Monday, January 28, 2013

We Are: Working or continuing Jesus' work

LUKE 4:14-21
If you were here last week, you had the opportunity to participate in every segment of our morning worship service. I don’t want that experience to slip away. I’d like to try some ways to recapture the participatory spirit of ‘church in a circle’. 
One of our activities was to listen to scripture together and share what we heard. So, using the lectio style of reading, listening, and responding. I invite you to hear again the 2 verses from Isaiah that Jesus read and respond in the pauses by saying a word or two that strikes you. 
St. Peter's Spirit image

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, ___
to proclaim release to the prisoners ___
and recovery of sight to the blind, ___
to liberate the oppressed, ___
19 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. ___

The words that stand out for us are important, but even more important is to hear each other’s voices calling them out. The message of ‘Good News’ for us and for us to share - comes through the emphasis we hear.

Last week, in our circle it was really easy see and hear each other. In that setting we named each other’s gifts, along with the gifts that are valued by the church (here and the wider church) and those gifts that are undervalued. It was insightful. 
The naming and giving thanks for each other’s gifts seemed so powerful in that moment and setting. It reminded us that AS the ‘Gathered’ body of Christ we have all the gifts we need among the body’s members.
Today, we examine another aspect of our identity as Jesus’ Followers, and it’s the usually very obvious in This particular community; it is our service. We are the workers, called to continue the ministry Jesus’ began. It sounds a bit intimidating, as if we could equal Jesus...but the reality is, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we CAN continue his work.

Key to all parts of our identity is the truth that the Holy Spirit is behind them all. Just as we recognize it is God’s Spirit who provides the gifts we need, it is the Spirit which fuels our service and guides us in certain directions. 
The Holy Spirit often gets short-changed when it comes to credit. Yet one of the first things you heard? and called out was ‘Spirit’. 

We notice that as Jesus returned to his hometown to read in the synagogue, he was powered by the Spirit. v. 14,Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee. . . “
(if we backtrack in Luke) the author tells us that the Spirit was active at Jesus’ baptism, descending physically on him like a dove. The Spirit led him into the wilderness and now the Spirit empowers him for ministry. (1 Ernest Hess Feasting On the Word - Homiletical (Louisville:WJK,2009)287)

Which makes it important for US to be listening, and responding to God’s Spirit if we hope to continue Jesus’ work with OUR ministry.

Let’s look at Jesus’ Mission Statement in this text, for that’s what it is. 
Since we have some familiarity with Jesus’ story, let’s fill in the blanks. (This is where WE get to be witnesses by sharing the witness of the gospel stories.)

ASK- How did Jesus bring Good News to poor?
    • Fed 5,000, - Sermon on Plain Lk 6, “Blessed are the ‘poor’ 
    • (Happy are you who are hungry now. You will be satisfied.)

 What aspects of Jesus’ overall ministry were good news to poor?
What message was in his preaching?

How did he release captives, Open eyes of blind, Liberate the oppressed?

(Key stories of blind being healed, sick healed, evil spirits exorcised.?
In What ways did he liberate people who were imprisoned?
(Forgave sins, cured imprisonment of illness, & ‘demon’ possession)
Imprisoned by corruption (tax-collectors, trapped by upward-mobility, imprisoned by sex-trade)
Slide - ART, African Here’s a more artistic version of one of the Forgiving Sins AND healing stories. (included since I used simple clip art drawings today...)

 How did Jesus proclaim the year of the Lord's favor?

Jubilee: 50 years fields rest, debts forgiven

I wonder how WE might proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor?. . .

  We are familiar with these stories and we love to hear them again and again. What we may have forgotten is how much Jesus’ reading of today’s scripture echoes his mother’s words that she ‘sang’ to Elizabeth. She said that God would bring down the powerful, lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things. Do you remember those word’s from the story of her pregnancy and visit to Eliz? 

How natural then for Jesus, the scholar and teacher, to use the words of Isaiah, the prophet, words he likely heard all his growing years, to explain who he is and what he will do to fulfill God’s desires. (2 Elizabeth Myer Boulton Christian Century, Living by the Word,vol 130, No. Jan 23, 2013 p.20)

. . .How natural then for those who are ‘continuing the work of Jesus’ to turn to Jesus’ own words of mission, from scripture and use them for OUR mission statement.

Here at ACoB, we engage in many avenues of service.  At our Retreat 2 weeks ago, we listed the people and agencies who would miss us if we weren’t here. (tombstone) 
Let’s quickly review the ways we ARE continuing the work of Jesus.

What has the Spirit led US to do in these areas? 

Preach/Bring good news to poor? 
Alma and Nancy move to hall to find room.
 Yesterday's Scarf-making for Shelter clients, 24 volunteers made over 100 scarves.)
“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” 
If anything we might be a little short on the words about WHY we are doing what we do. . .

Proclaim release of captives/prisoners.
Yesterday’s March for Gun Control
Jonathan, Robyn, Lisa, Gary

Do people feel held captive by fear of violence? By the ineffectiveness of legal action? Perhaps even by powerful lobbies?

Recovery of Sight to Blind

What types of Blindness did Jesus heal? 
In a world that thinks all Christians are the same, to what might WE ‘open eyes’? Might it be a congregation that welcomes everyone to join in?  We could be a group of Christians who act first, speak second.

 - Let the Oppressed Go Free
To a world that believes violence, war, is the answer to disputes between people and nations, could this LIVING Peace church be called to heal (& make a difference)? 

- Proclaim year of Lord’s Favor
God is still calling us. Rather than add to our list of projects (which we do as we learn of needs...from Bingo to AFAC), let us consider what the Holy Spirit is calling us to BE.

I like activity and staying quiet is often a challenge. Yet I have learned that being still, at least in my head, often makes a space where I can hear God’s call. 

Instead of listing we can be listening. Instead of moving into MORE and MORE activity, the question for us today is HOW we can BE, simply BE - more like Jesus. . .
We used a Jim Wallis clip before Christmas...He spoke of the world expecting Jesus’ followers to be LIVING like he did.

How might we BE the people we are called to be in ways that are ‘good news’? Not more service projects, but ways we could live. . 

Do you remember how Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne  talk about how rare it is to find poor people mixed in with a typical congregation? And Yet, Jesus said, “You will have the poor with you.” as expectation that his followers would be living, eating with, friends with...the poor. 

Could we simply talk to the next person who asks us for help. Giving help if we can, but really seeing them as a child of God, just like us? 

Remember what a difference it made to be in relationship with Orin last year, not just offering financial help, but living and walking alongside him? 
It required MORE of us than a service project! It was eye-opening, it was challenging. Quite honestly there were days when it was more than any of us could handle. . .but part of that was our desire to FIX him. While he needed our help! sometimes, he just needed our companionship.

Are we able to risk getting involved by having a conversation with people who fall into ANY of the categories defined as ‘Good News’?
. . .
Might we learn to BE, in our everyday living, in our prayers, in our writing and speaking..people who have the same concerns as Jesus did?
. . .
Our mission, is to make these words our mission statement so we CAN continue Jesus’ work. So we CAN keep doing service, speaking our for those with no voice, and BEING. . .CHRISTIANS!
. . .But don’t forget! - - We can ONLY do it with Spirit fuel, Spirit-inspiration, & Spirit-courage, as we are Spirit-led.

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