|Thy Kingdom Come TODAY
"He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
--Luke 4: 21
There is something intriguing to me about the story of Jesus speaking in his home synagogue. The Gospel of Luke tells the story in this way, "Jesus was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. Jesus began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'
Here is Jesus the hometown boy, who has returned as a man, and is asked to be the special guest, the special speaker of the day at his home synagogue. He reads the holy word for the day from the prophet Isaiah. Those who were gathered would know the word and message of the prophet. In fact, I would imagine as Jesus read from the scroll, there was a bit of head nodding and encouraging smiles.
They might have been intrigued to hear how Jesus would interpret the holy word in light of all that was happening around them. I imagine them leaning forward a bit in curiosity to hear what Jesus was speaking. What would Jesus-their neighbor, the carpenter's son that grew up in their streets along with their children, the one whom there was so much buzz about-have to say to them?
However, surprisingly, Jesus did not address the past promises God had made to their ancestors, nor the God inspired visions of the prophets for their future. Instead, Jesus makes a bold proclamation. I believe that radicalness of the proclamation can be summed up in one word-TODAY.
Jesus had the audacity to claim how the kingdom of God was being created, fulfilled TODAY in their midst, in their hearing. He dared to declare that in that very moment, in that day, in that time, the Spirit of the Lord was at work through HIM and through all those who were committed to the work of which the prophet Isaiah spoke.
The central message of Jesus was that the kingdom work of God is bringing good news to those who felt hopeless and without many options; is offering pardon and grace to those who had been bound up by poor choices or unfortunate life circumstances; is creating justice and equity for those who seldom were seen and heard. Furthermore, Jesus unapologetically announced when that work is being done and tended to, the kingdom of God is not merely close, but rather it is at hand, TODAY.
It might be shocking at first to consider the people's response to his message. Check it out and read on in the fourth chapter of Luke. Jesus' furious neighbors tried to throw him off a cliff!!
Surprising, yes. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, I think we can see ourselves in the response and reaction of Jesus' community. Now we might never run a preacher off the cliff, but I imagine we would kibitz about the message in the parking lot or on the telephone with friends if the preacher dared to say WE are a part of "thy kingdom" coming and "thy will" being done through US-TODAY.
The truth is we spend very little time, energy, and resources on how we can do kingdom work in this moment, in this day or in this hour. Instead, we indulge in ruminating in the past and fixate on our fears for the future.
Don't get me wrong. There is value in considering past and future in the life of the Church, but if we are not willing and open to move forward, trust and look for the ways God is moving and present right in our midst today, there will be no future, no building of God's kingdom.
Jesus' message remains as important and urgent as ever: Today this promise has been fulfilled in your hearing. What we need in terms of God's spirit moving powerfully in the world is here, today, if we commit ourselves to the work of sharing the good news; working for justice and equity; offering grace to all people and including into the center, the voices, lives and people who are so often pushed to the edges.
Church, let us work toward building the kingdom of God's love, grace and truth right here, right now. Let us act, move, and respond to Jesus' invitation TODAY, so that others, and we ourselves, might experience how the Spirit of God is at work RIGHT NOW.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister