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Jesus' Mission Action Plan, Epiphany 4 Year C Rev Dr Cappleman

Jesus’ Mission Action Plan (MAP) The Rev Dr Sam Cappleman

If Jesus had been in the St Albans diocese and in an Anglican church when He made the proclamation we heard in the gospel reading, rather than in in the synagogue in Nazareth, we’d have said He’d just summarised His Mission Action plan.

As he starts His adult ministry, in His first real public words He reads from the prophets and then states why He has come and what His mission on earth is all about.  Fulfilling the words he has just read.  The word has indeed become flesh as John would put it.

It’s probably difficult to imagine how profound His statement is and the reaction it would have received in the synagogue.

Picture the scene in the synagogue in today’s gospel reading. The majority of the service is over, the reading from the Torah the Parashah, the long prayers and blessings all finished.  There is only the short scripture reading from the prophets to come, it’s called the Haphtarah, and then it’s the dismissal so there can’t be long left.  You can almost smell the lunch the end of the service is so close…

They were wondering who the Director of the synagogue had asked to read the lesson and give an exposition (targum), would it be someone interesting or the same old teachers.  What did it say on ‘Synagogue News’ last week…

And so, Jesus gets up, picks up the scroll of Isaiah that has been passed to him and decides which bit to read

He reads the section from Isaiah 61 which speaks of the radical change in cosmic world order when the Messiah comes:

Good news to the poor
Release to the captives, and the oppressed, from whatever is keeping them from being free
Recovery of sight to the physically and spiritually blind
And the year when everything will be returned to the Lord as in the year of jubilee

It’s not a particularly religious message, not one of complex theology or even deep over spirituality or so it seems.  He reads the lesson and sits down (which was customary for teaching) and starts to give the explanation, which really is quite simple…   …today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing

That’s quite some explanation – and if people had not really been paying attention before, now they were!  The prophecies in the book of Isaiah related to the coming of the Messiah and Jesus had just declared that He is the Messiah and that the coming of the Kingdom starts today.

In both the Old and New Testament readings today we have the proclamation of God’s word to an assembly. Jesus is reading the book of the prophets and Ezra is reading the book of the law.

Each are speaking about the beginning of a new era in God’s reign as they unroll the scrolls and begin to read. 

Each are speaking about a new type of community which will come from the people hearing the words and underpinned by the precepts that Jesus has just outlined from the scripture.

What had started as a normal synagogue service had turned into an event which would turn the world upside down.

Jesus’ revolutionary agenda for Himself and the world should be ours.

We too are anointed with the Spirit through our relationship with Christ and it is He that enables us to preach the Good News, heal the sick and bring release to those who are trapped and ensnared in life’s dark places. 

Perhaps not in quite as dramatic way as Christ, but in what we say and do in our everyday lives to help bring about His Kingdom on earth.

To be part of creating the new community that Jesus inaugurated in the synagogue at Nazareth.  His radical mandate is our radical mandate and commission too.

We are to be part of releasing creation from captivity, part of the healing work of God as he transforms and restores all people to Himself, part of helping people see the truth for what it is and not be hoodwinked by the materialistic and relatively unimportant distractions of the world

That’s some task.  Fortunately, like Christ, we too are empowered by the Holy Spirit, working hand in hand with God to bring about His Kingdom, community and reign

That might be as simple as doing more to reach out and look for those who need help and support, or just offering a kind word or a cup of tea. 

But perhaps God is calling us to be a bit more radical and explicit as we are each called to live out the Good News and bring hope to the world.  To bring about the new community of hope that Jesus worked for.

To put into practice the gospel message day by day

Today we remember Holocaust Memorial Day, the day in 1945 when Auschwitz was liberated.  For many that we remember, the Holocaust was an utterly hopeless time. For many there would be no release and liberty for them as captives in this world and in their human lives.  Their release was still to come.

The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2013 is Communities Together: Build a Bridge.  We are asked to remember and stand by those who were forced to live through these experiences and to honour those communities which were destroyed in the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, showed that there was hope and fulfilment in the words of God.  Today, any people feel that the world is a nasty, hopeless place to be, perhaps not in the same way as the days of some of the world’s worst atrocities

But perhaps the listeners were amazed at the words because it reflected that God’s grace was for everyone.  Just as in the Old Testament when Elijah helps a widow or Elisha heals the commander of the enemy army from leprosy, the wrong people seem to be getting reached and saved.

God’s love, grace and mercy reaches everyone.  When Luke quotes the passages from Isaiah, one which is noticeably missing is the one which comes shortly after today’s quote.  It is from Is 63 and speaks of vengeance and wrath.  In God’s new transformed order there will be judgement, but the days of vengeance and wrath are over.  Grace ad forgiveness now reign supreme for all the world

Today, we are called to have that same spirit, to reach out to those around us with love, grace and mercy, those we don’t normally even think of and build a bridge with them, perhaps as the first stage in them coming to know the healing, forgiveness, release and freedom that a relationship with Christ, the Messiah who has come, can bring.

To reach out and build a bridge with those in our community who are not part of our community just as Jesus started when He spoke so profoundly in the synagogue at Nazareth