Friday, January 25, 2019

Luke 4:14-21        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 favor."
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant. 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.’ 

Reflection        When we consider the broad sweep of Jesus birth, life, ministry, suffering and death we cannot help but notice how consistently Jesus respects the value and uniqueness of each person he encounters. In all that he says and all that he does Jesus intends to actually fulfill the commands of the Hebrew tradition in which he is steeped; the commands to give priority to his relationship with God and the care of the most vulnerable people whom he encounters. But how is he able to do this? I believe the answer is at least twofold.

First and foremost, Jesus embraces his dependence upon God, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” which means he finds his deepest truth and direction in relationship with God; “the Spirit has anointed me… has sent me…” Second, Jesus acknowledges his call to action, “to bring good news… to proclaim release… to set free…” In other words, Jesus chooses to act to fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s scripture.

The question before us today is, “How are we living in imitation of Jesus?” Are we affirming our dependence on God? Do we find our truth and direction in our ‘with God life?’ or are we motivated by desire for  security, safety, attention, esteem, power or control? Are we making  choices and living our lives to share the good news of God’s blessing for all people or are we recoiling in fear and treating others, especially strangers, foreigners and the most vulnerable, as enemies?

Like Jesus we find ourselves in a world fraught with brutality, greed and misuse of power. Like Jesus we have choices to make as we face new and unforeseen situations. So we ask, “How did Jesus navigate the turbulent waters of his life on earth?” I believe he did so by first affirming his dependence on “the Spirit of God with him” and then by consistently acting to extend the good news of  freedom, healing and blessing to all, and especially to the most vulnerable. 

Jesus was not a philosopher, not a theologian. Jesus was an activist, a social reformer choosing to fulfill the Hebrew scripture that informed his life.  Jesus embodied the fundamental values of the Law and the Prophets and, in his summary of the Law and the Prophets, Jesus gives us an action plan. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10.27)

The demands of life are constantly changing. The needs of folks around us continually turnabout. But, the values that undergird our faith are enduring; given to us in the Hebrew Law and the Prophets and epitomized in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Act decisively to embody the Spirit of God with you; extend your hand to deliver care, comfort and relief to the most vulnerable; stand with Jesus and proclaim, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 

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