“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:18-21, NLT)
Imagine living in a world filled with oppression and injustice. Racial tension is high. People live paycheck to paycheck. There is no middle class…only the “haves” and “have nots.” Religion is reduced to dead ritual, dulled by the din of different gods and new, strange ones. International peace is non existent as people live under the constant threat of invasion. People are discouraged and despondent, largely without hope. Does that sound familiar? It’s not a description of today’s world; rather of one that existed 2,000 years ago. The first century was not an easy time to be alive. For many in that era it must have felt as if it couldn’t possibly get any worse. It was at that precise time that God intervened and stepped out of the splendor of heaven and into our mess as Jesus incarnate.
Jesus’ inaugural words are posted above as preserved in the Gospel of Luke. As Jesus began his three year ministry, he was, for all intents and purposes God’s megaphone that hope was near. Like the first century, we live in a time when life seems so overwhelming that it feels as though we can’t carry on. But that is concurrently the precise time that we are reminded that God is present and has something to say to his people and through his people. As God continues to speak, he speaks his message of love, grace, and forgiveness through his people, the church. Now, more than ever, the church of Jesus Christ needs to be attuned to the fact that we do not live in a vacuum. We live in the world for the sake of the world. We possess a responsibility to remind those who are neglected and marginalized that God still loves and cares for them and that they have not been forgotten or forsaken.
God not only has something to say, He has an agenda. When Jesus spoke he spoke of actions that would lead to specific outcomes. God’s agenda is that we proclaim a message of liberating grace to those who feel oppressed and enslaved in any and every sense.
I think Luke 4 is a timely reminder for 21st century Christians. As the presence of Christ we follow his agenda, expressing his encouraging presence to people in culture who live lives of quiet desperation. But knowing about our responsibility is not enough. We have to step into that responsibility as investors and stake holders, giving our all for a cause that is bigger than ourselves.
Each week in worship we pray the Lord’s Prayer. In part we ask for “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s time to become the answer to our prayer.