Luke 4:18-21: [Jesus said], “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has appointed 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, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were upon him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Last night, sitting around the hot tub, we went around the circle and answered the question, “What is our biggest fantasy?” It wasn’t quite like the world peace scene in Miss Congeniality, but a pretty standard answer was to win the lottery. With oodles of cash, we could alleviate the financial concerns of our friends and family, travel, have fun adventures, and make a difference in the world. I think it is a pretty common dream.
|Good friends, pre-lotto win|
In Luke 4, Jesus is just beginning his ministry and goes to the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He stands and reads a passage from scripture that very much includes social justice and liberation in addition to personal transformation. Jesus gave a detailed “world peace” answer, and adds the radical statement, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The local people are pretty excited about it and want him to do some of the miracles and teachings he has done elsewhere.
WWJDWHLW? (What would Jesus do with his lotto winnings?) As the story unfolds, Jesus actually pisses off the folks in his hometown. He tells them that his ministry and God’s plan of salvation extend beyond the bounds of their community. Their response? They try to drive him off a cliff. His message was that God’s vision of who gets in on the lotto winnings of God’s transforming love extends beyond their friends and family, and beyond their desire to control the distribution. (see The Hospitality of God by Brendan Byrne for more).
I would love to win the lotto and help out my friends and family and make a difference in the world. But I am not generous enough to say that I would buy everyone I know a new house. That’s a lot of houses! Even with oodles of lotto winnings, I think there is still a feeling of scarcity and protectiveness that would lead me to not say yes to every request for money. Not so with God’s vision.
The vision of the kingdom of God is wholeness, and it extends to all. There is no scarcity of love.
I try to keep these posts short, but each question I start leads to seven more I want to discuss. That is the advantage of doing many posts, there will be time to get to my other thoughts. But I want to mention one side bar here. This passage definitely pissed me off during my deepest faith crisis 2008-2009. If this healing and transformation had been fulfilled by Jesus, why the hell is there still so much suffering? It has been a long journey for me to accept the paradox of God’s love and the great suffering in the world (as it is for many). I will write more on that question later, but I want to acknowledge the tension here. My short answer is that God’s vision is for healing and restoration for all. We are welcome in God’s wide embrace, and we are called to offer that embrace to the world. We are called to work for wholeness, reconciliation and justice.
God of love, You long for healing and wholeness in our lives, in our families, in our communities, and in the world. Your embrace extends beyond our desire to say who is in and who is out. Help us to know that everyone gets a share in the abundance of your love, including us. Help us respond to that love with generosity and grace, for ourselves and the world. Amen.