Luke 4: 14-21
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” March 4, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln. Second Inaugural Address
“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.” January 20, 1961 President John F. Kennedy
“In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.” January 20, 2009 President Barack Obama. First Inaugural Address.
Three Presidents. All with conviction for the good of the common weal for justice and peace, freedom and hope rooted deeply in God’s grace. Through Civil War, civil rights, terrorism, environmental concerns and health care these men worked for the betterment of the human condition and equality for all people in the United States and in the world.
But they did not accomplish what they did without a vision. And we, as citizens of the United States, heard their vision in their Inaugural Addresses at the beginning of their administrations. We approved with applause after each point of proclamation and at the end we approved with sustained applause. And soon we will have another president. And hopefully we will be offered a vision of justice, fairness, and equality for all people who live in this great United States.
When Jesus got up to read on one Sabbath morning some liken it to Jesus giving his inaugural address before his ministry actually began as we will see in the Gospel of Luke. Perhaps so. Inspired by the Spirit of the Lord he sets out his course and purpose for the people of Galilee as was illustrated in the Book of Isaiah. And he did it with the conviction that he was the Messiah who was to usher in this age of peace and equality. Let us hear this account now from the Gospel of Luke the fourth chapter.
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.
Jesus had been out in the dry and parched wilderness for a while. Lead by the Spirit, tempted by the devil with food, power and greatness and then after denying the devil he returns to Galilee, his very own region of lush grasses, sunflowers, and pomegranate trees. The Spirit was still with him and he taught in Jewish meeting places all over the region because word of him, this charismatic preacher, had spread.
Then, he returns to Nazareth, his home where his friends and family still made their living and their homes. It was the Sabbath and Jesus faithfully goes to his childhood synagogue to worship. It was the custom, and still is, to have readers throughout the service stand up and read Torah and from the books of the prophets. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Jesus. He carefully unrolled the parchment and found where he wanted to read. “The Spirit…has anointed me to bring good news to the poor….proclaim release to the captives….and recovery of sight to the blind….to let the oppressed go free…and to proclaim a jubilee year, the year of the Lord’s favor.
Then, just as carefully as he unrolled the parchment scroll he rolls it up again and gives it to the attendant who covered it and placed back in the ark. Jesus sits down. No one took their eyes off of him because now comes the sermon. And it was a short one. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” At first we are lead to believe that the people were thrilled to hear that news because life in during the Roman occupation of first century Palestine stank. But we know that Jesus will be forced out of Nazareth; it’s a matter of life and death.
Jesus’ Inaugural Address
As inaugural addresses go, Jesus’ address is short and sweet but it packed a major wallop! If he weren’t in the synagogue I’m sure there would have been applause in between each proclamation that he reiterated from the prophet Isaiah. His major points were (I feel like one of those commentators):
1) He is divinely sanctioned being filled and anointed by the Spirit of the Lord. In other words, he’s qualified to preach by the highest authority;
2) His preaching is specifically aimed at poor, impoverished people, because we know that the poor people are the forgotten ones or the ones who are discriminated against. It’s not that poor people need Jesus more, because we all need Jesus, they need hope because they have less resources;
3) He will proclaim liberty to every person who sits in bondage, who for some reason, whatever reason is held in captivity and cannot free themselves. Emancipation from the shackles of our inhumanity to one another or independence from our own prisons that we have placed ourselves in is what he states publicly;
4) He will heal people who cannot see physically, or spiritually from the dark alleys of life and the blackened stages of living and he will release or bring about freedom, a new way of life for people who sit on the outer edges of society;
5) Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord or jubilee, a time in which all debts are forgiven and new life can commence.
This is great news, a time of sustained applause would have occurred. And it was fulfilled as people listened to Jesus read the words of the prophet. Jesus said what he was going to do and then he did it. Vision and mission accomplished.
We Are Beneficiaries and Legacies
We are the beneficiaries of this great teaching; of this vision. We are the recipients of God’s message through Jesus. Because who among us at some point in our lives have not been held captive in some way or blinded from reality, or just plain sick and in need of healing? Or in desperate need of forgiveness? We all have. And we certainly know that this world aches with need. So it is more than likely will need to hear this message of love over again. And again.
And as legacies of Christ’s message, ministry and life that means we have a certain responsibility to carry forward his vision. To tell the Gospel, to live the good news, to evangelize and proclaim how you have been picked up, salvaged and saved is part and parcel because the good news lives in us and through us. In other words, quite simply to share your faith.
And we do this by using the gifts that have been given to us. Last week we talked about spiritual gifts and I asked you to think about what gifts that you have been given that you could offer the church to reveal the Christ among us? We cannot let Jesus’ words, his inaugural address lie dormant in the dusty pages of history. We need to take his vision, use our gifts and in that way build up his church.
Paul tells us in the first book of Corinthians, chapter 12, ‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, through many, are one body, so it is with Christ…..If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.’ (v. 12 & 26)
One Message, Many Voices
There is only one message of love here, manifest in freedom and forgiveness. And we are many voices who have our own stories of freedom and forgiveness to tell. No one story is greater than the next. No one has been forgiven more than anyone else. We are in this together saved in Christ. Loved equally.
Let us go out too and proclaim release to the captives; sight to the blind; freedom and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Let us go out and do the work that Christ so ably lays out before us. And then, let us begin the sustained applause that only he deserves.