Spirit and Community
Early in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth after his first ministry tour. Reports of great exploits precede him and everyone packs the synagogue to get a look at the local Boy Wonder. He opens Isaiah and reads these words: The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
All preachers make decisions about the opening and closing lines of their texts. And I’ve often wondered why doesn’t Jesus read on? The prophet extends the message of comfort for those in despair, widening the circle to include people who’ve lost their sense of belonging. In today’s vernacular they would be folks who feel disoriented after a devastating event has destroyed their sense of place. The prophet says the Spirit comes to “comfort all who mourn… to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement” (Is. 61:2-3).
Perhaps Jesus didn’t continue because he wanted his friends and neighbors to focus on the liberation message in the opening lines. Perhaps he was citing this text to explain his work, as in, “This is what I’ve been up to and what I’m called to do.” If I were preaching from Isaiah 61 these days, however, I’d keep reading because grief and mourning have been our constant companions these past few months.
We are all, to some degree, struggling with pandemic and political fatigue. While other countries have managed to keep the two apart (to their benefit), in America we can’t stop inflating everything into a political nightmare. If it’s not face masks in July, it’s how we offer season’s greetings in December. If it’s not stock car races in Alabama, it’s peaceful protests in Chicago. A day at the beach is nobody’s “day at the beach” and that’s not only because of obvious health risks; it’s also because going to the beach is now a political issue.
Isaiah reminds us the Spirit comes to heal and restore community, to bring us back to ourselves, to rebuild what we’ve destroyed and renew what has died in us. Our prayer must be, “Spirit of the living God fall fresh on us.” We need comfort. We need revival. We need hope that one day the glory we used to know—the sun that warmed our hearts and hands and faces—will be ours again. Fall fresh. Amen.
Don’t miss this week’s Origins study where we’ll explore the relationship between the Holy Spirit and community. As always, it will be a rich and rewarding time together. Study begins at 7:30p CDT. See you there!
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Meeting ID: 852 1223 1523; Password: 072524
Or you can participate via phone at 1-312-626-6799 (same ID and password).
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.