Community in Action January 11, 2021

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”

Luke 4:18

    This morning I am struggling with deep sadness. We continue to read, hear, and feel the repercussions after the devastating incidents of last Wednesday evening.

    There is so much pain, loss, and grief connected to this incident that I don’t know where to start. There is anger, there is confusion, and there are questions of how and even why this happened.

    It will take a long to time to figure out what could have been done differently and though it is easy to blame one person or a group of persons I feel we all are in some way complicit.

    The above quote comes from what I call the “Mission Statement” of Jesus. He reads this in the synagogue of Nazareth the day he returns to his hometown. This passage is also a quote from Isaiah 61:1. It is a record of the words found in Isaiah after the people have returned from exile back to their homeland, back to Israel, and back to Jerusalem.

    It is a statement of hope, but it comes when the exile has been acknowledged, when the hopelessness that reigned at one time is ended. It is a statement of what Jesus brings to us in our times of despair.

    Yet, if we look at the words of Isaiah 61:1 we would notice that Jesus does not include the words, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” I think there is partly because he wants the hearers to remember these words.

    When you have something memorized, as many of the Jews did with scripture, you notice when certain words aren’t spoken. As an oral culture it is like someone running a highlighter over them.

    In fact highlighting this section of the prophet’s words would cause one also to remember the end of verse 2 and verse 3 in Isaiah 61: 

to comfort all who mourn, 

    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

    instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

    instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

    a planting of the Lord

    for the display of his splendor. 

Isaiah 61:2b-3

    These are the words I want us to hear today. Jesus came not only to bring good news but to care for those who are in pain. Jesus came not only to set the oppressed free, words which actually come for Isaiah 58:6 and by choosing these words interjected into Isaiah 61 cause them to also be highlighted also, but to comfort those who are struggling emotionally.

    Notice in Isaiah it goes on to say that instead of ashes, which are worn in time of great mourning, a crown will be put on their heads. A garment of praise instead of sack cloth, also worn in mourning.

    Jesus knows we are distraught and knows we will come through this time as we move towards healing. It will take some time and we may have more pain to experience before it is all over, but Jesus is here with us.

    Not only will we come through this time intact, but those who are comforted will be like “oaks of righteousness.” We will be stronger because we have experienced the pain of this world and with God’s help we will be healed from that pain. Just as a broken bone is stronger once it heals. We will be evidence that God can bring good our of evil.

    Jesus is here to walk with us and he is here to bring us peace. Right now I don’t feel peace, but I do feel hope. So I urge you not to give up or to succumb to feelings of despair. All is not lost. If nothing else remember that the apocalyptic book of Revelation tells us in the end all will be redeemed, all will be made right, everyone in the end will acknowledge that our Lord is indeed the reconciler of all that is wrong with the world and it will be made right.

    Come Lord Jesus, Maranatha,

    Longing for full redemption with you,

    Pastor Randy

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