Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard”
“Jesus Began to Teach”
Luke 4: 14-21, June 5th
It was a beautiful day, and my father wanted me to join him for a walk. We walked out in back of the house which he had recently purchased. He was very proud that he was able to buy his brother’s house, because my dad and his brothers had built it during the depression. He showed me the well, where they had dug it, by hand, when the house was first built; it had been their only source of water. He pointed out the grove of pine trees and explained how they had been planted, decades earlier. He then began to point out different trees and naming them: blue spruce, hemlock and red cedar, and talked about the various pine trees and cypress, as-well-as the maple, the oak and the birch trees, to name just a few. He was trying his best to pass on a few things he had learned over the years. I wasn’t a good student but never-the-less, my dad did his best to teach me. My grandfather Dixon did similar things. They both were always trying to teach me something.
When I entered college, I took a public speaking course. We were all waiting to meet the professor. When he came into the room, he walked to the front of the class. He stood there with his head and his eyes facing down, then up and then back and forth from side to side, anywhere, except not at us. He mumbled something and it was hard to even hear him. This went on for several minutes. Then he stood up tall, smiled at us brightly, and with a clear voice introduced himself and told us that we had just witnessed everything that we ought to… never ever do, when speaking in front of a group. He was an interesting man. He was a good instructor and I learned a lot from him. Perhaps, because he created a desire within his students to want to learn how to speak in public; then he proceeded to teach us, working hard to give us all the tools necessary to be good public speakers.
This week we will have our Vacation Bible School event. We have some children that will be with us and we have some leaders and teachers whom shall endeavor to teach them some new and exciting things about God, using as a backstop the thyme of ‘Deep Sea Discovery’! It all starts at Celebration Reef, which will be located in the front section of the sanctuary near the organ. Mariana will endeavor to teach us, how to sing four or five new songs, that are meant to stimulate all of us whom gather together this week, and are willing to be involved in the joy of learning. I will have the challenge of setting the mood for exploring the day’s lesson plan. Day one our theme is: “God knows me” just as God knew the heart of Noah, long before he began building the Ark that would rescue he and his family, and two of every species of animals, from the flood. This opportunity to pass on the love of God to a few young hearts and minds will be a challenge for us volunteers at every stage of the process, and an opportunity for the youngsters to glean a bit more information about the different teachings being offered each day.
Whether it be the teacher, the professor, the parent or the preacher; each can only do so much to pass a thought or message on to their various students. Each lesson presents yet another challenging moment. The teacher, the professor may have had a bad night’s sleep, the parent may have concerns about paying the rent this month, and the preacher may have forgotten his manuscript at home and was forced to preach from some hastily gathered notes. But, they and all instructor’s and teachers, they all work with the skills and knowledge they have at hand, in their efforts to instruct and teach others. Sometimes, their efforts seem to glean real and meaningful results, yet all too often, their lessons seem to fall on deaf ears. What we may need to consider is the level of responsibility the student needs to take in these situations.
In this morning’s scripture lesson we have only read verses 14 thru 21, yet I could have had us go on reading through the rest of this chapter. There are some meaningful events that follow Jesus’ reading that day. In verse 24 we hear a disturbing prediction coming from the mouth of Jesus. And Jesus (he) said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” /Luke 4:24/ Sadly, we later learn as we read further that Jesus was rejected that day, in his home synagogue in Nazareth. They even ran him out of town for his seemingly presumptuous remarks. “Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” /Luke 4:21/ We know from other accountings that Jesus was telling them that he was the Messiah; yet, they clearly were not willing to hear this from him, since they had seen him over the years raised as a carpenter’s son. Therefore, to them, Jesus, was too ordinary to possibly be someone so special like the Messiah, the Savior!
Many students are like those at the synagogue that day. They were unwilling to listen to the teacher. Perhaps, as a young lad, I was unwilling to listen attentively to the lessons my father was trying to pass on to me. It is all about the ‘response’ of the students to the ‘efforts’ of the teacher. The response from the home town folks in Nazareth towards Jesus’ teachings were sadly, negative. It was even contemptuous! Sadly, their response caused them to miss out on a great opportunity! They could have had Jesus and they rejected him! Was what he was saying controversial? Perhaps, but they did not even give him an opportunity to discuss this with him further. Pity, their loss! Let us pray that the youngsters that come to VBS this week, come with an open heart and an open spirit. Goodness knows, every effort is being taken so that they will have a good experience and possibly learn more about our God, whom we all cherish in our hearts. It would be sad if they reject our efforts to teach, to share this understanding of God with them.
As our lives pull at us… are we more likely to listen to the teachings of Jesus, or are we more prone to pull away from the familiar and try something new or different? Unlike the six to twelve year olds coming to VBS we have a bit more mileage on us. Many of us or at least some of us have grown callous and closed when faced with a teaching opportunity. We have learned, through experience, that when the teacher instructs us in things we do not want to hear, it can be really hard to listen, even if they are teaching us something really important and it will really help us a lot! Sometimes teachers tell us things that make us mad! Ever have that experience? In that reading class the instructor told you to: do your homework before you come to class! Or that math teacher telling you not to fall behind as each lesson builds on the next. Some professors in college were more popular than others, yet, I have found some of the best ones are not so popular. They are usually the ones who are willing to tell you the truth about what they are teaching, and what you must do in order to get a good grade! These professors are usually the ones that will tell you why it is important to learn to read and write; thereby giving you a good reason to try and endeavor to accomplish the tasks laid before you.
Yes, God knows us and hears us, and gives us strength and loves us, and ultimately sends us out to share our stories, thereby teaching others of how God has touched us and our lives! This is the challenge that our VBS volunteers have chosen to communicate and teach through word, song and example! Will the students be open and willing to receive some of these teachings? We can only pray! But, we can rest assured that there shall be some learnings this week! Every time we try to teach young folks a lesson we learn a lot! We learn what works and what does not! Everyone involved in this project will learn something! Through the years churches like us have learned a lot of good lessons while trying to pull together an event such as this. The key is to truly learn from them!
We will learn that some parents will truly enjoy the free time while their children are here with us. Some of the children will come to us hungry because their parents are forced to stretch their budgets to the limit! We will learn some compassion as we see how the love of God can and is making a difference in the lives of others. We will learn that our compassion and love can have a real effect on those that come to us or are sent to us. And yes, we will see some of our efforts fall on deaf ears. If we want to be good teachers we will need to learn to take our lumps with our successes. It is not always easy or fun. In those times we need to look to Jesus as our power of example. Jesus began to teach, yet was at first rejected. However, for three years he continued to teach and his words made such a lasting impression and changed so many lives that nearly two thousand years later, we are still lifting up his lessons for others to learn from!
When we are the student and someone is seeking to teach us something, we need to take responsibility by first listening to the lesson. Then we need to do the homework and practice what we are learning. Thirdly, we need to put it into action, this will take effort, but making our lessons come to life in some way within our own lives, will root them into our minds and even our hearts. This is what good students do. When it is our turn to teach, we need to prepare ourselves and our lessons well. Then we must stay open to the Spirit of God to give us the tools and the tenacity to teach well, always seeking to stimulate the students desire to hear and absorb what is being taught!
And Jesus began to teach!
“Hear now these ancient words as written in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 4, verses 14-21.”
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.
15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
“Allow these words, spoken by Jesus so long ago, to open your heart and your mind to new faith and new teachings.”