Hearing is Believing

Gospel Text: Luke 4: 14-21

During the 2011-2012 academic year, I was the dorm proctor at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. And dorm proctor may easily be interpreted as the single mother of 18 children, most of which were older than me.

There was a middle-aged, incoming Seminarian who was…to put it mildly… nervous. In his pervious life, he had been a professional musician. Therefore in an attempt to ease the tension and spark conversation, I asked about his preference in music. He answered that he enjoyed beautiful music of all kind.

About a week later, I was serving as his taxi driver. At the time, I was on a Country Rock kick and had a Matt Kennon CD playing. He crinkled his nose and asked “is this the music you listen to?”

Admittedly annoyed by the tone in his voice, I responded that the lyrics are essential for me and these lyrics strike a chord within my soul.

He responded that “music is not about the lyrics, it is about the composition”.

Ironically, on this particularly Matt Kennon CD is a song entitled “The Call” that has been contributed with the preservation of human life. The concluding verse states:

If someone you know is weighing on your mind
That needs a friend on the other end of the line
Don’t hesitate; what you say may seem so small
But who knows, they might be glad you call.
So make the call.

These words may seem so simple, yet people have heard these words and been motivated into action. The action has been as simple as a phone call to family, loved ones, and friends that were suffering from depression and simply needed to hear words of love and compassion.

Whether it is the musical composition or the musical lyrics that strike a chord in your own soul, we can not deny the power of music.

Similarly, we can not deny the power of words. Montgomery Gentry is a country duo that flirts with the ever-thinning line between Country and Rock. In their song “Roll with Me” these words are sung:

Went to Church on Sunday
There was a moment that came
I swear it was like the Lord spoke right to me.

And in their hit “Back When I Knew It All”:

I’ve learned that love is a woman that will settle you down
A Sunday sermon can turn life around

You may consider me naïve or perhaps overly confident…but I agree with these words sung by Montgomery Gentry. A Sunday Sermon can turn a life around and that human words through the Holy Spirit can sound as though God is speaking directly to our minds, our hearts, and our souls.

But please note, I am not promising nor presuming that this is such a sermon.

Yet, this morning we hear of Jesus reading scripture in the synagogue and perhaps the shortest sermon in the history of mankind.

Actually, Jesus almost read the scripture from Isaiah. The Isaiah passage “quoted” states:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (Isa. 61:1-2). 

Granted, there are significant similarities, but Jesus does edit it with change of language, additions, and deletions. Here are the changes:
(1) Jesus brings the good news to the poor, not the oppressed. However, Jesus proclaims that the oppressed will be freed.

(2) Jesus proclaims release not liberty to the captives.

(3) Jesus includes the recovery of sight to the blind, but excludes the release of the prisoners, the binding (or healing) of the brokenhearted, comfort to those who mourn, and the day of vengeance.

Why did Jesus edit the Isaiah passage? We may never know. Yet, biblical scholars, biblical commentary, and worship materials suggest that his “reading” of Isaiah is Jesus’ identity, purpose, and mission.
(1) Jesus preached good news.
(2) Jesus freed humanity from sin.
(3) Jesus restored sight to the blind.

Then Jesus’ statement “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”… Wait, it is fulfilled in “hearing”.

Our beloved, Martin Luther, would have whole-heartedly agreed with Jesus’ sermon-like statement. Luther firmly held that believers came to their faith, through the Holy Spirit, by the literal “hearing” of the Word. Let me repeat that: believers came to their faith, through the Holy Spirit, by the literal “hearing” of the Word.

In fact, Luther described the Bible as “the cradle that holds the Christ child”. Thus suggesting that our encounter with the Word made flesh is through the “hearing” and “preaching” of the Word.

We have continued forth these centuries later in the footsteps of Martin Luther with an emphasis on hearing the Word, whether it is the Word made flesh in Christ, the Word of Holy Scripture, or the preached Word.

However, our American culture is becoming ever-more visual with:
Actions speak louder than words… or… Seeing is believing.

And the narrative does not end here with Jesus’ Word…
Similar to a cliff-hanger in your favorite television show…
this is To Be Continued.

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