February 14, 2019

When you hear the word “power,” what comes to mind? Significant influence or wealth, as in one who strides down the “corridors of power”? Or perhaps great physical strength, like someone who can bench press 500 lbs.?

I was struck by the line introducing the passage In Luke: “Then Jesus, filled by the power of the Holy Spirit….” According to Luke, Jesus does what he does and says what he says precisely because he is filled the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s important to Luke for us to know that Jesus comes filled with power and, perhaps even more, it’s important to Luke for us to know what this kind of power looks like. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” these words from Isaiah are so interesting, because if there’s one thing all the people referenced by this passage have in common, it’s that they are not the powerful people in the world.

Jesus brings good news to the poor, captive, blind, and oppressed. These aren’t the powerful, they are the outcasts, the ones you feel sorry for as you pass them by at the street corner as you give a prayer of thanks that it’s not you. Yet Jesus says he comes for them.

All of which challenges our typical notions of power. Power – at least the power of the Holy Spirit, the power, that is, of God – is demonstrated not by any accomplishments or attributes one claims for one’s self but only through what it accomplishes for others. Power is power only when it sets others free, only when it builds up others.

How different from the notions of power that surround us. The power of God at work in Jesus pushes us to re-think our notions of power and re-orient our attention away from ourselves to those around us.

In 1967. In a speech titled “Where Do We Go from Here?” Delivered at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, MLK spoke about power.  He said, power properly understood is the ability to make a difference and achieve a purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change. … (Yes) Power at its best power at its best is love (Yes) implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

So what kind of vision do we hear in Jesus’ address? It is an announcement of his mission. It is a description of the kingdom of God. It is a promise of God’s  presence. All of this and more is summarized by the words, good news: It is not “good news” in general, but rather good news for the poor. It is not just release, but release to those who are captive, sight to those who are blind, freedom to those who are oppressed.

In this first sermon of Jesus, he knows that we act in a way to make it seem like some lives matter and some don’t.  God sees all, loves all, and intends and promises to redeem all. It also means that God sees the parts of us that we don’t want seen. God knows all and loves us anyway. God loves us enough to see us, God loves us enough to forgive us, God loves us enough to challenge us, and God loves us enough to send us to love those the world does not see. We are invited, not just to hear and receive good news, but to be it.

This, in a sense, is what the Body of Christ and community of faith is – God’s hands delivering the promise of good news to all who come in need.

We may ask those around us.    Are you afraid? Come here to find courage. Are you lonely? Come join our community. Are you ill? Let us come to you.  Are you Discouraged? Let us gather together and encourage one another.

The call we have is to be the Body of Christ –  As it says in our Corinthians reading, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit”. that is, good news for all.

God sees all, loves all, and promises to redeem all. Good news for those who heard it then and for those who hear it today.

How do we live as the body of Christ?

How do we use our power to make a difference in the world? 

How do we use our spiritual gifts God to proclaim the Gospel and make a difference in our community?

The spirit of the Lord is upon us because he has anointed us to bring good news to the world.

 

 

October 31, 2018

Last Saturday, on the Jewish Sabbath an American terrorist murdered eleven worshippers in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, in what is being called the deadliest attack on Jewish people in American history.

In our Baptismal Covenant we promise to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being.  That means that we are called to reject every kind of bigotry and hatred, that attempts to infect our communities and our nation.

In the book of Acts, (22:8), when Jesus appeared before Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, the resurrected Christ introduced himself as “Jesus of Nazareth” one who was raised in the Jewish faith.  Jesus did not resign his religious tradition when he resurrected. He is transfigured and glorified, but he is still Jesus. This means he is still, and always will be, the son of Mary.

Whatever our ethnic background, if we believe in Jesus Christ, we are joined to him. That means we are adopted members of the Jewish Family. A story that started not in first-century Bethlehem but, began with the promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations.  This promise is found in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.

An attack on the Jewish people is an attack on all of us.

As our Bishop, Carlye J. Hughes, wrote in a recent Facebook post, “ I am especially grateful to all those working hard right now to stem the tide of racism that has unleashed hate groups and hate crimes against so many people. Hate is an equal opportunity offender, it knows no boundaries and hears silence as approval. Many people are vocal in their resistance to this pernicious and deadly problem that reoccurs periodically in our country. It takes honesty and vigilance to stamp it out”.

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit gives each of us voice to always speak out against those who seek to attack any of our brothers and sisters of any faith journey.

In Mark 28 when Jesus is asked, ““Which commandment is the first of all?” he answers, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Let us commit to the work of meeting our neighbor and joining together in the power of love which will defeat the cowardness of hate.