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The Spirit of the Lord

from the “Sermons and Services” collection

Luke 4:14-21

January 23, 2007
Muelder Chapel

Our text points out that when Jesus began his Galilean ministry, he was a fine preacher, “praised by everyone.” When he came to his hometown, they liked the way he read the Isaiah scripture. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son”, they asked, “a local boy made good?” Then they began to have doubts about his claim that he was anointed to preach. After some back and forth questioning they took such offence that they tried to kill him. May none of you have such a murderous effect on those to whom you preach!

The text that Jesus got from Isaiah is the motto of this school, to be found on the stained glass windows in the central staircase:

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.

Now Jesus edited Isaiah when he quoted his 61st chapter. Isaiah had said:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.

Isaiah said nothing about the poor or the blind, and said that the good news goes to the oppressed instead; he did not say that the oppressed would go free. Jesus left out the brokenhearted being bound up, the mourners who would be comforted, and most strikingly the day of vengeance of God. Jesus was not big on vengeance. According to some modern scholars, Jesus was not literate in our sense, and so he might have glossed the text from some key words that he recognized, revealing his own theology in his choices.

Both Isaiah and Jesus agree on a strange point. We would expect the order of things to be, first, that the Spirit of the Lord comes upon you and, second, because of that you are anointed to preach the grace of God. But for Isaiah and Jesus it works the other way around. First you are anointed to preach and then because of this the Spirit of the Lord comes upon you.

So do not wait for the Spirit of the Lord. Do not wait until you feel warm and fuzzy with enthusiasm. Do not wait until people tell you that you are a charismatic preacher. By virtue of your baptism into the Christian faith you are anointed to preach God’s grace. By virtue of your matriculation in this institution you are anointed to do it well.

Therefore, go to the poor and tell them God loves them as much as the rich, and then go tell the rich the same thing, reminding them of God’s vengeance. Go to the oppressed and tell them that in God’s plenitude they will be released, and then go tell the oppressors the same thing, reminding them of God’s vengeance. Go to the captives in jails and military prisons all over the world and tell their jailors that freedom comes from God’s mercy, reminding the jailors of their own sins. Go to the blind, the sick, the ignorant, the foolish, and the bigots and tell them that God’s power and might can make them whole and wise. Go to the brokenhearted and tell them that there is grace equal to every pain, that their story comes not from their own plan but from God, and that joy in God creates a living, loving heart whose true beloved is the divine Lily of the Valley. Go to all the world and say that God’s loving mercy showers grace on every condition if we but have we have eyes to see, and that

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:37-39).

Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you. Congratulations!


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