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Here, Now, The Gospel.

Epiphany 3, Common Lectionary Year C

Luke 4:14-22  

©2016 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Luke is like a TV news crew, following every second of the action as it unfolds. You can almost see the shake
of the hand-held camera,
following, blending into the bustle of the village,
just off the highway,
as the Sabbath morning light
strengthens in the east.
You can almost hear that CBC breathy voice-over
as the scene plays out…..
“Here we are in Nazareth,
as the faithful make their way to the synagogue
for Sabbath worship,
the wind lifts the tassels on the prayer shawls
as friends greet one another at the door.
We’re here this morning,
because rumour has it that
the wilderness Rabbi, Jesus,
may show up, here
in the little town where he grew up.”

Luke’s camera pans the gathering
as they settle for worship,
feet on the ground,
hands open,
ready to receive God’s grace,
and settles on the head of a man like any other,
tallit around his shoulders,
bowed in prayer.
The voiceover confirms his identity.
“Yes! There he is, Jesus.
Let’s see what he will do.”
Well you already know what he did.
He came to the front of the synagogue,
and unrolled the large Isaiah scroll,
three-quarters to the end,
as if looking for a particular passage.
We already know he that having
found what he was looking for,
he began to read, meticulously, clearly,
“The Spirit of God is upon me, for God has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the burdened and battered,
and to proclaim the year of God’s Jubilee.”
While Luke’s audio feed picks up every syllable,
the camera pans the gathering once more,
zooming in for a moment here on
a teenage girl, head down,
fiddling with her finger nails, nervously.
What does she hear?
What secret burdens bend her back
towards the ground?
What prison of the soul or body keeps her bound?
Does she hear Gospel, now?

The camera, as if it knows it’s intruding on some secret shame,
zooms quickly out, rolls over the crowd,
and rests on the dark-robed at the front,
the Pharisees.
The ones who act as the conscience
of an occupied nation.
They are the keepers of tradition
in a time of cultural invasion.
The camera notices that they are mouthing the familiar words along with Jesus as he reads…. “Good choice, Jesus,” one of them nods,
as they echo him, half a beat behind…

“The Spirit of God is upon me, for God has anointed me…
to set free the burdened and battered…
and to proclaim the year of God’s Jubilee…”
“And…”

And their mouths continue, while Jesus does not…
For Isaiah says next, and Jesus does not…
“And to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God.”
(Is 61:2b)
These keepers of Torah are left open-mouthed, astonished.
He has left off this longed-for promise of divine retribution against the foreign perpetrators of Israel’s oppression!
Why?! Here, now?
He can’t possibly mean that God’s jubilee,
God’s grace,
God’s right-side up redemption is for all, can he?

The camera leaves them dumbfounded,
zeroing in on those who sit in the shadows
as Jesus proclaims
“good news to the poor,
release to the prisoners,
recovery of sight to the blind.”
and there on screen, on cue,
the hospital worker slipping in late from her shift,
those who work menial dead end jobs
that no one else will do,
those whose land has been foreclosed,
whose harvest has been expropriated,
the couple whose retirement funds have dwindled as the price of oil tanks,
worried that there won’t be enough for the care
she needs,
the family pulling apart at the seams,
the parents at their wits end over their child’s addiction….
the outwardly successful professional
whose mental health hangs on a hair,
the small business owner burning the candle
at both ends,
the child who is bullied mercilessly,
the grieving family, patching together life with the band-aid of memory….
do they hear Gospel as Jesus reads the scroll?

Do these ancient words on living lips
leap across the space between.
The invasion of grace upon grace,
redemption for every shame and sin,
the unchaining of bound bodies and souls,
the healing of mind, of heart,
the coupling of broken connection,
the clarity of vision,
the murmur of hope…
Is that what they hear, here, now?

The camera moves back to the Scroll,
as hands deftly re-roll it,
hand it back, the silence settling,
all eyes on him as he moves, not to his seat,
but to this one, the teaching seat.
He’s not done, he has more to say….

“Here, Now, in your hearing,
the Gospel.
Fulfilled.”

But of course, we think!
For there, now, in front of them,
is God’s Gospel
enfleshed in a once gangly-legged boy,
singing in the key of his mother’s magnificat
the ancient promise of world-turning grace
and mercy fidelity and justice of God.
There, then, here, now, the Gospel sits enfleshed,
filled with the Spirit,
in Joseph’s boy!

But the camera lingers on his face a second more…
and catches the dawning light in his eyes,
like the sun after a day’s rain….
like an epiphany in the winter of dark and discontent.

As Jesus rakes the gathering with his eyes,
a gathering of the rich and the poor in spirit,
the captive and the free,
the sighted and the blind,
of the fearful and the hopeful,
sharing high and low together.

A community of care, purpose,
a safe place to grieve and grow,
feeding one another’s spirits with
casseroles and compassion,
encouraging one another to persistence in the long haul toward justice,
weeping with those who weep,
dancing with those who rejoice…
The light in his eyes grows,
it creases his cheeks with a slow smile,
jubilant, in wonder,
it leaps across the space of two millennia
in a moment of mutual recognition,
and he says, voice cracking,
“You. You. You. Here, Now, the Gospel, is fulfilled.”
Thanks be to God.

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