Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, January 27, 2013:

First Reading: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10

Psalm: Psalm 19

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Gospel: Luke 4:14-21

In this week’s Gospel, we see the first public appearance of Jesus. He preaches on a text from Isaiah, (chapter 61, to be precise). In this teaching, we see the plan of God.

Notice that God offers us a big vision, release of all sorts: recovering of sight, liberty to the captives, release from debt (which happened during the year of the Lord). These are not the tiny dreams that humans might have. Jesus reminds his listeners, and us, of God’s plan for the redemption of creation.

It’s fascinating to read this text in the context of Monday’s Inaugural activities and the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King. It’s worth reminding ourselves how unlikely it was that the Civil Rights Movement would meet with any kind of success. Early on, the Civil Rights workers experienced incredible violence and sometimes even death. Yet they persevered.

And now, 60 years later, we see an African-American president elected not once, but twice. Once can be written off as a fluke. Two electoral victories mean that attitudes have changed—not everyone’s attitude, to be sure, but a significant amount from the attitudes of 1950’s American citizens.

Even for those who didn’t vote for the one being inaugurated, Inauguration Day offers all sorts of inspirations. We dig back into our past and many of us contemplate what an unlikely success our democracy has been. If you had lived in 1776, you wouldn’t have thought that the American colonists could throw off the oppressive rule of the British. And yet, they did.

In this 150th year after the Emancipation Proclamation, we might also reflect on a different time that was even more polarized than our own. Those alive in 1863 would be surprised to discover that descendents of slaves and Africans had won an election; they might be surprised that Lincoln’s Bible endured to a new swearing in.

Our Bible reminds us again and again of God’s liberation narrative. We may feel enslaved and hopeless, but the narrative arc of the Bible reminds us that God comes to set us free in any number of ways. We may feel overwhelmed by debts that seem insurmountable, but Jesus reminds us that debt can be overcome.

The ministry of Jesus will go further. Again and again, Christ will remind us that we have work to do. We are not redeemed from our captivity so that we can sit staring blankly at computer screens or televisions. We are set free so that we can set others free. We live in community not so that we can feel good about our acceptance, but so that we can bring others into community with us.

In the coming weeks, we’ll see Jesus and his disciples at work in their world. We should take heart at the fact that Christ called ordinary people, people deeply flawed, people who were already overcommitted. In short, he called people just like you and me.

We know the story from the vantage point of 2000 years of history, but if we could travel back in time to see Christ at work in Palestine, we’d likely predict that the ministry of Jesus would be unsuccessful. Jesus doesn’t call the successful, the rich, the well-connected.

No, he calls ordinary people. And he’s still calling ordinary people. What will you be doing this year to declare the good news of God’s liberation?

No comments: