Epiphany 3C: Nehemiah 8:1-10, Luke 4:16-30
There are but two hearings of the Word of God – faith and unbelief. There is no middle ground. No cool, detached critical view high up in the bleachers. It is either faith or unbelief. You either hear the Word of the Lord and rejoice in the goodness of God who has mercy on the sinner, or you deny the Word and despise the goodness of God and want to silence it.
This is why reading the Bible as literature ultimately fails. Yes, the Bible is literature. A wide variety of different kinds of literature, in fact. And the Bible certainly can be read for its literature and its history. But the Word of God is living and active. It kills and makes alive. It does not return empty but accomplishes the purposes for which it is spoken. The Word is a sharp two-edged sword of Law and Gospel that doesn’t sit idly. When you deal with the Word, you are dealing with some live wires, the power of God for salvation.
One of our problems in the church today is that the church has grown Word-weary. Complacent. Bored even. Our ears are dulled by all the noise of this world. We want to be entertained, amused, inspired. We seek relevance and meaning for our lives. We look for answers to all our questions. The competing voices are loud and strong. Media and movies and internet. We are bombarded by information and communication, but there is very little wisdom and communion. Dots are left unconnected. We think in little sound bytes. Our theology is reduced to bumper stickers and slogans and social media postings.
Luther warned his generation that the Word is like a local rain shower. It falls for a while in one place and the soil soaks it up. And then the soil becomes saturated and the water runs off and the rain moves on. Luther foresaw the day when the Gospel would move on from the land of the Reformation to other places, which in fact happened. And some would say it’s happening here. For all the religious fervor and the religious broadcasting and media, there is precious little in the way of the Word of God. Continue reading