Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 4:14-21: Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Jan 23, 2022

The Gospel of Luke 4:14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“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.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Let us Pray: In you, O Lord our God, we find our joy, for through your law and your prophets you formed a people in mercy and freedom, in justice and righteousness. Pour your Spirit on us today, that we who are Christ’s body may bear the good news of your ancient promises to all who seek you. This we Pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

As He enters, He is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Jesus opens the scroll and finds the passage that begins with the words: “the Spirit of God is upon me.”

Take a moment and sit with those words.  Do we believe that the “Spirit of God” is upon us?  Are we able to recognize the “Spirit of God?”  The gift and miracle is that God’s Spirit dwells within each one of us.  Do you, do I, believe this truth?  Do we trust that we are worthy to have the Spirit of God dwell within us?

Just as Jesus was sent to us by God, God also sends us to help and minister to those who are in need, to those who are in prison, and enlightenment for the oppressed. Today we have a choice: to add to the darkness of our world or to be a source of light to every person we encounter today and every day. What will we choose to do? May God give us the grace we need to be the light bearers for those who are in the dark

As Jesus read and spoke it was obvious Jesus was on a mission, but the people of his hometown were also expecting something. Who knows what they were expecting? He hadn’t done a whole lot yet. He’s been baptized, he’s gone into the wilderness, and he’s just begun his ministry. The people were expecting something, but they had no idea what that something was. In this sense, is the congregation in Nazareth all that different from our own congregations?  Don’t we all go to church expecting something? But do any of us really take the time to articulate what that something is? How many of us go to church really expecting the Spirit of God to actually show up? Do we expect news so good that it might shatter the concerns and problems facing the world? Do we expect miracles that provide to the poor and oppressed? Is that what we really want or would we rather just receive a little comfort, a little encouragement, and nothing that will rock the boat? It does make you wonder about the phenomenon of expectation, and what it means in the life of faith. Do we go to church looking to fulfill our own oftentimes paltry, self-centered expectations? Or do we come ready and open to see God’s expectations manifest themselves before our very eyes? We can too often be led by personal preferences and local power dynamics instead of the leading of the Holy Spirit. Each of us, collectively and individually, have been called to participate in the kingdom of God, but too often, the anointing gets separated from the purpose. So, was this day in the synagogue a high point in Jesus’ ministry? At this time everybody loved him, everybody listened to him, but hold on things change. We’ve all had times like this when everything goes well, and we feel the world is on our side. Other times, it all goes dreadfully wrong, and we can’t wait to go to get away and just get the day over with. Jesus had days like that too. There were plenty of times when people heard Jesus’ words and saw the miracles and even ate the bread and the fish, yet still walked away with their hearts stubbornly closed. People misinterpreted him, lied about him and accused him of being in league with the devil. They humiliated him, beat him up and eventually killed him.

So as I close, again listen to these words “the Spirit of God is upon me.”. Close your eyes and feel His presence.

Let us pray: Lord, teach me the silence of love, the silence of wisdom, the silence of humility, the silence of faith, the silence that speaks without words. O Savior, teach me to silence my heart that I may listen to the gentle movement of the Holy Spirit within me and sense the depths which are God, today and always. Amen

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