I am in the fourth year of my journey through a four-year lectionary that I developed. The first part of the gospel lesson for this coming Sunday is found below. The lesson is my own paraphrase. I find paraphrasing scripture (utilizing various translations and original language dictionaries) to be helpful for my my understanding them. I have also included a brief reflection.
Luke 4:14-21(My Paraphrase)
Filled with the power of the Spirit, Jesus returned to Galilee, and rumors about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside. He then taught in their synagogues and was esteemed by all.
Then he went to Nazareth, where he had been raised, and on the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue, as was his custom. There, he stood up to read, and he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to announce good news to the poor. He has sent me to make whole the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and the recovery of sight for the blind, to deliver the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he closed the scroll, gave it to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of every person in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began speaking to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it read.”
Concerning the last phrase in the passage above, Fred Craddock has this to say in his commentary on Luke from the Interpretation series:
The age of God’s reign is here; the eschatological time when God’s promises are fulfilled and God’s purpose comes to fruition has arrived; there will be changes in the conditions of those who have waited and hoped. Those changes for the poor and the wronged and the oppressed will occur today. This is the beginning of jubilee. The time of God is today, and the ministries of Jesus and the church according to Luke-Acts demonstrate that “today” continued throughout these two volumes, “today” never is allowed be become “yesterday” or to slip into a vague “someday.” The history of the church does not, however, bear unbroken testimony to Jesus announcement….”
Fred’s quote causes one to raise the question: what percentage of churches, with which you are familiar, are:
- good news for the poor,
- healing the brokenhearted,
- bringing sight to the blind, (as my friend Brad points out below, this originally read “Blond.” Oops. :^)
- freeing the captives,
- delivering the oppressed,
- or proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.
And I don’t mean these things in some non-specific, spiritualized, or intellectualized way either.
Of course, realizing the striking distance between church and Christ is but a first step in doing something to close the gap. Sadly, it is also the only step that some ever take. They bemoan their lack of Christ-likeness, but then basically shrug their shoulders and move on to the next, less demanding, item on their agenda. After all, what can they do? To take seriously the mission as outlined by Jesus would completely alter the normal way of being the church. It would require too much of them, too many sacrifices, too much change, and so they (and I) complain about the way things are, but rarely actually do anything to to make things the way they ought to be.
This is not what Christ intended, in my opinion, and these verses are a clear call for us to take concrete actions to follow him, not just by saying the right words, but by also doing the right things.