“Jesus gives life today"
Take time to rest and refresh your heart right now.
Know that while there are many demands you are facing, God is the main actor. In fact, in the drama that is your life, He is the writer, director, producer, and principle actor! He invites us to be co-writer, co-director and co-star.
May that fact relieve any burden you may be carrying.
Open your hands and imagine they are holding all the burdens, cares and worries of your life.
Now lift your hands up to the heavens as a way of offering these to God. This is your spiritual act of worship today.
Then release and lower your hands, knowing that God joyfully carries your burdens.
Now begin the next portion of this retreat.
The gospel of Luke records Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth in Luke 4:16-30. He goes to the synagogue on the sabbath, and the whole village must have been buzzing with excitement. One of their own had become famous and had now returned! The house must have been packed. In the assembly Jesus stands up and reads from the scroll of Isaiah...
After reading, Jesus rolls up the scroll, hands it back to the attendant, and sits down, the customary posture for speaking in those days. The Bible tells us that “every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him.” Everyone was waiting to hear what he had to say. In the pregnant pause, you can almost feel the anticipation. Jesus finally speaks his own words in verse 21: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What a statement! The synagogue must have been full of gasps and applause and cheers! (As well as the silent grumbling of some who were likely offended!)
The words of Isaiah that Jesus applies to Himself are as good a mission statement for Jesus’ ministry as any we find in Scripture. Good news to the poor. Release for the prisoners. Healing for the disabled and sick. Freedom for the oppressed. The message for all: God sees you and is for you! What a timely message for today, and what an appropriate mission for all those who would be Christ’s disciples: the Spirit of God at work today!
“Today” (sēmeron in Greek) is one of Luke’s favorite words (4:21, 2:11, 19:9, 23:43). We see it again in the story of Zacchaeus, where Jesus affirms Zacchaeus' place in the community to the crowd over their objections: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9).” This proclamation advocating for a despised tax collector would have been shocking, especially since Jesus doesn’t require Zacchaeus to stop being a tax collector, thought to be an inherently sinful occupation, as a prerequisite for inclusion into God’s chosen. Jesus never even suggests that Zacchaeus change his behavior; Zacchaeus does so on his own accord! Jesus leads with acceptance, grace and inclusion. As a result he releases Zacchaeus from being held captive by guilt and exclusion.
The synagogue leader objects, telling the crowd (and indirectly rebuking Jesus), “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” Jesus responds to the criticism directly with sharp eloquence and characteristic logic: “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” Jesus uses the female version of his title for Zacchaeus for this nameless, formerly afflicted woman: “daughter of Abraham.” Once again He uses it as a means of full inclusion and freedom into the community, once again superseding objections. This time it is the synagogue leader who objects, mostly disagreeing with the timing. For Jesus, the right time is today!
So far in this retreat we have turned inward with self-lectio, and we have turned to Christ in contemplative prayer. Now we turn outward towards the world.
Many are being held back from full inclusion and freedom in our communities, in our churches and in our mission.
Take some time to ask Jesus how you can help in His mission of giving life.
Ask him to help you see opportunities as they arise, today and in the days to come.
It may be giving an uplifting word to someone close to you. It may be giving up an opportunity or position to someone who has less power or status. It may be visiting someone in prison (when those visits are allowed again.) It may be walking with someone through the slow process of recovery from addiction. It may be signing a petition. It may be donating money to an organization that helps the oppressed. It may mean giving money to the stranger right in front of you.
We would do well to remember that Jesus’ homecoming did not have a happy ending. After receiving adulation and praise from his fellow villagers (Luke 4:22, which hilariously includes the familiar backhanded compliment, “He’s so well-spoken!”), Jesus points out God’s long history of including outsiders. The people become so enraged at this that they intend to lynch him and throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:29). Instead he passes through the crowd unharmed, and leaves Nazareth, never to return.
If we act like Jesus and proclaim full life for those who are denied it, we should expect to encounter resistance, like Jesus did. We will face objections and rejection, rage and violence.
Let the words of Martin Luther King Jr, inspire us:
(From “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”)
And may the words of Jesus propel us forward:
Bryan Stevenson is one of the main voices I listen to in the area of racial justice, particularly:
• His book (and now movie) “Just Mercy.”
• His TED talk on racial injustice: https://www.ted.com/speakers/bryan_stevenson
• The HBO documentary on him entitled “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality.”
• His organization the Equal Justice Initiative: www.eji.org, @eji_org (Twitter and Instagram).
These books addressing LGBTQ+ issues are recommended by YL’s Healthy Sexuality task force…
• Overall: “Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community” by Andrew Marin.
• More traditional stance: “People to be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue” by Preston Sprinkle.
• More progressive stance: “Changing Our Mind” by David Gushee.
And of course these books by Martin Luther King Jr…
• “Strength to Love”
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