Luke 4:14–21

To experience the expansiveness of God
that’s what it means to live in Wyoming…
where the mountains tower far beyond us,
where life is felt with all our senses,
where the wind blows our composure away.

If I were to choose a text for Wyoming Sunday, it would not be Luke 4, but John 3.
Jesus’ response to Nicodemus:
“The wind blows where it wills
and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes, so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

Indeed, no matter what the Sunday, to live in Wyoming is to feel the mysterious expansiveness of the One Who called the worlds into being. As I wrote years ago:
Almighty God,
I stand before You in awe.
I behold Your shadow,
which stretches from the smallest spider…to the farthest moon.
I see Your Grace…in the granite furrows of a mountain,
in the open wisdom of a smile, in the bitter voice of dust.
Almighty God, Who stirs the smallest planet
and the largest star…stir our souls.
Yes, to live in Wyoming is to see the world from an expansive point of view.

And, I believe that’s the challenge Jesus places before us when He states the life-changing work of His ministry. His words are careful. His spirit is transforming. His imperatives are important for us all. This is the power of Christ…at work in our world!

You see, we live every day in the midst of the sound and the fury. The sound is the noise all around us…the traffic, the blare of the radio, the ring of the telephone, the pulse of electronic and human demands: THE SOUND OF PEOPLE AT WORK IN VERY BUSY PLACES. That’s normal for us as Americans…to be surrounded by noise.

And, the fury…is equally pervasive:
Sometimes, we read about violence in our headlines.
All too often, we watch it on T.V.
At times, we experience the rage of personal relationships,
And, these days, each single one of us know the terrible violence of WAR.
That’s normal for us as Americans…to be surrounded by fury in ways great and small.

William Faulkner was right when he entitled his novel about DISINTEGRATION:
“The Sound and The Fury”
BUT, IT IS INTO THIS WORLD…
THIS Kind OF WORLD…with its noise and its violence THAT CHRIST CAME, and it is in this world that the Spirit of Christ guides us…day by day.

Jesus was not born into the illusion of “normal life,” or the innocence of Christmas pageants, or the apocalyptic pursuits of otherworldly believers. NO! JESUS CAME INTO THE VERY SOUND AND FURY OF OUR WORLD.

AND, HIS FIRST PROCLAMATION WAS EARTH-SHATTERING:
“And, He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and He went to the synagogue, as His custom was, on the Sabbath day. And He stood up to read; and there was given to Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’….” Luke 4:16-19

THE TRUTH OF JESUS’ WORDS SPEAK PROFOUNDLY TO NEW LIFE…
TO A SPIRIT-FILLED CHANGE THAT CAN HAPPEN HERE AND NOW:
* THE POOR HAVE A POSSIBILITY BEYOND THEIR IMPOVERISHMENT,
* THOSE WHO ARE CAPTIVE HAVE HOPE WITHIN THEM,
* AND THOSE WHO HAVE MISSED THE MEANING OF LIFE
ARE HEALED FROM BLINDNESS…IN HIS NAME.

YES, ALL OF US WHO CAN ONLY SEE OUR WAY
DOWN THE ISLE OF THE SUPERMARKET.
YES, ALL OF US ARE GRANTED A WIDER VISION.
IT IS THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST
THAT CALLS US…TO LIFE AGAIN!

And so, it is a gift to lift up to you one person from Wyoming who is a model of wider vision, an example of life again. Her name is Susan Gonzales and her job is cleaning at a sorority for the University of Wyoming. And, Susan could have chosen to live by her “oppression” but, instead, she chose to let the Spirit of Christ to guide every day.

You see, on July 5th, 2002, her adult children Danny and Nicole were critically injured in a terrible accident. In spite of agonizing surgeries, immense medical costs, and daily confinement for 24-hour care, Susan and her husband chose to nurse their daughter in their home, in hopes that some day Nicole can speak and walk again.

Above all, Susan Gonzales chose, and still chooses, to let go of any bitterness against those who caused the accident…she chose, and still chooses, not to be captive to those who caused destruction by their careless ways. Not long ago, Susan spoke to me about the strength of Christ’s spirit…saying:
“The only way I can go forward is because I talk to Jesus…. If everybody in the world would just believe in the small miracles that would bring them peace.”

Yes, when Christ was born into the world,
HOPE was born with Him…
not an apocalyptic illusion…
BUT A REALISTIC FORCE
THAT’S AS STRONG AS THE WYOMING WIND
AND AS WIDE AS THE WESTERN SKY.

Somehow, may our own vision be TRANSFORMED
not just by looking at majestic horizons
but by the IMMENSE PURPOSE OF THE LIVING GOD:

O Holy and Haunting Presence,
Your Spirit moves quietly but surely
In the “sound and fury” of the world,
Open us to the insistence of Your Grace.
Free us from our fears of failure.
Show us that nothing can separate us from Your Mercy.
Teach us…
OUR HOPE IS IN YOU…in Christ’s Holy Name.
Amen.