On a Mission - Reflections 1-22-2022

Texts for Sunday, January 23, 2022
Third Sunday after Epiphany

Nehemiah 8:1-10
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Luke 4:14-21

This Gospel text is one of the first times in the Gospel of Luke that we, the reader/hearer, get to hear Jesus speaking publicly. Verse 15 says that he was teaching in synagogues and people seemed to appreciate it, but we don’t get to actually hear him until this moment in Nazareth, his home town. So, for them (as well as we readers), this serves as his inaugural address. And it sounds like he is sharing his mission statement for his ministry, and maybe, claiming his identity in history (after all, the Spirit of the Lord was indeed upon him in his baptism). I also think it is helpful to know that Jesus is just back from the desert and the temptations by Satan. Scriptures were the tools that these two adversaries chose to use against each other. Using Isaiah to describe his mission makes sense an extension of that time apart.

These words he reads from Isaiah actually come from a couple of places in the book – Isaiah 61:1-2 and 58:6, and they point to the message of Leviticus 25:8-12 about the year of Jubilee*

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

The crowd was sitting forward expectantly. Home town boy became famous. 

Wait. What? 
The crowd, who knew Jesus when he was just an ordinary kid running around the town, did not expect this. We’ll save more of their reaction for next week. For whatever reason, the lectionary splits this reading into two Sundays.

So right now, we are asked to just take this message in. When I hear it, I am filled with hope. This moment of living in what seems like an endless pandemic during which so many of our worlds have come into clearer focus - poverty, captivity, blindness, oppression in the form of division, hatred, hunger, trafficking, violence, murder, racism, disaster, climate change – this text feels spoken for this day.

Scripture reaches backward and forward, past, present, future. That’s one of the cool things about eternity. It is this moment as well as always. Ancient words of hope in the far distant past of Isaiah’s time resound through Jesus’ coming and then echo into our current world.

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Wait. What? 
Yes, I’m looking at you.
Taking a very sharp turn to the text from 1 Corinthians, let me show you something interesting. “Now you are the body of Christ”, it says - that is the plural you. We are at this moment in this current world the body of Christ. This scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing, in our presence as Christ in this world. If we are the body of Christ, we’ve inherited this mission statement.

I am reading a book by Bishop Tutu God has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for our Time and a book by Bishop Michael Curry, Love is the Way: Holding onto Hope in Troubling Times. Both these men describe ways that they have lived and experienced this mission of Jesus. The whole warm fuzzy I have for thinking that these words from Isaiah are perfect for today are replaced by a big dose of fear and trembling. This mission is dangerous.

Remember that Jesus took this mission to the cross. Or perhaps more accurately, the mission took Jesus to the cross. Both those Bishops describe cross-like moments but they, like Jesus turned to God and found the way to move forward. That is the hope we have.

How or where do you see yourself in fulfilling this scripture?

Jubilee was an economic policy in the codes of ancient Israel which canceled debts and returned property to original owners that had been forfeited in unpaid debts. Other ancient civilizations had similar “clean slate” decrees. But it is unknown how well, or even if, that policy worked.


How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245