Summary: Christians are prisoners of hope, because of Jesus ministry. Luke 4: 14-21; Matthew 5: 13-16
Desmond Tutu is the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. He was deeply envolved in the struggle against Apartheid in his country and received in 1986 the Nobel peace prize for his endeavour for freedom and equality for his black brothers and sisters.
In an interview with the magazine Christianity Today in 1992 Desmond Tutu was asked if he was hopeful about the future.
"I am always hopeful," he replied. "A Christian is a prisoner of hope. What could have looked more hopeless than Good Friday? … There is no situation from which God cannot extract good.
Evil, death, oppression, injustice - these can never again have the last word, despite all appearences to the contrary."
A Christian is a prisoner of hope.
When we go through our Church history we meet a lot of people who felt strongly that they are prisoners of hope.
We think of Paul of Tarsus, all the martyrs, men and women during the persecutions in the ancient Roman Empire.
The Pope thought he quiet a prisoner of hope named Martin Luther by excommunicating him, but he only gave birth to the Protestant Reformation.
An assassins bullet tried to silence the dream of Martin Luther King, however his spirit of hope couldn´t be silenced. Or think of Mother Teresa and her commitment for the poor.
All those prisoners of hope possessed the same unique characteristic. They refused to accept the traditional way of doing things when there might be a better, more truthful way. In a world which constantly screams out at us, "You can not," "We have tried that before," and it won´t work," they tell us that there are alternatives.
When I was a teenager I used to go with my friends to southern France to help building a retreat center for Christians.
The organizer was French and they were always short of money and they didn´t know whether they could really finish the project.
However he always kept the spirit high. And as a laid back French person he always used to say: En France le mot impossible n ´exist pas. In French the word impossible does not exist.
Christians are prisoners of hope. For us too, the word impossible does not exist. We are prisoners of hope because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are prisoners of hope, because of the first reading we listened to this morning.
In this Gospel reading we find what’s sometimes called his Nazareth Manifesto. That is, his statement of policy, of what he was on about: his mission statement, if you like, made at the very start of his mission.
He quotes from Isaiah 61 and immediately says "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." In a couple of verses he’s summoned up what his career goals are.
But of course they’re not our standard career goals. I’m not sure that they’d be a good thing to include in your resumé, unless of course you’re applying for a job in an aid agency or as a missionary. But for Jesus they sum up what it is that he’s about.
Jesus unrolled the scoll where it is written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he had chosen me to bring the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of the sight to the blind; to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people".
Jesus target group is the poor. They include those imprisoned behind bars as well as those imprisoned by by physical pain or imprisoned by memories. Those blind in their eyes, and those blinded in their thinking; those oppressed by others and those oppressed by guilt and fear.
However now, we could stand up and say: Objection! All this sounds great and looks good on paper, but is it really true.
More than two thirds of the world´s population lives under the poverty line, there are countless innocent people kept in prisons, we have so many sick people our doctors cannot help, there is war and violence everywhere we look.
We as Christians are prisoners of hope, however we are no fools. We acknowledge that this world is far away from being perfect. However we know from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that God can transform evil to good, defeat into victory.
Through Jesus we know the kingdom of God is at hand, although it is not fully here yet. Theologians call this the concept known as Already-but-not-yet.
We are prisoners of hope because God has promised to transform this world and he is transforming this world right now.
The Sciptures promise a jubilee year, a new start. And this new start has a name: Jesus Christ.