Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing…” (Luke 4:21)
This weekend we will once again be exploring sections of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Meanwhile, the lectionary gospel passage includes this relatively famous scene depicting Jesus’ first formal sermon.
Like many of us, he gave this speech during a visit to his own childhood congregation. They have watched him grow into a man and they are astonished when he tells them that he is the fulfillment of a prophecy. They are so upset, in fact, that in the verses after this passage they attempt to drive him off a cliff (and now you know why pastors avoid ministering in their home churches).
The passage he reads is from Isaiah and it speaks to the very heart of his calling: 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.
Notice that there is a key word he does not use in this passage: love. Why? Because he is talking about love made tangibly manifest. He is speaking of justice and reconciliation – things that are love in action. Because God’s vision for the world is so much bigger than any one of us. We are looking at a systemic shift in how the world works when God’s kingdom fully comes. And Jesus is the one who inaugurates that kingdom’s work re-entering the world and beginning again.
Why is this passage so important? It teaches us our calling, too. Yes, we are called to love everyone – Jesus did say that, repeatedly. But the ways we do that include far grander pursuits than mere words or even simple hugs (important as they are). We are called to seek after God’s justice for the world, just like Jesus. We are called to walk in his footsteps.
Even if we end up making some people upset, it should always be because we are being too loving, too welcoming, too justice-seeking, too reconciling. May it be so among us, in Christ’s church and in the whole world.