Date: January 23, 2022
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.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, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s
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. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Why are we here?
In the gospel text we see Jesus, the one who:
· the angel Gabriel spoke about.
· For whom Mary declared “my soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior for the mighty one has done great things for me …from now on generations will call me blessed
· Of Whom John the baptizer said “I baptize you with water but the one who is more powerful than I is coming; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
· who after being baptized by John in the Jordan where the Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove and the voice from heaven declared “you are my son, the beloved; With you I am well pleased.
After His baptism, he was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil when he ate nothing and was famished. He was tempted to
· turn stone into bread to ease his own physical hunger,
· to gain the power and authority and privilege that is shared among the nations of the world that the evil one gave to them in return for their worship
· To risk throwing himself off the highest pinnacle of the temple to satisfy His ego and prove to the evil one that he is the son of God.
In this week’s Gospel reading we see Jesus, who’s passed the time of fasting and trials triumphantly. He was filled with the spirit and he returned to Galilee feeling strong and resolute. He was being a bit of a celebrity (since the news of his teaching was spreading in the area). He shared his teachings with the people in the synagogue and the people praised him.
He then went into the town of Nazareth where he was brought up. He went into the synagogue as was tradition among his people.
He received the scroll of Isaiah and found a particular passage and read out loud;
“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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll gave it back to the attendant and sat down any everyone eyes were fixed on him.
This is when he tells them “today this scripture has been fulfilled you are present and hearing.”
These words that Jesus spoke that day in Nazareth is most important because they are the first words we are hearing about Jesus’ public ministry in the gospel of Luke.
These are His declarative statements about who and what he and his ministry was about.
If Jesus was writing a doctoral dissertation this would have been his thesis statement. If He was a businessman this would have been his prospectus.
Of course, the people around were used to hearing the scroll of the prophet Isaiah read out loud in the synagogue since childhood. But this time something must have seemed different.
There must have been something quite powerful about Jesus’ presentation because when he sat down everyone was staring at him. I could almost see them waiting for the next thing that would come from his mouth. And just then he declared “today this scripture has been fulfilled while you are present and hearing”
This was a drop the mic moment!. If this was a court of law, I could easily imagine the prosecution saying “I rest my case.” And if it was a Broadway rehearsal, I could hear the director shouting “end scene!”
In that moment Jesus spoke the highest ideal for his ministry. Good news to the poor and the “year of the Lord’s favor” sounds great … until we get into the nitty-gritty of what that really means.
Good news to the poor and the year of the Lord's favor meant a redistribution of wealth so there would be a greater Equity in the availability of resources. It meant that debts would be forgiven, slaves and indentured servants would go free, and the power structure would inevitably be changed.
To the people in Nazareth who were mostly poor people in the Roman kingdom, this might have sounded great. But even in that little backwater town of Nazareth, when the wealth distribution and power structures are changed people could get very uncomfortable.
If Jesus spoke that message to us today I believe it would make many of us uncomfortable. Because most of us are neither poor, blind, imprisoned or slaves. If Jesus’ mission was good news for the poor, then what does that mean for us? In this country many of us enjoy privileges and certain placement in our society. This mission of Jesus is not necessarily good news for us who live comfortable lives and do not wish to give up some of what we have.
The people in Nazareth lived under the oppressive occupation of the Roman. For centuries the Jews looking to the words of the prophet Isaiah longed for and fought for the return of the power and abundance they enjoyed under King David’s rule. The prophets spoke of this and the people looked hopefully toward that time. It's one thing to think about God's words being fulfilled somewhere in the future as the scrolls of the prophets was read with great hope in the synagogue Sabbath after Sabbath. But on this occasion after reading the prophetic words of Isaiah, Jesus said today, now these scriptures are fulfilled while you are present and hearing.
The responsibility of being co-creators of bringing to pass the reign of God was now in their lap, on their door step and in their now. I am not sure that if they understood what Jesus actually said whether they would have said how gracious his words were.
Many Christians celebrate this text as Jesus’ first sermon, and how it was the fulfillment of prophesy. But let us explore what is it saying about us as followers of Christ and what we ought to be about. It would mean that our mission in life is
· Good news for the poor –which may translate to:
§ Us working to help people out of poverty – opposing predatory lending; higher banking fees and higher mortgage rates for minorities; higher food prices and worse quality food in poor areas; and removing toxic power plants from places like Newark
§ Us working for a just living wage – working to help those have to work 60-80 hours/week in order to pay their rent and buy food
§ Paid family leave and time off for low wage workers to take their children to the doctor
§ Time off to vote and take part in other civic activities so the voice of the poor and marginalized can be a part of the governance and power structures of communities where they live.
· Release to the captives may translate to release:
§ Of the unjustly incarcerated – e.g., those serving time for marijuana possession even as marijuana is now legal and a lucrative industry for many.
§ Men and women who were “made examples of” or for whom judges received a monetary or social benefit for putting them there.
§ Children caught up in the justice system that is not designed to rehabilitate, but instead expose these children to seasoned criminals, to abuse while in prison and even death by other inmates.
· Recovery of sight to the blind may translate to:
§ A restoration of health and wholeness to those who are infirmed: healthcare for all who need it
§ Care for those who are disabled
§ Care for the elderly who are often in ill-health and left to fend for themselves.
· To let the oppressed go free may translate to:
§ Working for an end to oppression in all its forms
o ageism, etc., etc.
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. The year of jubilee
§ When all people can together celebrate freedom from bondage of any kind.
Wow! This was and is a lot to do.
Friends, as we look at this year stretched ahead of us, we are unsure of what it holds and what will transpire. Yet, in the middle of our unsurity, we are called to follow Christ who we see today throwing down the gauntlet and declaring that he is come to:
· shake things up
· comfort the uncomfortable
· move us out of our places of comfort and complacency
· challenging us to declare what we are called to do
· make the hard decisions
Yes, This. Is. A. lot! And no doubt it will cost us something. Yet Christ in this scripture is calling us to action.
Will you today receive Jesus’ message as good news? How will we live into both the cost and joy of discipleship.? On Monday January 24th we started the conversations about the next iteration of St. Paul’s. You are being called to:
o dialogue and at times disagree,
o make hard decisions and sometimes let go of some of your point of view
o love even when you are angry and hold each other to your highest good
But before you do any of that, you will need to decide what Jesus’ message means to us individually and collectively. How will we together walk into this opportunity to follow Christ’s leading to make decisions about our what’s next for this week, next month, next year, and beyond?
I invite you to do like Mary the mother of Christ and ponder these things.
God Bless You.