“Then 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.”” (Luke 4:14-21)
The day I am writing this - October 18 - is the feast day for St. Luke the Evangelist. The lesson above is one of the scriptures for today. Luke is the author of the third gospel and also the author of The Acts of the Apostles. In seminary, we studied them together as “Luke-Acts,” and one of the things we learned is that Luke is the gospel writer who focused much more on Jesus’ ministry with the marginalized - the lepers, the tax collectors, the “sinners,” the women, even the Samaritans. It is in Luke that Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Two Lost Sons (the prodigal and the elder son). It is in Luke that a number of women are listed as the first ones to arrive at the tomb on that first Easter morning - Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, “and the other women with them.” (See Luke 24:10) It was these women who first encountered “two men in dazzling white” who told them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words…” (Luke 24:4-8)
We also know that Luke was a physician. My friend, Bonnie, says that Luke seems to give more details about the physical condition of those who were healed by Jesus. We know that Luke traveled with Paul on some of his missionary travels and also was with Paul when, heading for Italy, they were caught in a terrible storm and their ship was split apart on a reef at Malta. (See Acts 27) According to tradition, Luke was with Paul when he was martyred in Rome.
What I also remember us talking about in seminary was that Acts might be more appropriately titled “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” If you want to know more about the work of the Holy Spirit, read Luke and Acts slowly and carefully. You will discover that Luke is quite focused on the love of God, the healing work of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s story - when Jesus stands up to read in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, at the very beginning of his ministry, right after being tempted by the devil in the wilderness - is one of my favorites. We are told that Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah and found the place where it was written… “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” - the passage we know as Isaiah 61. Jesus read the passage - a passage which most everyone understood to be prophetic words about the coming Messiah - gave the scroll back to the attendant, and then sat down. (Rabbis sat down to teach.) Luke writes “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” (Luke 4:20b)
Imagine being there at that moment!
Then Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Holy s@#&!
This scripture - roughly 700 years old - was being fulfilled right then, in the person of Jesus!
He was the long-awaited One who would now bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, bring recovery of sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
As we remember St. Luke today… as those of you who are members of St. Luke’s in Park City think about your patron saint this week… I have one more thing for you to think about, and that is the reading of Scripture on Sunday mornings.
My reminder to those of you who are lectors and my reminder to those of you who are listening as the lector for the day reads: This is the word of God, designed to lead us to the living Word of God!
Reminder #2: The word of God has the power to transform lives - individuals, faith communities, even nations. The word of God has the power to heal… to reconcile… to convert… to call… to set one’s life or one’s community on a whole new trajectory.
This is just one of the reasons I am committed to doing Lectio Divina with others. I believe - more than that, I have seen and experienced - how the word of God can lead us to the Word of God, and how the Holy Spirit can work through God’s Word to transform lives.
So… this Sunday, whether you are in church or joining the community through Zoom… whether you are the reader of the listener… take a deep breath and pray that God would help you focus. Pray that God - by the power of the Spirit - would help you proclaim the Word of God with power and clarity and conviction. Pray that you would hear with new ears, see with new eyes, and love with a new heart. Pray that the Word of God would come upon you - individually and as a community - and set your hearts on fire.
This happened to the women who followed Jesus. This happened to the Twelve, to Luke, to Paul, and to so many others - past and present. And it is going to continue to happen. People will come to Christ through the power of God’s Word!
And… many people get up in the morning and turn on Fox or CNN or NBC or CBS or ABC or go on their computers for the latest news. And they do this every single morning. Some listen throughout the day. I just don’t understand this. I mean, yes, I think we should all be informed about what is going on in the world. But the part that troubles me is that so much of what is offered is not a life-giving or life-transforming word. Why do this every morning when you can get up every day and open your Bible and listen for a life-transforming Word from God?
Sometimes I wonder if the world is going to walk right off a cliff - together. And afterward, the risen Christ will meet us and say, “Why didn’t you listen to my Word? It was right there… all the time… and you ignored it!” I do take heart that even if this scenario should unfold, Christ would say, “Come! Follow me. Sit down at my feet. Let’s start again. New life is still available, forever and always!”
I leave you with some words from the song “Word of God Speak” by MercyMe. (Click on the link at the beginning of this page)
“The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say
Word of God speak.
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice
Word of God speak.”