“Great News for Who?”

Luke 4:14-21

24 January 2016

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 4:14-21

 

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 favor.” 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.”

 

Prayer.

 

It is said, “There is a first time for everything.”

I vaguely remember the first time I rode my bike without falling off;

Down the short hill on Steward Avenue in Jamestown, NY.

In a flash, I knew I was free.

The first time driving a car?

I was with my dad in his puke green ’74 Plymouth Satellite

Driving … or should I say weaving … down Route 17 near Chemung, NY.

First funeral?

At Barber’s Funeral home in Horseheads, NY,

I forgot the name of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Give me a break;

I was nineteen years old.

First baptism,

A blond hair, blue eyed high-school senior named Jeffrey Allen Cash;

Right before the ER physician pronounced him dead from a massive stroke.

 

First time events are memorable,

Nearly as much so as those moments when the world stands still:

“Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”

“Where were you when 9/11 went down?”

 

The Good News from Luke 4 is all about

Jesus experiencing first time events.

Jesus begins his call,

Immediately following his baptism,

By being filled with the Spirit and

Being “led into the wilderness

where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”

- Luke 4:1-2

Usually, you only start a call or career once.

 

Then, Luke reports,

“Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee,”

- Luke 4:14

Where he taught in synagogues throughout the surrounding country,

And he was praised by everyone.

If you see a common thread here,

You’re not alone.

 

Jesus’ work is goes hand-in-hand

With the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Apart from the Spirit,

He can do nothing.

And it isn’t like the Spirit hadn’t been acting in Jesus’ life

Prior to the beginning of his ministry.

The Holy Spirit came to Zechariah, his wife Elizabeth, and to Simeon.

 

1. “The Holy Spirit … guides and empowers people for prophetic ministry.”

(Ruth Anne Reese, Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary, Lexington, KY, as found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2741)

This is a dominate characteristic of the Gospel of Luke.

This is a primary consideration for us today.

 

The Holy Spirit is God’s presence among us.

As I mentioned last Sunday,

The Holy Spirit is manifest in “Signs”.

This is what the Gospel of John calls them.

When we experience signs of God’s movement in our life,

The presence of the same Spirit is made known to us.

The same, eternal Spirit of God

That came upon the prophet Isaiah,

That came upon Jesus in the Synagogue in Nazareth,

That comes upon you and me

And is revealed in signs in our life today,

Is one and the same;

One God, present

And empowering

God’s people engaged in prophetic ministry.

 

If you’re not seeing signs,

This begs the question:

Are you engaged in God’s plan for your life?

Are you intentionally discerning and following God’s will?

Have you bought in?

If not, why not?

 

Let’s do some discernment here.

Let’s discern God’s will,

Not based on my opinion, mind you,

But based on the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ

As found right here in the text.

 

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,” Isaiah begins.

- Isaiah 61:1

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus began.

- Luke 4:18

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you and me today:

“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.””

- Luke 4:18-19

 

2. Jesus has a particular focus here.

Christ has given us a sign for his disciples to follow.

Discernment brings front and center

Into the life of every Christian

Which we cannot deny:

The poor;

People who live in poverty,

ptochoi, as it says in the Greek.

The prophetic ministry of Jesus is focused on the poor.

 

It is the poor who are recipients of God’s kingdom. (Luke 6:20)

It is the poor who are invited to the kingdom feast. (Luke 14:13)

Our neighbors, particularly our poor neighbors,

Are the ones for whom Good News is proclaimed.

In the time of Jesus,

The poor are those that are hungry,

Those who are at the bottom of society,

Those who are economically disadvantaged

And those who are marginalized by society.

 

In our world today, who are the poor?

The poor are those who are homeless and broken.

The poor are those who are so fractured they are unemployable.

The poor are those who live as virtual slaves, hired hands, and sharecroppers.

The poor are those dying of loneliness in nursing homes,

Suffering from addictions,

Persecuted by discrimination due to race or religion,

Dying of exclusion because there is no ramp for their wheelchair

And there is no warm heart to make one.

The poor are the 8 in 10 indigenous children living in Guatemala,

As cited by pastor Lida this past week,

Who are living in our own hemisphere

With chronic malnutrition.

(http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Guatemala-May-Declare-State-of-Calamity-Over-Malnutrition-20160120-0006.html)

Starving people are the poor Jesus is talking about.

 

The poor are next door.

And the poor are far away.

Poverty is rampant in the world.

Poverty is the darkness that breeds violence,

Fosters oppression,

And is the result of Christian inaction, apathy, and paralysis.

 

You say you love Jesus?

Then join me in rolling up our sleeves and getting to work

Reaching out and serving the poor.

 

This might be great news for the poor,

But this is bringing irritation

To those of us who don’t like to get our hands dirty.

Jesus is pure aggravation to those who profit from other people’s poverty.

Jesus is a radical, free spending, revolution inspiring,

Mother Teresa kind of guy

To all of us who prefer the luxury of our board room and it’s free lunches.

Jesus haunts those of us who don’t want to open our pocket book

Or take the time to get out of our easy chairs

To spread God’s love, healing, and restoration to a broken world.

Jesus stirs the caldron of conscience

For those of us who are content

For Christianity to be a non-contact, spectator sport.

 

The crowd is ready to rumble;

Just like most of us in this warm sanctuary

Right here, right now.

 

3. This doesn’t stop Jesus.

Jesus cuts even deeper when he joins his voice with Isaiah

And proclaims the year of the Lord’s favor.

He’s talking Jubilee, people.

 

Every 50 years,

The Jewish audience in the Synagogue this day knew,

Was a time when slave holders had to release their slaves,

When mortgage holders had to forgive their debts,

When sharecroppers would be returned to their land,

When the Temple’s treasury would be zeroed out and given to the poor,

When wealthy victims had to open the jails

For those who had perpetrated crimes against them.

Jubilee is not great news for landowners,

The wealthy,

The powerful,

The decision makers of the world.

 

Can you imagine what proclaiming Jubilee would do today?

You’d be called a socialist, or a communist.

You’d be jailed for inciting a riot,

You’d be dismissed as a hack,

And you’d suffer and die a martyr.

 

Just like Jesus.

 

Lifting up the poor

And bringing down the rich

Is living, as the apostle Paul, wrote,

Living prepared to die.

 

It isn’t hard to understand

That with only a few additional words,

Jesus’ own family, relatives, and neighbors

Were prepared for homicide;

They were ready to kill him

- throw him from a cliff –

Instead of simply running him out of town.

 

You say you love Jesus.

Follow him.

That’s the Spirit’s will for living.

 

Losing our own life,

Divesting of ourselves,

Turning from inwardly loving ourselves and our own,

To outwardly loving our neighbors, especially our poor neighbors,

Is really hard.

It takes a lot of courage.

It takes faith; not in the same quantity as courage, mind you.

It only takes a mustard seed quantity of faith,

To believe and follow the will of the Spirit.

 

We can do this, beloved friends.

We can do this.

I know we can do this.

Reach out

And lift up.

Amen.