Summary: Here is a goal that everyone of us is called to work towards as a part of Christ’s body here on earth: to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim th
I wonder how many people were here when we first sat down to work on a Parish Plan. I don’t think there were many of you around back then, though most were when we reviewed that plan a few years ago. But for those who weren’t it was one of the first things we did after I started here. But then that was only a first step. We then had to implement it and then assess whether we’d achieved what we set out to achieve and then revise it after the first five years were up. But it was a necessary start.
One of the things the management experts recommend is that everyone clarifies where they’re going. What is it you’re aiming for? What are your career goals? This is the time of year when lots of people ask that sort of question. When they sit down and reassess their lives, think about their career goals and that sort of thing. It’s the sort of thing that I find I often do when I’m on holidays, when I’ve got time to think without the normal pressures of life. So, how many of us have sat down over the last few weeks and thought about what our aims in life are? What is it that we’re setting out to achieve this year? What are the major and minor objectives we’ve set for ourselves, in our business, our personal, and our church life? Or are you one of those people who just don’t think about life like that. Perhaps you just take life as it comes: one day at a time.
Well, there’s something to be said for both approaches. There’s certainly no point getting tied up in a knot about what troubles might lie ahead. Time enough to worry about trouble when it comes. But on the other hand it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, to look ahead and think about what we might do with our life, or to think about how God might be able to use us in the coming months or years. In that sense it mightn’t hurt for us to have career goals for our Christian life.
I’m sure Jesus didn’t think in this very twentieth century way about his future, but he did think about where he was going, and what he was on about, and in today’s 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 earthly mission. In fact his mission statement comes from far earlier than the first century. He takes it from Isaiah 61. Having read it he immediately says "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." In a couple of verses he’s summed up what his career goals are. But of course they’re not your standard garden variety career goals, are they? I’m not sure that they’d be a good thing to include in your resumé, unless you’re applying for a job as a missionary or in an aid agency perhaps. But for Jesus they sum up what it is that he’s on about.
Let’s look at what he says. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." ’He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’ Jesus had come with a message that would be good news to all people, but especially to the poor. Why was that? I imagine the poor didn’t get good news any more often in Jesus’ day than they do today. But in God’s Kingdom there’s to be no favouritism, no prejudice against those who are uneducated or poor. In fact if you read the Old Testament you find time and time again the prophets railing against oppression and injustice. It seems as though God is on the side of the poor and oppressed. That’s because God wants justice for all. And now Jesus has come with a message of hope for all people both rich and poor. Jesus’ death and resurrection means that anyone can become part of God’s people: all can have an equal relationship with God. It’s one of the sad things about the church, I think, that we give such power to those who are our ministers. That we simply reflect the structures of preference and power of our secular society. Now it’s true bishops and archbishops and some clergy need certain degrees of power and influence to do their job. But even then, they’re meant to be ministers, servants who’s role it is to serve people. The church is the one place where there should be no elevation of people on the basis of their job, or their education, or wealth. Otherwise we deny that the gospel is good news to the poor.