Thursday, September 22, 2016

22 September 2016
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21 (NRSV)

            Good afternoon, welcome. Today Luke begins his account of Jesus’ public ministry. The Isaiah passage Ch. 60:1-2a (see also 58:6) and is part of a larger section having to do with repentance and restoration, which starts around Isaiah 49 and finishes around Ch. 62. This section is well worth the read and has a contemporary application which is especially relevant to today’s culture in general, and our political climate in particular.
            So, what is this good news Jesus has come to bring? Captivity to sin has ended. Those blinded to the truth about God will see clearly. The oppressed will find relief. The Kingdom of God has come. Today. Right here, Right now. For the congregation in the Nazareth synagogue this must have sounded like a pretty good deal; a classic case of local boy males good, the hometown hero returns. They knew this guy; anybody who had been paying attention must have sensed something different about him.
            Then Jesus drops the bombshell-you don’t understand. This isn’t just for you. In fact it might not be for you at all-no hometown ever honors their own prophets. This is for everyone. Remember the widow in Sidon? Remember Naaman the Syrian? This is like that. This is how God does things. The response is typical of those who are not hearing what they want to hear-violence against the messenger. We see a lot of that today too.
                        Worth noting is where Jesus cuts off the Isaiah quote. The full verse reads “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn”. The year of the Lord’s favor is here, and Jesus is it. The day of vengeance will come later, and Jesus will be that too. Comfort will come. But not yet. This is important. For now, the day of the Lord’s favor remains. And it is not exclusive to the Nazareth Synagogue, it is for everyone-the offer is for all who will believe. Knowing this demands a choice, a response. Will we be a Nazareth Synagogue or will we participate with Jesus in fulfilling the prophesy?
            How about you? In the next day or two or three, pay close attention to everyone who comes across your path. Note how you react-your first response. We are not judging here, merely observing. At the end of your day, review your observations. Remember, we are not judging, we are observing. If you have written this stuff down, offer it to God, ask Him to comment. Maybe write down any thoughts this produces on the other side of your paper.
            I know this sounds a little odd, especially for those who might not be used to interacting with God in this way. Remember, we are made for relationship-interacting-we are family, God’s family. This (interacting, communicating) is what families do, and our family is huge and growing.  Paul says “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Ephesians 3:14-15, NRSV).  Talk to your Father in heaven. Try it for a few days and see where it takes you. See where God takes you. Remember, it’s His plan.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NRSV). JRG


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