Sunday, January 24, 2016
Buzz…when I say that word to you, what comes to mind? Buzz, I suppose could be defined in many ways, but in general it has to do with the art of generating a collective sense of excitement within a group of people. For example, in the mid 1800’s to stir up excitement upon the arrival in town of an electoral candidate, a group of musicians would be gathered up, placed on a wagon and driven into the centre of town while playing with the intention of attracting passersby to come along to hear what the candidate had to say. This wagon became known as the “bandwagon” and its music would generate the spreading of word around town of the event about to happen. Some folks in their enthusiasm to get to the rally would “jump on the bandwagon” so as to be right at the heart of the action.
Buzz is not new of course, and we could likely each of us name instances throughout all of history where “buzz” has started revolutions, changed laws, and in general moved history along … sometimes for the good and sometimes not. The power of buzz is that it brings people together in a common purpose, people who perhaps previously had nothing in common, now find themselves on the same side of an issue, or a situation. However, one distinct characteristic of “Buzz” is that it is volatile.
In today’s Gospel we see that Jesus was generating quite a lot of buzz Himself. Headlines of the day might well have read, “Homeboy Makes Good” or “Native Son Rocks the Roman World”, as filled with the power of the Spirit, returning to Galilee, and more particularly Nazareth, where he had played and worshipped as a child and where he was known as the son of Mary and Joseph, as the Sabbath rolls around, Jesus is invited to read and share in the Synagogue. He knows the people, he knows their faces, he can call many of them by name. Perhaps they are even aunts and uncles, cousins and childhood friends before him this Sabbath day as he is invited to read and share.
The passage he reads, a passage written by Isaiah some 700 years earlier, is a text well known to all those present. A text upon which all of Israel had pinned its hope for salvation; these words had for as long as they could remember been attached to the description of the Messiah who was to come, the Messiah for whom they were all waiting. Before their very eyes they heard the messianic job description reinterpreted , and in a dramatic moment that follows, Jesus rolls the scroll back up, returns it to the attendant and sits down with the eyes of all those present glued on him, as he speaks the ground shaking words, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And then he sits down.
Beyond today’s reading we learn that the first reaction of those present in the synagogue was “amazement”, amazement at the gracious words that came from his mouth, yet in the end, the buzz would change, and hometown pride would change to rage, and violence driving Jesus out, just narrowly escaping great harm at their hands. And while this reading affirms that Jesus had grown beyond the community that birthed and raised him, and that he is rejected by the hometown folks who cannot value what he has become, we must be careful not to miss other significant and challenging points of this passage. For in this reading Jesus is presenting these verses from Isaiah as a description of who he is and what he is about. They form his purpose, his mission statement; Jesus had an agenda for his ministry.
Finding one’s purpose and consciously working toward fulfilling that purpose, experts tell us it will make a real difference in our lives. There are endless best-selling books of advise on this subject that focus on business, sports, politics, relationships, and religion. What this reading gives us today is a succinct and powerful statement of Jesus’ own purpose. Perhaps it is self-evident, stating the obvious but surely both our own personal purpose and the purpose of the church would and should be informed by Jesus’ understanding of his purpose and mission:
To bring good news to the poor; To proclaim release to the captives; Recovery of sight to the blind; To let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
Jesus’ agenda was to bring a message of hope. It was his calling-card. He brought hope to the leper, exiled from his home and his community. He brought hope to the paralyzed man who was unable to care for his family. To people who felt worthless, or lost, or broken, or rejected, or beyond saving, Jesus brought the message that God loved them–that they had a purpose in life. Even in Jesus’ last moments, when he was dying in agony on the cross, he offered the hope of eternal salvation to the thief dying beside him. This was Jesus’ first act in life and his last act before death–the giving of hope.
Jesus came to turn this world view upside down. No longer does might equal right. He came to declare that God loves the poor, the blind, the sick, and the oppressed. There are no rejects in God’s economy. He announced that it is treasure in Heaven for which we should be striving. He showed that one can have a healthy body, yet a soul dead in sin and that even the person with 20/20 vision and still be spiritually blind.
Today, it is still possible to live in prison cells of our own making or be close to others struggling with prison cells of their own making. How easily we can be bound by things that compromise us, create anxiety for us, make us question our worth as children of God, creating in us anger, fear, guilt and skewed ideas about who God is and how God moves in our lives. Talk about joy, faith, or living an abundant life seems sometimes like something for other people, something distant, remote. And, Jesus message to those in the synagogue and to us today, is that we weren’t made to live that way, but rather are offered in Christ, hope, justice and freedom. If we can dare to live into this greater reality, we will find that this message has the power to change us.
That’s our buzz … that’s the buzz we have to remind ourselves about when days seem long or difficult … that’s the buzz that we have to share with a world where for many hope, justice and freedom have long been dead. As we share this buzz its not so much about jumping on a particular bandwagon and making lots of noise, but about being who we are, taking the risk of believing that this message is true, in this there is life and light that can be found no where else.
Jesus agenda was a clear one. Today this has been fulfilled in your hearing. Today is the day to embrace this agenda for ourselves, for those we love, and for those still waiting to hear. May God give us the grace to live each day secure in this understanding, giving our best, no matter the outcome, knowing that we follow Christ’s example.