We are purpose – driven creatures. It has long been understood that people with a solid sense of purpose are generally healthier, happier, and more content in life. Knowing what our purpose, mission, or call is buoys our spirit, provides a focus for our energy and creates pathways for connections with others who have a similar sense of purpose.
|Agnus Day lectionary strip|
In our gospel lesson for the Third Sunday After Epiphany, the gospel text tells us that as he was attending synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus was handed the Isaiah scroll and from it he read, “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, and to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” Upon handing the scroll back to the attendant, our text continues, reporting that Jesus said to those gathered around in the synagogue, in the holiest of places, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
In this text, Jesus is a) once again, announcing and confirming that he is the Messiah, and b) announcing his central purpose in life and in ministry: to proclaim good news to the poor, etc. and c) proclaiming that the promised liberating work of the Spirit of God is now present in him.
We might argue whether “the poor” he was referring to were those who were starving, homeless, or destitute – the ones who are economically poor, in other words. Or, we might interpret the poor to mean those who are spiritually poor – those who have little understanding of the presence of God in their lives and the love that God holds for them. Perhaps “the poor” to us are all of the rest of those who live on the margins – the addict, those suffering from chronic or terminal illness, those who, because of race, gender, sexual identity, religion, nationality, ethnicity, age, IQ level, or you might have your own definition of who the “poor” are in our society and in our world.
We will discover in next week’s text, which is the continuation of this story, how the people reacted to what Jesus was saying. But for today, let us consider these questions:
. Who do you think of when you hear “the poor?” Do you ever consider any of those (aside from the economically poor) listed above?
- 2. If you were to think more expansively, who might we add to a list of “the poor” – who do we overlook when we refer to those who are poor, in need of liberation or attention?
- 3. What is your understanding of the Christian mission or purpose?
- 4. How do you think Grace is living out her Christian mission, and what more do you think God is calling us to?
- 5. What is the good news for you and for me in this text?
In choosing this passage to read, Jesus is announcing his purpose may be summed up as prophet, Messiah, healer, liberator. In the gospel of Luke what we see Jesus doing over and over again is consciously working toward the fulfillment of the purpose he states here: to heal the brokenhearted and the blind, announce release to the prisoners, and reveal that God's compassionate, loving Spirit is loose in the world.
The big question for us is, What difference does this news make in our lives? What new sense of purpose does it give us? How does this text reflect on the Church’s mission and sense of purpose and how might it guide our actions, decisions, worship, prayer, and planning?
Let us each pray on these questions and seek the answers God has placed before us, and weighing how we might respond.