Bellbrook Presbyterian Church

72 West Franklin St., Bellbrook, OH 45305

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Salvation Fully Realized

Posted on 1/15/2017 by SuperUser Account

Sometimes when I think about following Jesus, I think about how extreme following everything that he says, truly is. Take The Lord’s Prayer and give us this day our daily bread. Not tomorrow’s bread. Not bread for when I retire. But bread for today. That is enough and I’ll trust for tomorrow. And sometimes it takes a jolt of sorts to show us exactly what Jesus asks or calls. When we get that jolt we then are forced to decide which way we are going to go - - are we going to follow him? Truly?

I laugh thinking about such a jolt that my brother-in-law gave me before he and my sister were married.  Jerry was such great fun and a wee bit on the wild side which I thought was fabulous for a brother-in-law.  We were all in high school when pushing the envelope seemed to be a great thing to do.  He taught me how to play Five Card Draw and pool, took me for a ride on his Harley, and he and my sister and I and whatever friend I could drag along would do things that otherwise we’d never do - - like we went to a ZZ Top concert.  Who does that?

            But all of his great fun came also with unfiltered and unapologetic input.  If he disagreed with you, you were the first to know and if he thought your character needed improvement, you were the first to know that too.  He and his family went on vacation once and he brought me back this fake fabric license plate thing - - it was made out of that faux felt stuff that was popular in the 80’s.  Black border.  White middle.  Big bold black letters and I could not believe his nerve when I read what it said.

* * * *

“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.”

            Jesus, in the 4th Chapter of Luke, is filled with the Holy Spirit.  He has just come out of being tempted in the wilderness, and he returned to Galilee and people were talking about him.  He was teaching in the synagogues and being praised by everyone for what he taught.  And he went to Nazareth, his hometown, to the synagogue to preach there.  He read from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah, a scroll given to him, “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 following that reading he preaches the shortest sermon ever - - “today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” he said.           

The people were amazed at his “gracious words” and then they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  You know, that carpenter who lives just on the other side of town.  The Spirit of the Lord is upon him?

            What exactly was he saying?  These words Jesus reads are from Isaiah 61 where God is sending his prophet to bring encouragement to the exiled and the oppressed.  We remember from our earlier readings that in the time of Isaiah this was God sending good news to the Israelites who were in exile.  And the scripture speaks of release, and of the year of the Lord’s favor which takes us back even farther to Leviticus 25 where this understanding of release takes form in the Year of Jubilee.  Every 50 years everything is redistributed and debts are released, there is sort of this great equalizing.  The Jubilee concept was rooted in the understanding that the Israelites are aliens and tenants in this land that is not theirs, but a land that God has given them; so there is much more of a sense of gracious hospitality and provision than there is ownership or “mine”.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

Now of course the time of Luke was different than the time of Leviticus and the time of Isaiah.  The people in Luke’s time lived in the context of Roman Rule – ownership and possessions and such had taken of a very different sense.  Living under and empire that tolerated them but also felt free to oppress them, to take what was “theirs”, the Israelites must have felt the hand of injustice and that much of what was theirs had been taken from them.  And so, initially at least, Jesus’ words sounded great.

But when they asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” their question opened the door for a word from Jesus that they were simply not ready for.  “You will probably say, ‘Doctor cure yourself.’”  Do things here that you did in Capernaum, casting out unclean spirits and healings and such.  Do that here in your hometown among us!

“No prophet is accepted in his hometown,” Jesus tells them.  The casting out of demons and healing of the sick – those are all great things.  But this justice and release that Jesus was proclaiming - - bringing - - it was a justice and peace, a release, which extended beyond them.  He cites Elijah and Elisha and the saving of folks who were outside the circle of Israel.  People outside of “the faith”.  People outside of their hometown where they hoped Jesus’ favor with God would reside.  Do you really want to follow me?  Are you really ready for what it is that I ask of you?  Give us today our daily bread and do not worry about tomorrow is hard to do.

The news that Jesus proclaimed was a little too much for the people.  If the Good News was just for them, if it helped with this regime that dominated them, then great.  But Good News for all people?  Including the Romans?  Including the Gentiles?

They were filled with rage and drove him out of town to a cliff where they intended to throw him off.  But he passes right by them and goes another way.  His message unchanged.

“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.”

The thing about the Good News is that it is a LOT of Good News.  It is good news for you and me and also for the world.  Sometimes, like the people of Nazareth, the good news is hard for us to share.  It brings this equity that not only saves us and redeems us and restores us, but takes from us in order to ensure that all people are saved and redeemed and restored.  It is hard to hear and to understand and to embrace a good news, a savior, who comes to us in such a way.  And this is what the crowd was reacting to.  This wasn’t just Joseph’s son who had come home to do great things.  This was Jesus who had come to bring justice, release and salvation for all the world.  That news was just too much for them.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

 

            One of the hardest things about following Jesus is not tempering what he asks of us, or picking and choosing what we follow and what we don’t.  Maybe this is the hardest thing about following him.

            We are all works in progress, right?  We are people seeking to be faithful.  But most of us don’t get it all right.  Most of us do some following very well and are still very much learning to follow in other ways.  Jesus doesn’t expect perfection from the get-go; otherwise he would never have picked up the disciples.  Think about Peter - - who went from denying Jesus three times to being the cornerstone of the church! 

But Jesus does ask us to follow and listen and learn and be willing to change - - be willing to be molded along the way to be more like him, to more fully live and embrace and share the equalizing good news of the Gospel he brings. 

What does that mean, then?  What does that mean for us and for how we relate to each other here in this faith community?  Are we living out the gospel here?  Are we helping one another to follow Jesus more faithfully?  What about in our community?  How are we living out the gospel in a world that draws lines between color and income, have and have-nots, people who live here and people who live there?  Are we just?  Equitable? 

Who do we fear the good news for most?  Who would we rather keep it from and hold it for ourselves?

“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.”

Sometimes when I think about following Jesus, I think about how extreme following everything that he says, truly is.  And sometimes it takes a jolt of sorts to show us exactly what Jesus asks or calls.  When we get that jolt we then are forced to decide which way we are going to go - - are we going to follow him? 

That little license-plate sign thing that my brother-in-law gave me said in big letters, “There is one right way – MINE!”  Clearly he thought I was a bit on the bossy side!  I was so angry at him - - could not believe the nerve of him!  How dare he give me such a thing!  How dare he say something like that to me!

But in all honesty I learned a lot from those words.  His boldness helped me a lot with de-centering.  And as difficult as those words were I gained a bit better eyes for what it means to follow Jesus, and I continue to learn from them today.  What I have found is that I might have a great idea, or interpretation, or understanding about following Jesus.  But when I hear and listen and learn from the community around me, that understanding gets even deeper, more Christ-like, more true.  That’s why we have each other – right?  We are a community of faith seeking to be faithful in Jesus Christ and we do that together much better than we could ever do it alone.

How can we better follow Jesus?  How can we hear the good news in all of its goodness and also in all of the justice and equity and peace for all people that Jesus brings?

All glory, be to you, O lord.

 

Amen.


 
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