Proper 7, Year C: Luke 8: 26-39: Love Over Fear

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Proper 7, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the book of Luke.

I did the homily at church on this day, so I’m copying that below.

Let’s start by considering that in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has crossed the lake to the other side—it’s not only the other side, but it’s away from the Jewish side. This is the first time he’s left his Jewish community to reach beyond it to the Gentiles.

Luke also wrote the book of Acts, which is like a sequel to this Gospel. It tells the story of the early church post-resurrection, and it goes into detail about how Christianity spread beyond its Jewish roots. So, Jesus, who is continually reaching out to people in need in the Gospel stories, is reaching out to a new community in this story. This also relates to the Epistle reading for today, which tells us that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. All are one in Christ and children of God.

I won’t seek to define what exactly is happening when we read about demon possession in the Bible. Many people have proclaimed either that demon possession is real then and now or that what is described is actually an extreme mental illness. I don’t think it’s necessary to solve that mystery at this time. Luke himself seems to see no difference between exorcism and healing.

The essential thing to understand is that the man’s situation is dire and has been for a long time and he’s an outcast from society. He’s desperately lonely and wounded. This is a matter of going from a broken life and sundered relationships to a whole, healed life and restored relationships.

Unlike other exorcism stories you may have read, this time Jesus actually talks with the demon, not just commanding it to silence. The demon calls itself Legion—meaning there are many demons rather than just one. It’s interesting to note here that a legion at this time only would have meant a Roman legion. There’s a hint here that the power of Jesus is greater than the fearsome power of Rome. Or for us, he is greater than whatever powers overwhelm us. Also, unlike other exorcism stories, the crowd is upset and wants Jesus to leave. They are afraid and maybe also angry about the loss of a herd of pigs. They perhaps feared what else Jesus could do after a display of such power.

When the man wants to go with Jesus, Jesus sends him home instead. The homeless man can now return home. And in that home, he will be a continual reminder of how an encounter with Jesus changed him forever.

How can we relate this to today’s world? We don’t have a demon-possessed man living in the local cemetery (as far as I know, anyway), but we definitely have people who are homeless and often mentally ill. We may judge those people or at least assume we know what’s going on with them. We may reach out but more often we may cross the street to avoid them. Or we may invite them in on a Thursday morning for breakfast in Grace’s Kitchen or bring them a sandwich with Midnight Run.

The isolation and despair of this outcast man is reflected in many people in the world today. Though in some ways we as a society have a more compassionate outlook than the people of that time, we still have people who are abused, addicted, homeless, mentally ill, imprisoned, and in desperate poverty. Often the same people fit several of those descriptions at once. For example, incarcerated people were often abused as children and adults. They are also usually poor. People of color are statistically more likely to be poor and even imprisoned because of institutionalized racism. Marginalized LGBTQ kids are more likely than other kids to become homeless because their parents kick them out.

The number of refugees is at an all-time high of nearly 71 million people worldwide. 71 million. Some of these refugees arrive at our own border, where they are separated from their children and crammed into overcrowded cells without basic necessities. Just imagine all those people and what they have been through. Imagine being so desperate that you must leave the only home you’ve known and go live in not just another state but another country where you have to start from scratch and where you are likely to be mistreated. They are refugees because of their own experiences of bigotry, abuse, injustice, and war. So many people are like that man who was afflicted by demons, though their demons may be of a more metaphorical variety.

One might even say their demons are legion and they need a special kind of healing. Sometimes the healing is simply granting humanity and identity—to go from a legion of demons to one human, one special child of God. How much liberation is in that identity? How much better would the world be if everyone could see that child of God in everyone else?

There’s a story told by Kevin Ryan, president of Covenant House, which houses and serves homeless kids in many cities, including New York. He was talking to one of the Covenant House kids and asked, “What do you want for the future?” The reply was simple and very real: “I want to be seen.” For people like the man in this story and like that kid—sometimes being seen, being loved as a child of God, is part of the healing. That’s one way to look at this story—to see the man in pain and how Jesus responded to heal him. We can also look at the people of the town who reacted badly to the events and asked Jesus to leave town because of their fear.

How are we like these people? Would we rather accept the darkness of the world rather than the sometimes daunting task of following Christ? Do we prefer the status quo, for all its failings and inequities, to radical change for the better? It would be so easy to judge the people in the story for choosing fear over love, for being unable to see the joy in the situation. It would be so easy to judge ourselves when we do the same, but the beautiful part of the grace of God is that it’s not only for the more obviously broken and hurting; it’s also for the rest of us who carry on our lives of respectability and comfort but inside we can still be full of pain and need and it leads us to neglect others. God love us more than enough even when we don’t love enough.

Think about how people have often reacted to radical change for the better in our own lifetimes and our parents’ lifetimes. How did a lot of white people react to the civil rights movement? How do a lot of straight people react to the LGBTQ equality movement?

I don’t think I need to describe to you how hard people fought against equal rights and continue to fight against any struggle for justice and equity. Again, even when we fail to act as God would want us to act, his love remains, but we must still act for good. Some would see that man, driven mad by his demons (real or rhetorical) and consider him beyond any help. Jesus saw him as a child of God in need of love and healing and reconciliation. We must reach out to wounded and hurting people like Jesus did. While in the story, Jesus converses with demons, we must sometimes confront the metaphorical demons of this world—pain, trauma, addiction, poverty, inequality, injustice, bigotry….

The well-known and unconventional Lutheran pastor and author Nadia Bolz-Weber writes this:

“In these healing texts, the healing is never fully accomplished until there is a restoration to community. Here the man healed of demons is then told to stay with his people and speak of what God has done. In the Jesus business, community is always a part of healing. Even though community is never perfect.”

Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Jesus spent a lot of time with those the world considered sinners, but it was not them that he usually rebuked. Instead he rebuked those with power and influence for not reaching out and helping the poor and marginalized. In fact, he saw that far from helping, the powerful trampled the weak. Yet Christians today often point fingers of condemnation at the very people who most need the love of Jesus and a helping hand. But they look up to the rich and powerful as if their wealth and influence were a sign of God’s favor. It’s almost like they’ve flipped the gospel on its head. But God sees the poor and the marginalized as his children, and that love is liberating.

Jesus acted with compassion. No matter what we think is actually happening in a story of demon possession, the story is of Jesus reaching out to someone in need to change his life for the better. That is not always received well by the community, as in this case. Change, even change for the better, can disrupt our lives. Take a look at your life today—is there a change you can make in your own life, in our community, in the larger world? Can you take time to speak out against injustice or to reach out with mercy?

We have to cross the metaphorical lake—to meet the wounded where they are with the liberating love of Jesus Christ.

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32: Forgiveness and What Does Prodigal Mean, Anyway?

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

This week’s reading is one I wrote about when I used to prepare curriculum based on the lectionary for our church school, so I’m mostly using that here.

Most of us probably know the story of the prodigal son. I wasn’t even exactly sure what the word “prodigal” meant, in spite of my familiarity with this parable. Honestly, I’m sure most of us don’t use the word much except in the context of this particular story, either. I actually just looked it up and it didn’t even mean what I thought it meant. I thought it was something like “describing someone who deserts someone or something else and then comes back” but I guess that was just the influence of this parable. The real definition is: “Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.” So much for my degree in English.

So the story is that the younger son of a rich man decides he is not satisfied with life at home and he’s ready to go out on his own. Rather than seeking his own fortune, though, he goes to his father and asks for his inheritance early. His father is sad about it, but goes ahead and gives him the money. Can you imagine the nerve of this guy? Anyway, he takes the money and runs off to live on his own. He becomes quite the playboy and squanders all his inheritance away on partying and fast living. Next thing you know, he’s down and out and far from home. He ends up taking a job feeding some guy’s pigs and realizes he’s so poor and hungry that he’d be happy to be eating what the pigs are eating. Finally he realizes he’d be better off back home, even if he’s just a servant to his father, believing that’s all he can be since he wasted away the money and love his father gave him. So he returns home and as it turns out, his father is thrilled to see him, throws a big party for him, and welcomes him home. Meanwhile his older brother, who has stayed home and worked dutifully for his father, is angry that his wasteful, loser brother is getting all this affection and attention. The father tells him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” This older brother is sort of standing in for human beings in general–we don’t always understand God’s love for others; sometimes human beings try to deny that God loves everyone unconditionally. The father stands for God, whose love is above all we can imagine and who can forgive whatever bad things we do, but he is also an example of how we should strive to be. And of course the wasteful son represents us when we have done wrong things and need forgiveness.

Third Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 13:1-9: Do Right

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

People ask Jesus about a horrible event that had recently occurred–Pilate had Galilean worshippers killed with the added gruesome detail that their blood mixed with the blood of animals they brought for sacrifices. Jesus asks them if they think this happened because those people killed were more sinful than other Galileans. He says they weren’t and also asks about people who’d died when a tower fell on them. He says that they were not more sinful and that the listeners should think of that and change their own lives.

Here we have an age-old religious and philosophical question–are people punished for being sinful and why do bad things happen to good people. Jesus insists that those people weren’t killed because of their sin. We all know that bad consequences can come of bad actions, but also, sometimes bad things happen for no good reason. But Jesus also says not to be obsessing about those things but to instead be right with God ourselves, regardless. Do the right thing, no matter what comes. Love God, love your neighbor.

Second Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 13: 31-35: Defy the Foxes

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Some Pharisees warn Jesus that he should hide because Herod wants to kill him. He responds,

“Go tell that fox, ‘Today and tomorrow I am forcing demons out of people and finishing my work of healing. Then, the next day, the work will be finished.’ After that I must go, because all prophets should die in Jerusalem.”

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets. You stone to death the people God has sent to you. How many times I wanted to help your people. I wanted to gather them together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you did not let me. Now your home will be left completely empty. I tell you, you will not see me again until that time when you will say, ‘Welcome! God bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’[b

Luke 13:32-35 (Easy-to-read version)

First, I love that Jesus calls Herod a “fox”–meaning a cunning and sneaky creature who kills other animals. Second, I like the corresponding imagery of Jesus as a hen gathering chicks under her wings for protection, though he himself is in danger as a prophet. His great desire is to serve the poor and marginalized, to protect them from the foxes of the cruel domination system of his time, but that’s exactly why he was himself in danger from that domination system. And we must follow in his footsteps. Think of the great world changers of history–people like Ghandi and the Martin Luther King, Jr.–in defiance of the powers-that-be and with love for the downtrodden, they stood up for love and justice. They faced hardship and even death itself to change the world for the better. May we have the courage to do the same.

First Sunday in Lent, Year C: Luke 4:1-13: Jesus in the Wilderness

You can see all the lectionary readings for the First Sunday in Lent, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus is fasting in the desert, where he is tempted by the devil for 40 days. Jesus of course resists every temptation–temptations for food, temptations for power, temptations to test God and make a dramatic spectacle.

This is an apt beginning to the 40 days of Lent, our own journey of sacrifice and resisting temptation–a time to prepare our hearts and grow in the love of God. Just as Jesus spent his time in prayer and preparation before beginning his ministry, we dwell in somber reflection and growth approaching Easter. Let us continue in that preparation.

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C: Luke 6:27-38: Way of Love

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Like in the last week’s lesson, Jesus continues to turn traditional viewpoints on their head. Love enemies, bless people who want harm to come to you; pray for people who bully you, turn the other cheek. Again, we could skim this and miss how revolutionary it must have been when he first says it.

Jesus says we shouldn’t be praised for loving those who love us–that even sinners love those who love them. Anyone can love someone who loves them or do favors for those who can return the favor. But Jesus has a harder teaching–love your enemies, give without expecting something in return. Don’t judge or condemn, forgive and you will be forgiven.

This is indeed a hard teaching, but also one Jesus links to our relationship with God. The more we live this way of love, the more we can draw near to God.

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C: Luke 6:17-26: A New Way to See the World

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus is with a large crowd; people from all over have come to hear him teach and to be healed. Jesus heals them and begins to preach.

This is one of those things I don’t want to paraphrase:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
    for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you[a on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
    for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
    for you will mourn and weep.

Luke 6:20-26 (NRSV)

These are the Beatitudes. Most of us have heard them before–perhaps so often, in fact, that they have become clichéd. But consider them in the context of when Jesus first speaks them–turning expectations on their head. The poor have the kingdom? The hungry will be filled? Those who weep will laugh? It’s not how the world sees things; it’s not how we see things day-to-day, but it’s how Jesus calls us to see things and how he calls us to seek justice in the world.

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C: Luke 5:1-11: Fishing for People

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Jesus is beside Lake Galilee and a crowd is pushing to get closer to him. He escapes the scrum by getting into a boat with a fisherman named Simon. Then he teaches the people on the shore. When he’s done he asks Simon to take the boat to deep water to catch some fish. Simon protests that he caught nothing all night, but he agrees to try. Sure enough, they catch a ton of fish, so many that their nets are breaking.

Simon falls down before Jesus, saying he is a sinner. His friends James and John are also amazed by Jesus. Jesus tells Simon not to be afraid, and tells him from now on he will fish for people instead of fish. The men from that day left all they had to follow Jesus.

Here Jesus acquires some of his disciples with the help of a miraculous catch. Then he brings them along to catch people with him. I’ve done some fishing in my life and it comes with no guarantees. It involves attracting the fish in some way, hooking them, and bringing them aboard a boat or up to a dock and then to shore. It’s a combination of work and good fortune–or perhaps the good fortune can sometimes be a miracle. These men had worked all night without a catch until Jesus stepped in. The same can be true for fishing for people. We can work our little hearts out at church to attract people and evangelize and run programs, but it takes some Jesus to actually catch any hearts and bring them to God. We do our part, but we must stay in sync with God to do his work.

Please also note where Jesus begins his ministry. He doesn’t go straight to the temple in Jerusalem, the religious hot spot. He will eventually get to that, but he starts out in the countryside in smaller towns. He goes straight to the people, not to the religious leaders. His heart is for those on the margins, not for the rich and powerful.

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C: Luke 4:21-30: Service to All

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

In last week’s lesson, we see Jesus proclaim that the scripture from Isaiah is coming true in the presence of the people in the synagogue in Nazareth. In this week’s lesson, we see what happens next.

People are amazed and exclaiming “Isn’t he Joseph’s son?” Jesus tells them he knows they will expect him to do the same things he did in Capernaum there in Nazareth, but he says a prophet is not accepted in his own hometown. He tells the story of Elijah, who was sent to help only to one widow in Israel among many–and how Elisha healed only one leper among many, and that a man from Syria, not Israel.

The people don’t like this and they try to force him out of town–taking him to the edge of a hill to throw him off, but he walks through the crowd and walks away.

Jesus is telling the people of his hometown not to expect preferential treatment from him–he won’t play favorites. Followers of Jesus today often also fall into the trap of expecting to be special to God to the exclusion of others, but that’s not a game Jesus plays. He serves all and wants us to also serve all. We are to welcome and serve with no preference for people who are like us.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C: Luke 4:14-21: Jesus’ Mission Statement

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of Luke.

I’m preaching this Sunday so what follows is basically my sermon (though it will no doubt change a bit in the moment).

Just imagine something for a moment with me. Father Owen on a Sunday morning reads the Gospel as usual. We are all watching him (or maybe we’re reading along in our bulletin, but hopefully we’re paying attention). Then he just sits down and says “OK, that scripture is fulfilled today” and that’s the end of his sermon. We’d be like, “What? What is happening?” But you’re out of luck this morning, I have a lot more to say—you won’t get off that easy.  But keep that in your mind as we move on.

Next let’s bring our imaginations to the time of Jesus. This is a little more difficult since we haven’t been there. Jesus has been baptized and then he has been tempted in the wilderness. He then returns to the area of Galilee where he grew up. Today’s Gospel says he returns “filled with the power of the Spirit.” What does this mean—filled with the power of the Spirit? It’s no small thing—when Luke tells us that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit, he’s letting us know that now we’re getting down to business. You don’t describe someone filled with the power of the Spirit if they’re just planning to have a snack, take a nap, maybe catch a football game. Being filled with the power of the Spirit means something significant. He begins teaching in the synagogues of various towns, and word begins to spread that he is something special.

Then Jesus’ ministry truly begins with today’s Gospel, and he announces it in his own hometown.

He arrives in his hometown of Nazareth and is asked to read from the scriptures on the Sabbath. Someone hands him the scroll of Isaiah. He finds a particular passage (now take note this is also what we do on our Sabbath day–we look into the scriptures to learn something every week).

I’m going to read this again; it’s important: 

“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,
to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:19 : Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6

What’s interesting to me is that he is very deliberate about the passage he reads, and he adds a bit from another part of Isaiah. So he knows exactly what he intends and this makes it more meaningful.

Then Jesus sits down. (From what I understand it was common practice for someone presenting in the synagogue to read a scripture and then sit down before explaining it.) He then says, as everyone stares at him expectantly, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, “This text is about me and I’m about to blow your minds.”

The response of the people of Nazareth will be continued in next week’s Gospel reading–you’ll have to come back for that (I feel like I’m giving you a cliffhanger—but you can also read it in any of the Bibles here). Today it’s all about what Jesus is saying. You could call this passage Jesus’ mission statement, because it’s indeed what he goes on to make the focus of his ministry–to bring good news to the poor, to tell the captives they are free, to proclaim sight to the blind, to free the oppressed, and to tell everyone the time has come for the Lord’s favor. 

His carrying out this mission is apparent in everything he does—in what he teaches, in his healing ministry, in his surprising responses to questioning by religious leaders, in his miracles—and this mission is what leads him to the cross. Then he rises from the dead and his mission continues in the hands of his church. Sometimes the church has followed his mission and done it very well and of course sometimes it’s done it poorly or even as if following a very different mission.

Let’s break this mission statement down. First, to bring good news to the poor. Jesus was very focused on poverty. He was very focused on money. There are people who count these things and they have calculated that he talked about money more than anything else–but he talked about it in the sense that earthly things are fragile and fleeting. In that time people who were wealthy were often considered blessed by God. Honestly there are a lot of Christians who think that way today. They think if you’re poor, you must have done something wrong—never mind income inequality, the effects of racism, classism, the difficulty in affording higher education—poverty is somehow a sin and a reflection of bad character according to some people. Recently Franklin Graham (he’s the son of the famous Christian evangelist Billy Graham) said in an interview, “A poor person never gave anyone a job. A poor person never gave anybody charity, not of any real volume.” This was in context of him saying that the United States has been a force for good because of its wealth. I think I get what he’s trying to say, but it comes across very dismissive of the poor and their intrinsic worth, worth that Jesus would never deny.

 There are ministers (some are themselves multimillionaires) in the pulpit this morning telling their congregations that they just need to pray harder to be blessed with money. They teach that they lack faith if they struggle financially. But later in Luke’s gospel, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are you that hunger now.” Jesus had no disdain for the poor but only for those who mistreated the poor and trampled them on their way to their own riches. He often contrasts the poor with the wealthy. After blessing the poor, he says, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” His words of comfort were for those who needed it, not for the already comfortable. Most of us probably know the story of Jesus watching people donating money at the temple. He saw the rich men donating large amounts very ostentatiously—obviously showing off their wealth while they were at it. Then he watched a poor widow give two copper coins and he said that she had given more than all the rest, because they gave out of their abundance and she gave all she had. That was how Jesus cared for the poor. He brought good news to the poor because they likely saw themselves as unworthy as well. They internalized that harsh assessment of poverty being their own fault, but Jesus gave them comfort and intrinsic value.

Next, Jesus said “proclaim release to the captives.” Often this is interpreted only metaphorically—freeing people captive to sin or freeing us from certain ancient laws. It’s true that I can’t recall an incident of Jesus personally setting captives physically free—but he did have a message of hope and freedom. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and 20 percent of the world’s imprisoned population. Do we really have more law-breakers than other nations? Even as the rates of violent crime and property crime have gone down, our prison population has increased dramatically for decades, thanks to harsh sentencing and mandatory sentencing laws and I think also due to a certain culture of condemnation and retribution for even minor offenses. Our prisons are disproportionately populated by people of color. In addition to our regular prisons, we have those detained at the border seeking asylum. Our country has increased spending for prisons dramatically compared with the increase in spending for education. The amount of tax payer money spent for state and local prisons increased at triple the rate, compared to public school education. If Jesus began his ministry in this decade, I think he would call us out for all of these alarming statistics.

Jesus also talked about recovery of sight to the blind. This was very literal in the Gospel when he healed the blind and many other people. Healing was an extensive and essential part of his ministry. Healing should also be a part of our ministry, whether spiritual or physical. Healing is complicated and difficult, but it’s part of our calling as followers of Christ. Of course, we should work to make medical care more accessible and affordable for people and that’s important, but healing isn’t synonymous with curing. To cure someone is to eliminate their disease. To heal someone is to make them whole. That goes beyond the medical. How are people healed? Sometimes they are literally cured, yes. Sometimes they are healed of addictions. Sometimes they are healed of their own closed-minded bigotry. Sometimes they are healed of loneliness. We may not experience the kind of miracles Jesus performs in the scriptures, but healing still happens and we are called to care for our fellow children of God.

Jesus also says he’s called to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Isn’t that a beautiful thought—freedom for the oppressed and the Lord’s favor? So many of us have been treated badly, so many people have been marginalized and abused by society and by other people. And Jesus had a message of hope for them, for us. And he calls on us to carry on this mission, a mission to the poor, to the captives, to the blind, to the oppressed—to all the people our culture has rejected and neglected.

Today’s reading from Corinthians is also about the church, the Body of Christ, and how we are called to live out the mission of Jesus. We are all part of that body and we all have our own purpose within it. We all have gifts and skills to use for the church and for society. Those gifts are all different. Your gifts are not the same as your neighbor’s. Those gifts work together to make a functioning and thriving body of Christ, working together for the good of the church and the world, carrying out the same mission.

I want to challenge all of us to think about Jesus’ mission over next two weeks as we approach the date of our annual meeting. How are we fulfilling our role within the body of Christ?—both as members of Grace and members of the larger church. How is Grace working toward these goals? I could tell you some wonderful things Grace is doing, but I challenge you to look into it in the coming week. You can check out the website for information on all the ways this church is at work fulfilling Jesus’ mission or you can come to the annual meeting on the 10th and hear the voices of those doing that work and inviting you to join in as well.

So let’s go back to where we began—in our imaginations. We have heard the scripture. The Holy Spirit is within us as followers of Christ. We are called to bring good news to the poor, to release the captives, to heal the broken, to free the oppressed, and to proclaim the goodness of God. Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in our hearing. Amen.