I don’t think it is too far-reaching to describe this familiar pericope as Jesus’ “mission statement.” The pieces are all there.
When creating a mission statement, it is important to know why you are undertaking a particular project and how you will go about it to be successful. Knowing and naming your target population are also key.
The people in this story were under the rule of the Roman Empire while simultaneously being oppressed by the religious institutions. Jesus knew all this when he stepped up before them, read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and boldly declared his mission. Jesus was clear on his context when he invited listeners to take part in what he was describing and reminded them they were accountable to the God they claimed to serve.
Context matters. I am writing this devotion during a pandemic, a contentious presidential election, and the constant threat of racial and civil unrest. But just as in Jesus’ time, no matter what is happening when you reread this text, the message is the same, and God’s call is clear: If we declare that we are in relationship with God—right relationship—then we must do all we can to move out in this relationship and into right relationship with all in our community.
As he prepares to begin his public ministry, Jesus reminds his listeners and us that the start of anything new is always a great opportunity to pause, revisit our mission, and reclaim “who we are” and “whose we are.” This space of intentional reflection ensures that we show up in the most excellent way, bringing our full and authentic selves and all our gifts in faithful service to God and all God’s people.
Jesus, today we join you as we reclaim the persistent presence of the Holy Spirit and God’s clear mission for our lives. Amen.
How do we feel when we read the word of God? The Israelites rejoice in God’s law. At the time of the restoration of Jerusalem after the return from exile, Ezra reads from the Law and explains its meaning to the people. They respond by holding a feast because understanding God’s teachings is a source of joy. The psalmist says that God’s law revives the soul, causes the heart to rejoice, and helps us to see clearly. Paul continues with his teaching on spiritual gifts, emphasizing that all members of the body of Christ have an important role. No one can claim to be any more important than anyone else. In Luke, Jesus reads from Isaiah and declares that his messianic ministry will focus on justice, mercy, and healing.
Read Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10. When has God’s word overwhelmed you? How did you react?
Read Psalm 19. How do you seek to speak or sing words acceptable to God? How does this shape your life?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. Within the body of Christ, as within our human bodies, parts compensate for one another. How do you take on more to support the body of Christ when others struggle? How do you allow others to take on your roles when you struggle?
Read Luke 4:14-21. In what ways have you rejected Jesus?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.