When you hear the word of God read what do you think happens? What takes place when people gather to hear the Message read and explained?
When the Israelites asked Ezra to bring out the Book of the Law that God had given Moses and asked him to read it to them they were moved to tears. Ezra read the book and the Levite priests moved among the people explaining to them, interpreting the word, so that they would understand it. Everyone who was able to understand gathered at the Water Gate to hear God’s word for his people. And what they heard and what they understood made them cry. Their hearts were convicted by their sin. Everyone who heard the word knew they hadn’t kept God’s Law that he had given to Moses. They were changed after hearing the Word read. History was made.
Every Sunday the Revised Common Lectionary provides an Old Testament reading, a reading from the Psalms, scripture from one of Paul’s letters to the early churches, and a reading from the one of the Gospels. It’s not a requirement that all are read. Pastors aren’t told which one to choose for their Message. Some pastors choose to read only one of the scripture lessons and others read all of them. I have made the choice to have all of them read even if I only preach on one of the readings. I believe we need to hear the word and through the hearing of it we are changed. Even if it’s not preached the message in the words may be exactly what one particular person needed to hear on this particular day.
I don’t think that everyone hears or understands what I may have to say. But I believe that God’s word that is read enters each person’s ears and through the power of the Holy Spirit the Word of God is interpreted within their brains so that everyone is given the ability to understand the exact point God intended for them at this point in their life. Or it may be that neither the Word read nor the Word proclaimed causes anything to take place in some people’s brains but something in God’s wonderful creation touches them and they understand God’s gospel that is meant just for them. That is what the psalmist said in the reading for today.
It may be that at one certain time when the Word is read and interpreted something clicks with us and then at another time it may happen as we encounter God outside the church where we worship. As Paul explained to the Corinthians we are all different. We are all given different abilities to understand and interpret God’s word for us.
Today, in your presence, scripture has made history. That’s what Jesus said to those who heard him read the prophet Isaiah’s words. Jesus didn’t read the whole chapter. He didn’t even read every word from the first two verses. He left out a portion that said, “…and the day of vengeance of our God.” It wasn’t the time to speak of that yet. But it was the right time to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. It was the right time to speak of God’s grace.
Some heard what Jesus said and were amazed at his insight. And others were skeptical. Some had ears to hear and they understood and some didn’t. Isn’t that still the way it is today, some hear and it all comes together for them and for others it doesn’t? Why, who knows. It may be the pastor, it may be because of what’s going on with them on this particular day, or it may be because their hearts aren’t right with God yet. I don’t know, but I think some hear the word and get the message and others don’t.
That might be a good reason for folks to get together after worship to discuss and take apart the Word read and the Word proclaimed. Friends, I know this pastor doesn’t have all the answers. Every person here today more than likely gets something different from what was read than I did. And there’s not one thing wrong with that.
Since we are all different don’t you think that we each hear and process things in different ways? And it’s good for us to hear someone else’s interpretation and their understanding of God’s word.
Every time the Word is read and proclaimed I believe it makes history. I believe every time we hear the Word things happen, both within us and around us. God’s word is not dead; it is a Living Word. It has life and through it history is made.
Hearing God’s word changes us and it changes our environment, all through the power of the Holy Spirit. And because of the changes it makes in us history is made.
Every day it’s different, because every day God’s plan is different depending on the gifts of grace each of us has received. Feet need something different than noses, and eyes need different things than hands. But they all need something and together they are each nourished and changed by the Word.
So what’s happening today? How are we each changed and graced by the Word? I never know how people are changed unless I’m told. I only know that the word changes me every time I read it or hear it read. And that, I believe, is the power of God’s word. It transforms our lives and those around us.
Just as in the time of Nehemiah and Ezra I believe that God gathers or calls all who understand to come and hear the word. Maybe there are times when the Word is difficult to understand then he provides people who can help explain what it’s saying to us in this time and place. God’s word never fails to make history or to effect some change in the people who hear it.
Today, scripture has made history. The Word has reached out and touched every one here who has ears to hear. Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.