Summary: God has always expressed care for those who hurt; it’s nothing new. But Jesus extended that care to those not like His listeners, and His church is intended to reach the marginal.
This week, while the rest of you were surfing the Internet reading Ken Starr’s report, I was reading my favorite form of literature. I was reading "church bulletin bloopers." Church bulletin bloopers are those funny little errors that creep into church bulletins, maybe because the typist didn’t understand exactly what was being said, or because someone’s handwriting was unreadable, or just because using the computer’s spell-checker may get you a correctly spelled, but wrong word. And sometimes the results are absolutely hilarious.
For example, given what has been happening on the stock market, it might be a very long wait indeed if you were to take seriously the instructions given in one wedding bulletin, "The congregation is asked to remain seated until the end of the recession." I hope they meant recessional.
Or, since we are preparing for revival by doing some survey work, how about this item? "The Evangelism Committee is enlisting visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church." Well, "afflicted" is shorter than "affiliated", and it may even tell the truth.
I like this church bulletin blooper. You’ll have to think about this one just a moment, maybe. One church, invested in support groups of various sorts, gave these instructions: "The support group for persons with low self-esteem will meet on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Please use the back door." I guess that is a little better than the next announcement in the same bulletin, "The weight watchers support group will also meet on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Please use the double doors at the front."
Church bulletin bloopers sometimes reveal lots more than you want them to. Sometimes they tell a truth that you did not intend. In that category I’d place this brief item: "Churchwide dinner Wednesday night: prayer and medication to follow." Prayer and medication! We assume the writer meant to say, "meditation", but maybe he was getting at something else too.
Churchwide dinner, prayer and medication to follow. That could be bad news! The dinner will be so horrible you will need a strong dose of Maalox when you finish! Or it could be good news: having fed ourselves, we will be ready not only to pray and give thanks; we will also be ready to give out healing to those who need it. It could be bad news: that the things the church gives out are harmful and will make you sick if you linger too long. Or it could be good news: that the church of Jesus Christ nourishes people and then sends them into the streets, sends them both to the chapel and to the chambers of the sick and the needy.
Churchwide dinner, prayer and medication to follow. Could be bad news, could be good news.
I don’t know whether they had a synagogue bulletin on the Sabbath Day when Jesus came back to His hometown to preach. I rather doubt it. But I do know that what they heard that day could be good news, could be bad. At first they took it to be good news; but later it turned sour, and they heard it as bad news. I don’t suppose there was a synagogue supper, with prayer and medication to follow. But there was something about prayer and medication, something about a God who cares for hurting persons.
What was the good news part? Let’s start with the good stuff. What did the villagers of Nazareth hear that pleased them? They heard the old, old truth, that God cares about those who hurt. They heard something familiar, something they already believed in, that God identifies with the sick, the oppressed, the lonely, and the marginal. They enjoyed that message. That was exactly what they wanted to hear. They had heard it before, many times, and they applauded this:
[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "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." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph’s son?"
My, my, my. Now that’s real preaching. That’s good stuff. Can’t this fellow Jesus preach? God sends us to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind. That’s right. Amen. Preach on. Let go! My, my, my. What a nice boy! Says all the right things.