenants. In those he said, “I will be your God if you will be my people.” Unfortunately, over time as we read Scripture we find out that God always made good on his part of the bargain, but we as a people often failed and
did not do our part of the promise.
In the first reading from Nehemiah, what we find out is that the Israelites are coming back from the Babylonian captivity, and they are coming back through Jerusalem. Things have changed in Jerusalem and they have changed as a people because of where they have lived. So, the governor as well as the prophet got up and read the book of Moses, the laws of Moses. They started at early morning and finished at noon. How many of you are willing to come early in the morning and stay until noon to find out about the laws of Moses? But they did and they were happy about it. They were happy about it because they were now living among their own, and they were back in Jerusalem and not living under the law of someone else, as it was when they were slaves, but rather under the law of their own faith. So they were happy.
Then we go to the Gospel reading today in Luke. We find Jesus coming back to Nazareth. By this time Jesus has a reputation. He has a reputation for being a healer, a reputation for being a good speaker, he is drawing all sorts of people. He comes to the temple, the Synagogue, and reads from the scroll. They don’t have a Bible in book form, it’s like napkins on a roll. They roll out the scroll and Jesus went to a specific part which was quoting from the prophet Isaiah. He read,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
Then he sat down. And everybody just stared at him and wondered, “What’s this all about?” He then simply says,
Today this Scripture passage is
fulfilled in your hearing.
That’s important. That’s important because basically what he is saying is, “I am the Messiah. I am God. And I am the person who is going to make these things happen. I am the person who is coming to redeem and save you but I am also coming to show you how to live.”
Then we get to our second reading from Paul to the Corinthians. Paul says, “We are all one body in Christ with Christ as the head. And just as our body has ears, and feet, and eyes and all that stuff — but the bottom line is you are one being, one person. And if I cut my finger the rest of my body will feel it.” He is saying, “That’s how we are as a community of believers. We are one body. We are altogether in this. We may come to church individually but we don’t come to church to pray by ourselves. We come to God to pray uniformly as one body. We come together to take care of one another.”
Part of this is because of baptism. When we were baptized we became children of Christ. When we were baptized we received the light of Christ in us, which means, we are to be Christ to one another. And not only are we to be Christ to one another, we are to see Christ in one another.
It is apropos that this would be on this particular Sunday. For the last three Sundays we have heard speakers talk about stewardship: time, talent and treasure. And what that has to do with is how we respond to one another. We don’t come to church on Sunday just because the Ten Commandments say we have to. We come to church on Sunday because we want to be with the rest of the family. We want to come here to praise God, we want to come here so that we can serve and help one another. And we do that by coming to church and praising God, but we also do it by our response to God in regards to the gifts that we have.
Each of us is unique. All of us have special gifts. There are no two people in here alike. For us to be the most thriving parish we can be, we need everyone to be a part of the parish; if not we are functioning without a hand, or functioning without a foot. So the challenge we ask ourselves today is: What are the gifts we have and what are the gifts we can share with one another?
You should have all received the Stewardship Form that looks like this. Who received this form? Raise your hands. If for some reason you did not receive one, there are some in the Gathering Space. What we are asking is, that next week you come back with this form filled out, or if you haven’t done this yet, fill it out when you are here. We do this because this is how we show that we are the body of Christ. Can everybody sing in the choir; some of you would say, “Probably not.” Would some of you like to come up and be a lector; some would say, “That would be fine.” Others might say, “I’d rather have my tooth pulled.”
But if we look at the possibilities it goes all the way from the ministry of prayer in which we give you a list and ask you to pray for those petitions, or whether if means coming on Monday night and helping with PSR, whether it is helping at a funeral luncheon, being an usher, bringing the gifts, being a server — there are so many possibilities in here that there is something for everyone. If there isn’t all you have to do is write in what you would like to do.
The bottom line is that if we are the body of Christ, which we are, then it is important that we share the gifts we have with one another. Interesting enough, the more we share with one another, the more we get to know each other, the more of a community and body that we are. Once we do that we have that sense of belonging and feel good about what we are doing.
So I want you to do a homework assignment: Fill out the Stewardship Form and bring it back next week. It is important that as a body of Christ we know who our neighbor is, so the second thing I want you to do is to stand up and introduce yourself to the people standing around you, such as, “I am Terry Ellerman and I work at Blessed Sacrament and I live at 2709 North 12th.” Add give whatever address you have, and whatever else you want to say. But the bottom line is, get to know that person a little bit better. If you already know them still say, “Hi,” but then look for someone you don’t know. So let’s do that now.
(This was done.)
How many of you found another person and you did not know his or her name? Is there anyone here who is new to the parish? Here is my next challenge: During the kiss of peace when say, “Peace be with you,” call that person by name. Hopefully you can remember the name of the person you were just introduced to and say their name. If you cannot, that’s OK.
The point is that it is very important in the body of Christ to, number one, get to know each other by helping with the Septemberfest and working together at the many functions we have here at the church. If we do not take advantage of that, we are isolated and we will not be the community we can be. We are a wonderful community here at Blessed Sacrament, but we can always be better.
So today when you go home, remember to fill out your Stewardship Form, and the homework assignment is: When you leave church today, make a point to see someone in the congregation whom you do not know — and ask them their name.
Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0030)