Summary: Based on the quotation of Isaiah 61:1-4 by Jesus, this is the first in a series of messages that outlines the mission of the Church today as expressed by Jesus in Luke 4:14-21.
His Mission and Ours: Bring Good News to the Poor
I won’t ask for a show of hands, but I wonder how many of you recognize the name Y. C. Jones. Y. C. is one of the nearly 100 persons that are homeless in Kankakee. Lee Provost featured him Thursday evening, January 25, 2007, in his article “Street Sweep: Late-night Survey Keeps Count of Area’s Homeless” in The Kankakee Daily Journal.
Lee shares that this past Wednesday evening, January 24th, Jim Moberly and Greg Harris drove around Kankakee until the wee hours of the morning conducting this years “Point-in time” survey mandated by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The annual survey identifies the number of homeless persons living in our area. The 2006 census was 94. This includes persons temporarily housed at the Salvation Army, Harbor House, Catholic Charities, and those receiving motel rooms through social service organizations and churches as well as those living on the streets.
My heart aches for every man, woman, boy, and girl who are in the same situation as Y. C. Jones. I also appreciate the testimony that Diane Epting, the Social Services Director for our local Salvation Army shares in Lee Provost’s article, when she says, “Most people are two, three, or four missed paychecks from being here.” This is how close you and I are to joining the ranks of Kankakee’s homeless.
Y. C. Jones, a 1976 graduate of Kankakee Westview High School, is 47 years old. He testifies, “I don’t want a hand-out. All I want is an opportunity to have an honest day’s pay for an honest day of work. . . .I thought at this point in life I would own my own house, and I thought I would own a restaurant. I would love to run a soul food place. I’m a rib man. I think I’m one of the best rib cookers in the country. That’s still my goal.” [SOURCE: Provost, Lee. “Street Sweep: Late-night Survey Keeps Count of Area’s Homeless” The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), 25 January 2007, A3.
Thus far Y. C. has found shelter at our Salvation Army. All our homeless brothers, sisters, and children, however, are not that fortunate. Many are forced to sleep in abandoned buildings, under bridges, in cardboard boxes in the allies or parks of our own or other American cities, and even in lobbies of hospitals or some of our county jails. Yes, each one of us is just two, three, or four missed paychecks from joining their ranks.
I felt so strongly this week that the Lord was leading me to preach just one sermon entitled “His Mission and Ours” based on our texts from Isaiah 61 and Luke 4. Standing on the text from Isaiah, Jesus declares that His mission is four-fold: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Since the time of the Book of Acts, His mission has been the mission of His Church.
I thought this could easily be covered in just one message, but the Lord soon proved me wrong, for as I studied just the first part of our mission—i. e. “to bring good news to the poor”—I was overwhelmed by what that calling alone entailed.
Therefore, one sermon is going to become a series of sermons, as we delve into our four-fold mission. I pray today that every one of us will catch the vision that “His mission and ours is to bring good news to the poor.”
Who are the poor to whom Jesus refers in Luke 4? The term used in our text refers to persons living in abject poverty, individuals who are utterly helpless, and those who are completely and absolutely destitute. These persons are extremely poor. They are people who lack the means to provide for themselves. They are our homeless brothers, sisters, and children in Kankakee who seek shelter anywhere they can escape the bitter cold of winter or the humid heat of summer.
I was furthermore touched on Friday evening as I watched Diane Sawyer’s 20/20 special on ABC “Waiting for the World to Change” in which she followed promising children and youth in Camden, New Jersey, for the period of one year. Camden is the poorest and most dangerous city in the entire United States. One of the startling statistics presented was the fact that 12.5 million children in our nation go hungry each day. These children and youth on the 20/20 presentation are among that number. Not only is our mission field the homeless; it also includes the physically hungry children, youth, and adults of our community, nation, and world. The United States and our Western Allies have the power to end poverty and world hunger.