Luke 4:14-21 recounts how Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry, described his mission when he taught in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. He taught in the customary way by standing up to read and sitting down to teach. Jesus stood up and took the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and he read these words: “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.” Then he sat down. The text says that every eye was on him as he sat down and began to teach. He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
What Jesus was really doing that day was laying out his mission before them using the words of Isaiah. He was saying to the people in his hometown that his mission is to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In other words, Jesus came for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Jesus came to bring the good news for those who were looking for hope. He came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor — a powerful symbol for new beginnings, grace, and forgiveness, and for starting over through transformation and change.
As United Methodists we have passion for the most vulnerable members of our society. This is not a new passion and emphasis for Methodists. As Lovett Weems reminds us, “reform of the nation” was an early purpose of Methodism, along with “spreading scriptural holiness across the land.” John Wesley was clear, indeed blunt, on the unity of faith and action. Wesley said that there is “no holiness but social holiness.” We aren’t just individuals — we live in community and we are interconnected. As children of God, we are brothers and sisters.
John Wesley and the other early Methodists who experienced new life in Jesus Christ and started to follow him revised their own mission so that in every way they were able, they joined Jesus in bringing good news to the poor, in proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, in letting the oppressed go free, and in proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. There was a revolution in England, but a very different one from the bloody revolution across the English Channel — the French Revolution. There was education and labor reform, communities were strengthened, people began to live in hope, and significant social gaps were narrowed or in some cases closed. Lives were changed. People were saved — and healed in many senses of the word. Those early Methodists had a new mission, and we continue with that mission today.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we gather to worship and depart to serve.
Grace and Peace,