By Rev Brian Hiortdahl
To this point, Jesus has preached less in Luke’s gospel than I have at Shepherd of the Valley.
Today’s gospel is the first we hear from him, and he chooses a text from Isaiah that will
be his platform, the agenda for his entire ministry. He sits down, taking the posture of authority, which I guess is why you are sitting and I’m standing.
The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Anticipation hangs thick in the air.
What will this local boy with all the viral buzz say?
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your midst.
That sounds exciting, but is it true?
He hasn’t done anything yet.
No ministry, no miracles, no blind people seeing, nobody set free.
Today looks the same as yesterday.
Where are the results?
The answer, of course, is not visible.
The results are somewhere else, in other places, including the future, which is where we
like to look, losing our focus on today. I’m watching the Dodger offseason in January with a wary eye focused on October; I don’t think anything is fulfilled today. I’m part of a culture addicted to outcomes and measuring results. But Jesus insists on his first day that this Scripture has already been fulfilled. He hasn’t done anything yet. But God has.The future is simply the place where we catch up to what God has already accomplished.
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, Jesus begins, because it landed on his shoulder at his baptism. He had achieved nothing to that point except showing up dry. The activity, the initiative, and the credit all belong to God. This is why we position the font near the entrance, because baptism is our doorway into Christ’s family. This is why we Lutherans baptize babies, because being born again is like being born the first time—it happens to you through no effort or fault of your own. Two people loved each other, and you happened. God so loved the world, and Christians are born, not because we accept or approve or believe anything, but because God chooses us. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us like breath is in our lungs, and this Spirit fashions us one into body with a complimentary variety of gifts, not rewards.
Jesus says the Scripture is fulfilled today because the Spirit is present with him today, right now, before anything tangible has been achieved, and God is so faithful that what hasn’t
happened yet is as good as done. Tomorrow’s promise is as certain as yesterday’s news.
Because all times flow together into eternity, and eternity decides to show up today.
Today is full of faces and chances, full of unique opportunities to radiate the love of God.
If and when you wake up tomorrow, it will be today, and God will be there again.
A sign in a monastery reads,
Do not look for me in yesterday.
I am not there. My name is not “I was.”
Do not look for me in tomorrow.
I am not there. My name is not “I will be.”
Look for me in today.
I am here. My name is I AM.
God is with us today, in Word and wafer and wine and one another.
The Spirit showed up for worship and the annual meeting, the crossroads of yesterday’s
ministry and tomorrow’s plans that we consider today. And the Spirit will lead us from this place into a week and a world in need of the love and wisdom and mission of Jesus.
Now y’all are the body of Christ and individually members of it, Paul explains to the church.
Now we are the presence of Jesus in the world.
I’m not Jesus, and you’re not Jesus, but together we are.
Now the Spirit that was upon Jesus has been shared with a worldwide community, so instead of one guy in a small town synagogue, the Spirit of Jesus is spread across the globe, rural and urban and suburban, as far away from Nazareth as Wales and Windhoek and West Hills.
Our mission remains the same: to proclaim and to release. We proclaim the love of God that changes everything. The year of the Lord’s favor, the jubilee, was designed to cancel all debts and return all ancestral lands, essentially restarting the economy every 50th year.
No surprise there is no record of it actually happening. Slaves were also to be set free.
Release is central to the mission.The Spirit sends Jesus and us to release captives and slaves and the oppressed and debts and sins. In other places, the same word is translated forgive.
It literally means, let go. God lets go of the sins, the stories, the past, the bank statements, the ownership titles, the status, the way things are. God lets go of the kingdom and the power and the glory to give it all away on the cross, to share it all with us in astonishingly generous love. That is the story we proclaim and live in the name and footsteps of Jesus.
So where are the results?
Today looks the same as yesterday.
The Corinthians were a hot mess, refusing to let go of their privileges and grudges, constantly bickering and competing with each other, and 2,000 years later, that is still happening ... in other churches. All of us remain ambivalent about the mission of Jesus, saints and sinners who love the idea of good news to the poor and release and freedom for ourselves until we see the practical price tag for sharing it with others. But the Lord isn’t waiting for us to get our heads and hearts ready.
The Spirit is upon us today.