A Sunday reflection for the third Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Lectionary readings for today are here.
In his telling of the good news story, Luke tells us that after Jesus’ baptism he is ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and that being led by the Spirit, Jesus goes into the wilderness to face the temptation of choosing the easy way rather than working within the economy of God’s Kingdom. This isn’t a part of what we are scheduled to read today but it sets the stage for it.
The bit we read today begins with Jesus returning to Galilee ‘in the power of the Spirit.” And Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah’s words, ‘“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Full of the Holy Spirit. In the power of the Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Do you see these statements as being specific to Jesus alone? Or do you believe that at our own baptisms that we too are full of the Holy Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, and that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us? Jesus tells us that we, too, have the gift of the Spirit. In the stories told for us by the writers of the Good News Story, Jesus shows us what it looks like to live in the power of the Spirit.
And just to make sure we get the point, Luke follows this bit about Jesus reading in the synagogue with a story of a man who is filled with an unclean spirit (again, not part of our reading today but important for framing what we read; always pay attention to the repetitions and contrasts of the surrounding stories as you read). This man is angry and yelling, and fearful of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is revealing.
In a world that tells us we deserve the easy way, Jesus shows us, in flesh and blood, in the here and now, what it looks like to live within the economy of God’s Kingdom, to live as we are created to live. It isn’t often easy. It takes intentionality. It means we put the greater good of all over and above our own personal liberties. Notice that the verbs in the words of Isaiah that Jesus uses are all actions for the benefit of others: preach, proclaim, liberate. Jesus did these for us so that we can learn to do them for others.
In God’s economy, human beings are more valuable than anything, our relationships matter more than monetary wealth or possessions. In God’s economy, abundance means we all have what we need, no more or no less. To live in the power of the Spirit is to live as God created us to live, our true selves, reflecting the image of God and seeing the image of God in every other person we encounter.
I cannot fully be the person God intends me to be without you. And together, we are all ‘sent’ to proclaim the freedom of being God’s beloved children, no longer restrained by the expectations of the world’s economy of living. We don’t have to go anywhere to do what we are sent to do. We preach and proclaim the Good News by living as Jesus shows us how to live in our work places, homes, shops, and recreation places.
Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor by the way we interact with others.