“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.” – Luke 4:18-19 (NRSV)
If you were to describe yourself and what you are about in one sentence what would it be? What are the particular things you would pick out to explain who you are?
Often this exercise is the beginning stages of creating a mission statement. People from organizations get together and hammer out what their essence is, what makes them them. Then they come up with a statement like: “this Church seeks to love God and love neighbor.” A fine statement. Even biblical.
For Luke, though, Jesus has his own mission statement. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus announces to his hometown crowd what his ministry will be about: bring good news to the poor, release the captives, give sight to the blind, let the oppressed go free, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Mark, and in turn Matthew, this scene is placed later in their narrative, so why does Luke have it here? Maybe it has to do with this being a summary/mission statement of Jesus’ ministry. At the outset of Jesus’ ministry (He has just been baptized, tempted, and returned to Galilee) we hear what Jesus’ will be all about for the rest of the story Luke provides.
Did Jesus’ just dream this mission statement up? Did he spend a weekend retreat agonizing over the particular words at the core of his being? Maybe, but again the passage from Isaiah he quotes give a clue as well as what has just happened: he was blessed with the Spirit. It anointed him. In the baptismal waters the Spirit descended upon him. He was empowered by the Spirit to do this mission.
The statement wasn’t his own, but one given to him by the Spirit of God. It was given to him by the same Spirit which descended upon the Early Church in Acts (remember Luke and Acts are two parts of the same story with the same author).
The mission that was given to Jesus at the beginning of his ministry is the same mission given to the church at their beginning. That church was called to bring the Gospel (good news) to the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed.
We are inheritors of that early church. The Holy Spirit still moves through our lives and anoints us in the waters of baptism. We are given same mission.
The question is are we doing it? Is the good news we preach good news to the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed (and not just the spiritually poor, captive, blind, and oppressed)? Does our gospel reach the marginalized, the burned out, in our community?
Let it be so this day and all days. AMEN