Since we have not been together in church for a couple of weeks, let us take a look at where we have been.
In this season of the “Time after Epiphany” is a time of ‘little’ epiphanies about who Jesus is and the mission of his ministry.
The first Sunday missed was the Baptism of Our Lord.
Before the Epiphany, we spoke about the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple giving a little attitude to his parents, Mary and Joseph, saying:
“How did you NOT know where I was? Of Course, I would be in my Father’s house”.
Afterwards, Jesus grew in favor according to the gospels but we do not encounter Jesus again until his baptism at approximately age 30. According to Luke, immediately after his baptism, Jesus is praying when the heaven opens, the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and he hears the voice of God saying:
“You are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased”.
Apparently, Jesus needed time to discern (or ponder) this, so the Holy Spirit sent him into the wilderness for 40 days and nights. We will have this scripture next season (Lent).
Jesus has had his ‘temptation in the wilderness’.
Jesus has been to a wedding party
(last Sunday), where he turns the water into wine so the wedding feast that is suppose to last seven days does not end after day three.
Perhaps, Jesus was on his way home from teaching in the Synagogues and building a following when it was time to read, per family custom, the Isaiah scripture in his home Synagogue.
Did you hear the scripture Jesus read? It is a powerful text.
“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”.
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… I will return to that in a moment.
Then Jesus seats down. He reads the scripture. He seats down.
BUT, Jesus seats in a seat that is reserved for Moses and/or the Coming Messiah.
Then he says: “today this scripture has been fulfilled by your hearing”.
We might imagine that the community would be rejoicing, right?
The year of the Lord’s favor…
the long-awaited Messiah has come…
AND he is one of our own.
Well, this story is to be continued…
Next week we learn of the community reaction to Jesus…
But SPOILER ALERT: It is NOT warm and welcoming.
Our scripture today is powerful and tells us of Jesus’ mission in life and ministry, which we are called to attempt living into and following it as best we are able.
The year of the Lord’s favor is supposed to come around every seven years.
It is a sabbatical year, you could say.
It is a year intended to bring reconciliation among people.
It is a year to being an end to stress and distress.
It is a year to build up the community.
It is a year to restore the individual and community, alike, for the purpose of God’s work.
This is great news, IF you are the one in debt.
This is great news, IF you are a slave, a servant, or oppressed.
BUT, it is not-so-great news, IF you are the one owed said debt.
BUT, it is not-so-great news, IF you are master of said slaves/servants/oppressed persons.
Jesus’ ministry and message, like the gospel, is a double-edged sword.
There are times when we get worried because scripture can sound ‘political’, for it seems to address (and affect) our public life together. On Facebook this week, I saw (and shared) a post that included a quote from one who identifies themselves as “A Southern Preacher”, it read:
“Preaching that we are to love our neighbor,
to welcome the stranger,
and to stand up for the marginalized
does not mean you are making political statements.
It means you are making biblical statements.”
- To bring good news to the poor;
- To proclaim release to the captives;
- The recovery of sight to the blind;
- To let the oppressed go free;
- To proclaim Christ in word and deed;
- To seek justice;
- To act with compassion and mercy; and
- To love and to serve…
These are all concepts deeply rooted within our Scriptures, whether we are looking at Isaiah or the Gospels.
Paul understood this. In our 1 Corinthians scripture, Paul writes about the members of the body including that the “inferior” are to be lifted up, that there is no longer Greek or Jews, and that there is no longer free or slave because those distinctions have been destroyed in the waters of baptism.
Therefore, every year and each day should be the year of the Lord’s favor…
Every day we should seek reconciliation.
Every day we should seek forgiveness, not just for ourselves but also for others.
It is not always easy to live into the proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor, and yet we are called to do so.
Again, the gospel is sweet news to those who are in need but convicts those who are not.
There is a sign that hangs in my office, which is a quote from Sirius Black, a character in the Harry Potter series, which reads:
“If you want to know what a man’s life,
take a good look at how he treats his inferiors and not his equals.”
May we all try to live further into the proclamation of the year if the Lord’s favor.
May we all seek to lift up all who are “inferior” (“least of these”).
May we all seek to free the oppressed.
May we all seek to live into that future which is better/brighter than we can imagine.