"Proclaim the Year"
It's a new year. But what does that mean to us? If you were to make a proclamation for this year, could these be the words you speak?
Proclaim the Year
A. The words are taken from the National Park Service webpage concerning the Liberty Bell. “The Liberty Bell bears a timeless message: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Go beyond the iconic crack to learn how this State House bell was transformed into an extraordinary symbol. Abolitionists, women’s suffrage advocates and Civil Rights leaders took inspiration from the inscription on this bell.”
B. A little later on their webpage they have these words, “The Liberty Bell’s inscription is from Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” This Old Testament verse refers to the “Jubilee”, or the instructions to the Israelites to return property and free slaves every 50 years. Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly Isaac Norris chose this inscription for the State House bell in 1751, possibly to commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges which granted religious liberties and political self-government to the people of Pennsylvania.
C. That bell has been a rally cry for many who “proclaim liberty.” While the words come from the Bible, we don’t have record of Israel every putting into practice the teachings of “the Year of Jubilee.” As a church we celebrate this year our 50th anniversary in this building, our Golden Anniversary. But I want to start this year by asking us what is it that we as the Whitehall Church of Christ proclaim to the community?
I. The Proclamation Jesus Made
A. Let me tell you of a time when Jesus spoke the words you had read for you from Isaiah 61. They may not have been the actual “Year of Jubilee” words, but the sentiment sure sounds similar.
B. The story I refer to takes place in Luke 4. Early on in this his ministry Jesus comes back home, home to Nazareth where for 30 years he lived, growing up as the son of Joseph and Mary, but for a little while Jesus had gone out and become what many would call a rabbi. He was doing great miracles around Galilee and now he was coming home.
C. We are probably in the first year of his 3 year ministry. Matthew and Mark help us with trying to figure out the timeline, but the point is Jesus came home and had a message, a proclamation. His proclamation came from the great prophet Isaiah. Luke gives us the most information about what happened that day. Listen to Luke 4:16-21.
D. I understand passive evangelism. Passive evangelism is that which does not directly engage a person in a spiritual conversation. Part of what God has taught is that our life should be lived in such a way that people see our good works and glorify Him. That is passive evangelism. When people are involved in some of the good things that we do as church family it is passive evangelism. When people do good works outside of the collective body that can be passive evangelism, but what Jesus did was proclamation.
E. Jesus looked out and saw people differently. His hometown saw Gentiles far different than Jews and the way Jesus talked about their faith angered them. It angered them so much they were ready to push him off a cliff. But I want to come back to seeing how Jesus saw people.
F. The passage that Jesus read proclaimed good news to the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. They are the ones that the Psalmist says “will inherit the land” and Jesus says “will inherit the earth.” These are the ones who have nothing and therefore must learn total dependence upon God for deliverance. It is to these people that Jesus has come to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
II. Our Problem
A. We have a message that needs to “get out.” That message is what Jesus proclaimed and continues to offer. This is message everyone needs to hear, not just the poor.
B. Sin doesn’t just attack the homeless, the addict, the poor, the physically challenged and emotionally disturbed. Sin attacks every person who has the ability to reason and understand. Sin cares not if you are white or black, rich or poor, male or female. Sin has one desire – to master you and kill you. Satan can and does use many forms to keep sin pervasive in our culture.
C. Paul understood the struggle with sin. He records that struggle in Rom. 7. There he talks about doing the very thing he hates and not doing the things he knows he ought. Listen to verse 11, “Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.”
D. Have you been there? If you are a Christian the answer is YES. If you are not a Christian the answer is RIGHT NOW. Sin seized you and me and in its grasp took us away from the holiness of God. We became people who were poor, who were captive, and who were blind. We were on a broad road that led to eternal destruction.
III. Our Proclamation
A. The world doesn’t know it has a sin a problem. Nazareth did not know it had a sin problem. The people of Jesus home town wanted to kill him for what he said, but the message still rings out. Freedom! Freedom from sin and death! Paul would fight his battle and ask the question, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul knew the problem and he also knew the answer. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” That’s the proclamation we as church need to be making as we celebrate our 50th anniversary in this community.
B. We celebrate freedom from the bondage of sin by the blood of Jesus. We celebrate half a century of proclaiming the good news and will continue to tell it, show it, and live it.
A. It’s a new year. Some people hold on to the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you are one of those who seek to find an area that you want to concentrate on this year. I have a suggestion.
B. Today marks our 50th anniversary of the Whitehall church of Christ. We as a church look forward this year to what? I have a suggestion.
C. I have preached in this building for 18 ½ years. I have had many sermon series. But I have a suggestion for me, for you, and for us. What will we proclaim this year?
D. The words found on the liberty bell taken from Leviticus, reiterated by Isaiah, proclaimed by Jesus in Nazareth and received by everyone here today who is a Christian – Freedom.
E. You don’t have to face the trials of life alone. You sure don’t have to walk in sin and feel unworthy to be a part of this family, for we are all sinners saved by grace. Today, if you are here and find that sin has been pulling you away from God, please come home to him and to us. If you are here and still in your sin, if you have not had your old self washed clean in the waters of baptism, what is keeping you from the freedom that Jesus offers? If we can help you find freedom, then come as we stand and sing.