A Sunday reflection for the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Lectionary readings are here.
We begin this week where we left off last week: with Jesus, having just read from the prophet Isaiah, boldly proclaiming that the prophet’s words have been fulfilled. He is claiming that he’s the one whom God has sent 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.”
And, at first, they are impressed at the words he spoke. But then they got to thinking and asked themselves how could a simple carpenter’s son, someone they had watched grow up, boldly claim such things? These are God’s promises to God’s people, yes, but to actually have them fulfilled will change everything. Do we want things to change? Life may not be easy, but we like our status quo. How dare this young whippersnapper come in and try to change things!
The regulations concerning the Year of the Lord’s Favor or the Jubilee Year have to do with land and property. Every 50 years, debts were forgiven, land sold to avoid debt would be returned to the original family, and indentured servants were released. It was to be as if someone called out “Do-Over!” and set everyone back on a level playing field.
So why do you suppose that Jesus proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor makes the crowd so very angry? I mean, these are good things, right – the poor getting good news, prisoners set free, the blind seeing, oppressed people liberated? Well, they are good things if you are the poor, the prisoner, or the oppressed. If you are the one benefiting from the poor remaining poor, or the one with the power to oppress, the ones who truly need their sight restored, the news isn’t very good.
But if these folks had the eyes to see the world through the economy of God’s Kingdom, they would come to understand the purpose of the Jubilee Year: to return to God’s intended plan for all people. It is a reminder that all that we are and all that we have comes from God and an opportunity to set right all that we have done outside of God’s intention. God’s people have always been given the purpose of taking care of the poor, seeking justice for everyone, tending the sick, and raising each other up.
Jesus, God incarnate, God with us, reminds us and demonstrates for us what living in God’s purpose for all of creation looks like. From the very beginning, God set us in the midst of God’s creation to tend and care for the earth, the animals, and each other. And it didn’t take us long to decide that we could do better ourselves. This choice didn’t work out so well for the first humans nor for the tribes of Isreal and somehow in our own collective and individual imaginations, we keep thinking we’ll make it on our own outside of God’s intention.
At the end of this cliff-hanging story, we are left to ask ourselves the very challenging question: where in our lives and ways of thinking do we attempt to ‘run Jesus out of town’ because we don’t want to change, because we are afraid that we will either lose what we have or not get what we want? Where are our blind spots? How can we, with God’s help, better arrange our lives to live in all ways within the economy of God’s Kingdom, following Jesus on his Way, the Way of Love?
God is always ready to offer us a ‘do-over,’ a reset, another chance to step back into the path, following Jesus, freed from the burden of building our own kingdom. God’s will for each and every human being is goodness, life-giving, liberating, loving goodness on earth as it is in heaven. God, give us the eyes to see and ears to hear you. Amen.