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Is it Today?

By Jared Warner

Willow Creek Friends Church

January 23, 2022

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Bofya kusoma kwa Kiswahili

Luke 4:14–21 (ESV)

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

What is the Christian life? This is a question that most of us have struggled with the entirety of our journey of faith. What is a Christian? The answers to this question are as numerous as the number of denominations. It is as numerous as the amount of people that claim faith. It might even surprise you that the answer to this question extends beyond those that believe because even those outside of our faith, those that may be seeking or those that may be in open opposition have their own answer to this question. What does it mean to be a Christian?

The answer we give to this question has weight. That answer can direct you path in faith’s journey. It can lead you closer to God, and it can also lead you away. The answer we give to that very important question not only directs us in our journey of faith, but it also dictates how we live our lives within our community. People see your answer to that question. They see your faith in how you respond to the clerk running the register at Walmart or Target. They see your faith in how you drive your vehicle on the interstate. They see your faith in how you study, how you participate in athletic competitions, how you handle stress, and how you speak to those that hold a different opinion. People see your answer, they see your faith. I ask again, what is the Christian life, and what does it mean to be a Christian?

Faith and action have been something our traditions within the church have struggled with throughout church history. There are cycles in our history. At times we have focused on charity, at other times theology, there are times where we have focused on procedures, and at other times we have focused on grace. None of these focuses are wrong, in fact, most of these focuses are extremely important. Within every major movement within the church the leaders within that movement noticed something within our answer to the question of what it means to be a Christian that was not being express. They saw something that was being overlooked, or something that was being too heavily emphasized that seemed to be overshadowing the gospel. That began to speak out against these things and they raised awareness of the areas that were lacking. We can see this throughout our history. We can see it within the various divisions of denominations and religious orders. We see it even among Meetings of worship within communities. These cycles and divisions tell us something about ourselves and our answer to the question that we all encounter.

This is the history of faith. It has been a struggle from the dawn of time and will continue to be a struggle when time ends. It is a struggle that began the moment our first parents looked at the tree of knowledge and listened to the voice of deception. We struggle because we want to have the knowledge of good and evil. We want to be the masters of our destiny. We desire the power to rule.

If we were to look at the story of our first parent more closely, we would see that they already had the thing they desired. God had already given them the power and authority to bring all of creation under their stewardship. They did not need anything more than what they already had. Yet they were unable to see the truth they were living in. They were distracted, they turned from the light of their God and were trapped in the shadows of their own making. They began to rely on themselves instead of listening to the voice of their creator, and they allowed chaos to emerge.

They turned, and yet God remained. They shifted their focus and even in their movement away from Him God continued to call them back to him. We often look at the story through the eyes of our ancestors, we often see this as a story of the fall, but do we ever really consider the story as a testimony of God’s faithfulness?

We turned; we were distracted yet God continued to work. God continued to call his good creation back to him. We see this through the lives of the patriarchs, in the history of Israel, and in the life of Christ. It is not only a story of humanity’s fallen state, but also a story of God’s goodness and his great love.

This is where we find today’s passage. Jesus, in Luke 4, is just beginning his ministry. In the verses prior to this Jesus had been baptized and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The temptation by the accuser or adversary reflects the temptations that we all face. They are not necessarily things that we should not have, but we are tempted to obtain those things in ways that could cause harm in some way. Every student wants to obtain a good grade on an exam. That is the desire not only for them but also for their teacher. When a student is tempted to cheat on that test, they might think to themselves that they are not causing harm. They think that it is the desired outcome of all parties so what harm could come from it. We might not see the harm, but if we allow this temptation to take hold, if we take the shortcuts to obtain the desired result, we leave behind the opportunity of true understanding and wisdom. Cheating on a fifth-grade spelling test might not seem harmful, but if we allow that behavior to continue eventually that fifth-grade student becomes a graduate student. If that student allowed the temptation to take hold, they will eventually take that same short cut into the workplace. They are now the lead engineer in charge of the construction of the overpasses on a complex interstate highway and they do not understand the principles of engineering. Their cheating, their taking of a short cut to obtain a desired result now threatens the safety of millions of people driving to work every morning.

We may not see the harm. We may not understand the long-lasting impact of our decisions. I was once the student that cheated on a spelling test, and I am thankful that my teachers did not allow that behavior to persist. I still cannot spell if my life depended on it but I have learned better ways.

Jesus comes back from his trials in the desert and he returns home. He returns to Galilee, and to his hometown Nazareth. I again want to mention verse 16, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” Jesus made it his custom to worship at the synagogue. He made it his custom to join with his community for corporate reading of scripture, prayer, praise, and education. Jesus gives us an important example of the Christian life in this verse. We need to worship together. It is important, not just for our own spiritual life, but for those within our community. I am a pastor; I need everyone else in this Meetinghouse just as much if not more than you need me. I need you because you remind me of who God is, and who I am before God. You might say, that is what I do for you and it is, because the community of worshipers encourage each other.

This is not the only important thing that Jesus shows us in this passage. He stands in the synagogue and he begins to read from the scroll of Isaiah. This is an important passage to the community of believers. It speaks of deliverance, recovery, liberty, opportunity, and redemption. This prophecy was written prior to the exile of the people of Israel and it speaks of the return not just of the people of the tribe of Judah but of all of Israel. It is their desired future. It is a proclamation of God returning his people back to their rightful place. But there is a problem. The people in Nazareth love this passage, it gets them excited. It speaks to the condition of their heart. They are a people that identify as being poor because they are living under the rule and dominion of others. They see themselves as captive because they do not have the liberty to live as they would like. They see themselves as oppressed. They see themselves in this passage. And they are excited to hear these words because they give them hope. The problem is there is more to these verses.

The first words recorded by Luke in Jesus’ public ministry begin with the prophet words from scripture of a Spirit-filled Redeemer that will set all things right. Jesus reads these words and he rolls up the scroll and he returns to his seat. Everyone heard what was said and they look at him in expectancy. Why? They are used to hearing these words of redemption but usually they are coupled with a declaration of the vengeance of God for those that are oppressing the people of God. Jesus does not go there. He instead rolls up the scroll hands it back to the synagogue ruler to be put back into the cabinet they keep the scripture and he sits down. They look at him in expectancy because Galilee was filled with zealots. Galilee is filled with people ready to jump into action. The Jewish wars which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, are said to have begun in this region. These were people filled with righteous zeal ready to use whatever means necessary to bring about the world they desired. Yet, Jesus does not speak about the vengeance of God. He does not encourage the people of God to take up arms, or to take forceful action against those that oppose God. He speaks only of, “proclaiming the good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery to the blind, liberty to the oppress, and the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus is telling us something important in this selection of verses. By not proclaiming the vengeance of God he is opening this blessing up to all people. These words are not just for one people group or nation, these words extend to all. And when he sat down with all eyes on him, he said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In Luke’s account of the gospel the first sermon Jesus gives is one sentence. And within that sentence we are told what it means to be a Christian. We are to take part in bringing hope to the poor. We are to participate in granting freedom to those that have been living under bondage. We are to provide care to those that have been struggling through illness. We are to provide relief to those that are living under a system of oppression. We are to proclaim that God is for all people.  

I have often made mention of the holy rhythm of Christ. I have said that this is the rhythm of life that we should participate in and I have even shown how our own mission statement reflects this rhythm. Jesus’s rhythm of life is to withdraw often to isolated places to pray, he made it his custom to worship with the community, and he ministered to the needs of those around him. Our mission statement states that we are a people, “Loving God, embracing the Holy Spirit, and living the love of Christ with others.” We love God by making it our custom to worship together. We embrace the Holy Spirit by withdrawing to pray. And we live the love of Christ with others when we listen to the Spirit through our prayer and our worship and we see areas where we can minister. And our ministry is to participate in the words that Jesus read in Scripture.

These words are the mission that God gave to our first parents when he told them to be fruitful and multiply, and to bring all the earth under their dominion. That first mission was to make the entire earth into the garden of Eden. We were to take the image of God out into the world and to become his representatives to all the earth. That mission has not changed.

Our mission remains the same from the dawn of time. We are still to bear the image of God to the world around us. We are to bear the light of God in the darkness. The problem is we are tempted to take short cuts. We are tempted to use our knowledge to force those around us to submit. We are tempted to focus on the knowledge of evil instead of the knowledge of good. And we do this because our attention is distracted. We forget that we must bear the image of God. Who is God? What is God?

Is God the instrument of vengeance? Yes, he can be, but that is not the whole story. Is God love and grace. Again yes, but this is also not the whole story. God is who he is. God is the creator of all things seen and unseen. God watched as the things unseen rebelled against him and distracted the things seen from him. God had ever right to act out in anger and devastate his creation, but that is not what God did. God will not suffer open rebellion against him, but he will give every opportunity for us to return to him. That is why Jesus came. That is why we celebrate and worship his birth, life, his death and resurrection. We celebrate this because God came to us so that we could be restored to our rightful place. So that we could be freed from the oppressions of our own making. And Jesus calls us to participate in that continued mission.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[1] “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Is it today? Will we live this out in our homes, in our schools, in our places of business, in our halls of justice, in our churches, and in our lives? Is it today?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Lk 4:18–19). (2016). Crossway Bibles.

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About jwquaker

I’m sure everyone wants to know who I am…well if you are viewing this page you do. I’m Jared Warner and I am a pastor or minister recorded in the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. To give a short introduction to the EFC-MA, it is a group of evangelical minded Friends in the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. We are also a part of the larger group called Evangelical Friends International, which as the name implies is an international group of Evangelical Friends. For many outside of the Friends or Quaker traditions you may ask what a recorded minister is: the short answer is that I have demistrated gifts of ministry that our Yearly Meeting has recorded in their minutes. To translate this into other terms I am an ordained pastor, but as Friends we believe that God ordaines and mankind can only record what God has already done. More about myself: I have a degree in crop science from Fort Hays State University, and a masters degree in Christian ministry from Friends University. Both of these universities are in Kansas. I lived most of my life in Kansas on a farm in the north central area, some may say the north west. I currently live and minister in the Kansas City, MO area and am a pastor in a programed Friends Meeting called Willow Creek Friends Church.


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Bible Study at 7pm
Bible Study at 10am
Meeting for Worship 11am
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