Jesus returned to his home town of Galilee and, like a good observant Jew, he went to the synagogue.
As was the Jewish custom, he was invited to read from the Scriptures. They gave him the book of Isaiah to read from.
He did not hesitate – he went straight to the passage that said – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news … And then he said – Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Can you imagine the sense of shock that swept through those who heard him utter those words?
Despite all the other ‘big’ and ‘powerful’ words that are included in that quotation from Isaiah, I believe that the most important word in today’s gospel reading is Today!
Today this scripture has been fulfilled …
There is a real message for us in that word … Church communities are so often consumed with memories of the past and hopes for the future.
Speaking of the past may take the form of maintaining buildings and structure, of slavishly adhering to ancient texts, and passing on practices from earlier eras.
Speaking of the future is often wrapped up in hopes for salvation, desires for answered prayers, longings for overflowing bank accounts and, of course, dreams of standing room only!
Both past and future are important to vibrant communities, but … neither past nor future is where we should be looking for the primary location of faith!
Overemphasizing the past results in nostalgia – the belief that the past is better than either the present or the future.
Overemphasizing the future often results in thwarted hope – in doubt – and in anxiety.
Jesus said Today!!!
Today requires us to lay aside both our memories and our dreams in order that we might embrace the moment we are actually living – NOW!
The past romanticizes the work of our ancestors –
the future scans the horizons of our descendants and depends upon them to fix everything.
But Today –
- Today places US in the midst of the sacred drama –
- Today reminds us that we are called to be the active agents of God’s will in this world.
At this level – Today is the most radical thing Jesus ever said!
In his words, as recorded in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is saying – Look around. See the Spirit of God at work, right here – right now!
The ever-active, ever-loving, ever-liberating, ever-present God is here with us – NOW!
Jesus is telling us to open our eyes, and to become more attentive to God’s promise that he abides with us – no matter how awful the outward circumstances of this world might seem.
Jesus is calling us to see more clearly, and to experience God more deeply.
Jesus is calling us to experience and to grasp the active force of love that is at work in the world Today!
And when we do see, experience and grasp the reality of God’s presence – fear is transformed into compassion, and we are given the power to walk in the way of love that God intended for us.
Jesus’ use of the word Today, transformed Isaiah’s words from ‘prophecy’ to ‘invitation’ – an invitation for us to act on behalf of God’s wisdom and justice.
Living in God’s presence in not about ‘yesterday’ – and nor is it about awaiting some distant, but indistinct, eternal dream world.
Living in God’s presence is about now!
So – where are we on this timeline?
Jesus said Today this promise has been fulfilled in your hearing –
what we need is here – Today!
Let us live in God’s presence – Today!