Sometimes words grow on you. The message you hear is like a potplant that is put into the ground, where it develops roots and spreads out into new meaning.
He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
The speaker commented on the fact that the listeners were aware of God’s promises and they expected that they would be fulfilled. However, the expectation was mainly about THEM being blessed. God’s people in a land occupied by the Romans, should be first in line when it came to freedom from oppression.
They didn’t expect God´s love and favour to include all sinners, like Roman soldiers and people from Samaria, as well as the crowd of the poor and sick that Jesus hung out with.
That was then, and how is it now?
I find myself thinking that I have a tendency to expect the same things, the same blessings as the people in Nazareth.
In theory, I am all for Jesus coming to the poor, the prisoners, the blind and oppressed, but what do I and the established Christian fellowship really long for, pay attention to and dream about?
We want our meeting halls and churches filled with people, we want new soldiers and members and followers of Jesus. We pray for leaders and generous supporters. Yes, the truth is that our hopes and expectations are that God will move in this country and keep our organisation, our church going and growing. Bless us! Come to us!
Ruth Padilla DeBorst said that Jesus came to go beyond human expectations and desire for comfort. She said “Life can only be enjoyed by sharing, not hoarding or consuming”.
If I reflect on the language that we sometimes use in churches and The Salvation Army today, we often have a tendency to talk about expecting more and better things from God for ourselves. That might not be completely wrong, as such, but the proclamation in Nazareth reminds us that FIRST we should share hope, life and freedom in Jesus with all those who are going without these things.
“We shall not save the world. Jesus has already done that. We need to be saved from a world of overabundance and self-reliance.” This quote from her talk summarises that we can trust God to build his Church as we go with his revolutionary love and grace to where it is needed.A tool that the Salvation Army has developed to address this issue, of keeping our focus where it should be, is the Journey of renewal material.