Purpose Probe

Christus_heilt_einen_Besessenen

Luke 4:14-21

I’m going to probe a little this morning.  It might get a little uncomfortable in here.

But why not?

Surely Jesus experienced a little discomfort on that morning when he went into his local synagogue, unrolled that scroll from Isaiah to the people of his hometown, proclaimed that the realization of this scroll was happening right now, as he spoke, in their midst—that he was in fact the Messiah they were waiting for, the Messiah that all the Jewish people had been waiting for, for centuries!—and was rejected!

The people rejected him—the people of his own town—the friends and family members who’d watched him from childhood—

Who’d observed him growing in wisdom and stature—

Who’d seen him make his first, rough, misshapen carpenter’s box—

Who’d spent time with his family and other families at synagogue fellowship meals—

Who’d subconsciously noticed him make mistakes as children do, as he’d played with the other children.

And now he’d grown up and gone away.  He wasn’t carrying on the family tradition of carpentry.  Instead, he’d gone off to spend time with one of his more on-the-fringe cousins, or so the rumors went, some unusual guy named John, who spends his days in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey—of all things!  And he’d gone away to teach!

That’s what Jesus had been doing: teaching.  Not something worthwhile, like building houses for people in need.  He was just teaching!  Can you believe it?

Anyway, I bet he experienced a bit of discomfort that day, when the Spirit carried him into the local synagogue.  That day he unrolled a scroll from the prophet Isaiah.  And he unrolled it to that part about the Messiah, where it says who the Messiah is and what he has come to do.

And then he claimed that this passage was about him!  He was the Messiah.  And what he’d come to do—his agenda—was right here!

I bet it was uncomfortable for him as he prodded the people—the local people—with his agenda.

I bet it was especially uncomfortable for him when these people—friends and family, mind you!—rose up as a mob and led him outside to hurl him off a cliff!

Yeah!  That’s what the following verses tell us.  We didn’t read that far this morning.  That’s because we should focus on his agenda.  Nevertheless, that’s what happens next.  Jesus tells his friends and family in his local synagogue—you know, the one he grew up in—his agenda; and they are so stunned they say nothing.  So he explains: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And then—well!—his friends and family are so angry they rise up against him with the intention to kill him.

This isn’t the Pharisees we’re talking about here, or the scribes, or the Sanhedrin, or the Sadducees, or any other of the people he has trouble with later on in his ministry.  This is his friends and family!

Sheesh!  No wonder there’s that part that says a prophet is without honor in his home town!

But the friends and family who turn against Jesus can’t do him any harm.  Luke tells us that he just walks right on through the midst of them to safety.

That’s because he was being led by the Spirit.

Did you catch that part?  Luke is very sure to tell us that Jesus is being led by the Spirit through this beginning part of his ministry, his epiphany to his hometown and beyond.

Remember, when he went out to John in the wilderness, he was baptized and a voice spoke from heaven and the Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove.

Then he was led deep into the wilderness by the Spirit, where he ate no food for forty days and was sorely tempted by the devil.

And now, here, again it is the Spirit who leads him to his hometown synagogue, where he experiences a great deal of discomfort after he probes the people with his agenda, his must-do list.

So, like Jesus, I’m going to probe a little now.  And I’m going to do so using Jesus’ agenda.

I figure: if Jesus is stating this agenda at the outset of his ministry, and he is; and if I have committed my life to following him, which I have; and if we as a church are called to be his disciples, which we are; then this agenda must be important, something like a mission statement.

In fact, let’s see it as a mission statement: Jesus’ mission statement.  And let’s get out our own church’s mission statement.  And let’s compare the two.

This is how I’ll probe a little this morning.  And this—comparing Jesus’ own mission statement to ours—is why it might get a little uncomfortable in here.

I only ask a few things of you.  First, hear me out.  Second, ask if there are ways in which we might align our church’s mission statement more with Jesus’ own.  And third, please don’t hurl me off a cliff.

So then, here’s our mission statement:

We are servants of Jesus Christ, putting his love into action by:

  • Magnifying God’s Name;
  • Proclaiming God’s Word;
  • Equipping God’s people for ministry;
  • Caring for God’s world.

We are seeking, serving, and sharing Christ.

In my opinion, this is a good mission statement.  As servants of Jesus Christ, we recognize that the entire Gospel is summarized in one word: love.  And we desire to act out the Gospel, to put love into action, in four specific ways: magnifying God’s Name; proclaiming God’s Word; equipping God’s people for ministry; and caring for God’s world.

Moreover, there are specific ways in which we are accomplishing these actions already, as demonstrated in the annual report (get your fresh copy today!).  On the other hand, though, there are specific ways in which we could grow in each of these actions.

Now, to refresh our memory, here’s what Jesus read in the synagogue on that morning:

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.

In my opinion, this is a good mission statement too.  In fact, it’s very good, way better than ours.

Like us, Jesus puts love into action.  But his actions get way more specific than ours do.

He is not simply proclaiming the good news.  We say that.  We are “Proclaiming God’s Word.”  He says it too.  But he doesn’t just leave it there.

Rather, he proclaims the good news to the poor.  Similarly, he proclaims not just release and recovery, but release to the captives; and recovery of sight to the blind.  He preaches not just a pie-in-the-sky form of liberation theology but freedom to the oppressed.  He proclaims the good news to people right where they are, whatever their lot.

Jesus’ own mission statement is quite specific.  It is undeniably focused on righting wrongs, on bringing justice where there is none, on doing and not just being love.

At St. Paul’s, we seek, serve, and share Jesus.  We love him.  So what are we doing about it?

Look: here’s my main concern.

Right now is the time of year when we tend to be asking, “How are we doing as a church?”  We have our annual meeting next week; I have to complete the Parochial Report by the next vestry meeting; the present elephant in the declining mainline church is, “How can we sustain our resources, or will we even be able to?”

These aren’t bad questions to ask in their own right.  But they can distract us from our real mission.

When it comes to our mission, instead of asking, “How are we doing as a church?” let’s ask, “What are we doing for God?”

And let’s get specific about it!

What are we doing to right the wrongs that are taking place in and around Yuma?

We’re already doing some things, sure.  (See our annual report.)  But can we do more?  Do we want to do more?  Enough so that we incorporate specifics into our mission statement?

Jesus’ own mission statement espoused such radical social transformation that even his friends and family were ready to hurl him off a cliff.  Are we ready to transform Yuma with the Gospel, even if it makes our friends and family members uncomfortable?

The Holy Spirit was with Jesus, making his mission not only a possibility but also a reality.  The Holy Spirit is also with us.  Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to lead us; and through the Holy Spirit let’s turn Yuma upside down!

And, since we’re here, a final comment: when Jesus sat down, after reading the scroll, he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Today!  The Spirit leads right now, in the present, today.

Let’s not procrastinate.

Pray with me. . . .

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