To Whom Are We Taking the Good News?
Luke 4:18 “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,
Luke 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus goes home to Nazareth and on the Sabbath goes to the synagogue worship. He stands up to read from the scroll and he reads this portion of scripture written by the prophet Isaiah. When he finishes reading he tells the people that this scripture has been fulfilled in their presence.
This is about Jesus, himself, and he is the one who is anointed to take the good news to the poor. He is speaking about his mission and where his father is sending him. It is a sign of what the people are to see in the months and years ahead from Jesus and his ministry.
The people of his hometown are not pleased -- and they try to throw him off a cliff. Here was this young man who had grown up among them and now, how dare he suggest that the had a divine responsibility! They were angry and not willing to accept this calling on his life, and rather than contemplate what he had said, it was easier to get rid of him.
Today we may not be bothered by the fact that Jesus is our home town boy -- but we might seriously be bothered by the message. How often do we really contemplate the fact that Jesus was anointed to "bring good news to the poor?" If we look at most of Christianity these days -- would we be a reflection of the anointed ministry of Jesus Christ? Does Christianity truly see ministering to the poor as a primary task? If not, what would Jesus have to say about it?
I come from the tradition known as the holiness movement. Within this tradition, we began with a ministry to the poor and needy. We were intentional in how we did ministry so that we could reach out to the poor. Only what was absolutely necessary was spent on church buildings so that more money could be spent on the poor. It's why you find many little, simple buildings tucked away in poor neighborhoods -- not out on the main streets of towns. This was a purposeful move to be there in the midst of those who needed the church.
It was in those early years in the United States, there among the poor, that the church flourished. The poor and needy were being ministered to and they were finding not only salvation, but a complete life-change as a result of the transformation found in sanctification. It was incredible! But as the years went by and we got cleaned up -- we moved up out of our poverty and wanted to become more respectable. We wanted nicer and bigger buildings in better locations and so, little by little we moved up and away from the communities in which we began. Or, if we stayed -- when our kids grew up and went off to college -- they never wanted to come back to those humble beginnings.
Could it be that we are needing to hear that prophetic voice again calling us to join Christ in his ministry to the poor? Maybe we need to again articulate our calling and embrace what it was that we were doing in the first place. Maybe we need to re-engage in the work of the poor and needy communities of this world, and I believe if we did, we would be fulfilling the mission and calling of Jesus Christ. There need not be any embarrassment of the location of our church buildings -- instead, there ought to be an embracing of the calling and the work that we are to do, where we are.
To whom are we taking the good news?
Lord, please help me to follow you into the world. Amen.