Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Isaiah 61:1-7 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Good News of Deliverance
61 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines;
6 but you shall be called priests of the Lord,
you shall be named ministers of our God;
you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations,
and in their riches you shall glory.
7 Because their[a] shame was double,
and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Last Sunday I began a seven-part series of sermons entitled Jesus the Good Troublemaker. Jesus scandalized many of the people of his day. He shocked them. He surprised them. He challenged them to look at the world and to live life in a different way. He challenged religious and secular authorities. He made them angry. He upset the routines. He would not be placed in a camp. When the Saducees thought he was one of theirs, he would say something that was scandalous to them. When the Pharisees thought he was one of them, he would shock them with his words and behavior. When the Zealots or Herodians claimed him, he would make it plain that he transcended their political concerns. He was a troublemaker. Borrowing the phrase from the late Representative John Lewis, Jesus made good trouble.
I began the series at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry according to the gospel of Luke. He was in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth and read part of today’s scripture reading from the scroll of the book of Isaiah. It was, in a sense, Jesus’ mission statement:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
After he read that passage, he said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” (Luke 4:18-21)
Everything was going so well at that point. In fact, Luke says, “Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?’” (vs. 22)
Then, Jesus referred to a couple of Bible stories and got into trouble with he hometown crowd. It was good trouble, but trouble nonetheless. Here’s how Luke describes it: “everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. But he passed through the crowd and went on his way.”
Do Bible stories cause good trouble today? Are there some stories in the Bible that trouble you or make you uncomfortable? What happens when we take Jesus’ life and teachings seriously today?
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster