He’d been there before so many times. This was his home town; this was the synagogue that had been so much a part of his early life. Everything was familiar to Jesus, and he was familiar to everyone.
He’d been away – to the Jordan River, where he was baptized. To the wilderness where he was energized. Jesus had spent 40 days fasting to receive the spiritual energy he needed to begin the travels, and teachings, and ministry and miracles that lay ahead of him.
He’d gone back to the Galilee region – in our terms think Mornington Peninsula – and travelled to the various synagogues. Be like someone visiting all the different churches across the Peninsula.
And now he came back home, to his home village, Nazareth. Back to the family synagogue. Back to the group of Jewish people that he had grown up around, and attended synagogue with every week for years.
But there was something different about Jesus this time.
As bearded men in long robes sat down on the backless benches, and as the wives and daughters gathered up in the balcony, Jesus walked to the raised desk in the middle of the synagogue,
the same place where as a boy of thirteen he’d celebrated his bar mitzvah.
And with all eyes in the room on him, he probably commenced the first part of the service by reciting a series of prayers and recitations . . .
And then Jesus waited while the heavy scroll was brought to him by the Chazzan, the man whose duty it was handle the scroll.
Jesus unrolled it, lifted his eyes to the congregation, and spoke without another look at the scroll.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” he said.
“Because,” Jesus continued, “he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recover of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Jesus then would have rolled the scroll back up, handed it back to the Chazzan, and sat down in his seat, as a rabbi of that day would do when he was ready to begin teaching.
With all eyes fastened on him, he said:
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
What does this mean for us today, this message Jesus delivered in a Nazareth synagogue all those years ago? How does it apply to us 21st century Western followers of this rabbi Jesus? I think it speaks to us firstly as young church, and also to each of us individually as Christians.
Because – I believe here is Jesus giving his mission statement. This is what I am here to do. This is what God has for me to do in this time. The Spirit is on me, I’ve been anointed – to what – to preach good news, to bring freedom and recovery and release.
Jesus was providing, to the hometown crowd of the synagogue he grew up in, his “mission statement”.
And it would have been understood, by every Jew listening, that Jesus is announcing himself as the Messiah.
They also would have understood, which we may not, that these words also refer to the year of Jubilee. Who knows about the Jubilee?
The Jews had a custom, ordained by God, that not only would every 7th day of the week be
a sabbath, a day of rest, but that every 7th year would also be a sabbath, when the land would not be farmed, the ground would be rested.
And after every 7th sabbath year (so, every 50th year) there would be what was called the “year of Jubilee.”
In the Year of Jubilee,
all slaves would be set free,
all men who because of poverty had been forced to sell their land, they’d get them back again,
anyone who’d lost family members into slavery, they’d be released,
even the prisoners were set free.
So you can see why it was called “The Jubilee!”
Jesus is saying, Jubilee. He’s explaining that He had come to bring good news to the poor,
to bring broken families together,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to heal the hurting!
He came to free the slaves,
to open the doors of darkness,
To proclaim the year of God’s grace, the year of JUBILEE!—
But not just one year every fifty--
Jesus came to bring a worldwide Jubilee
that every year,every DAY,
there would be good news for the poor,
liberty for the captives,
healing for the brokenhearted,
forgiveness for the guilty,
freedom for those who feel controlled,
release for those who feel trapped,
it would bring deliverance,
That was his mission . . . he made it clear!
Now if we are true followers of Jesus, shouldn’t that be our mission too? As the church of Jesus, shouldn’t this be what we’re about as well? To bring freedom? To restore joy and laughter?
Is it? How faithful is Sanctuary in carrying out the mission of Jesus here in our place in our time?
Sometimes the church can fall into the trap of setting itself up as a nice little, closed off comfy club to belong to.
Or we morph into a place to go once a week to catch up with friends and get some respite from the rest of the nasty old world.
Or it becomes a place where what we believe becomes of paramount importance, pedantically so, and we go to engage in debate or study, to convince everyone to believe exactly what we believe.
Well, I’m sorry, that’s not us. And I will continue to fight to prevent us becoming like that. And if that’s the type of church you’re looking for, in all honesty, you’re probably better off finding a new spiritual family.
ILLUS: If you’ve been part of a gym –
- Hello down the street
- Pay your money, follow the guidelines
- Maybe go to social activities
- Maybe a community activity ie R4L
- But you’re there for you, so you feel good
- Don’t care about those who aren’t members of gym
I really believe that what Jesus wants is not a country club of people who have their little Christian act together in their own little corner of their own little room,
but what he wants is people to help him fulfill his mission of spreading the good news all over the place, setting captives free, and binding up broken hearts!
We want to be about seeing lives transformed.
That’s what we’re about.
The mission of this church must always strive to be outward-focused.
We exist not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others.
It’s a mindset that doesn’t say “How can this church meet my needs and reflect my preferences,” but “How can this church meet my neighbors’ needs and be sensitive to them?”
Do you see the difference?
How can we build the type of Christian community that will be the most fertile environment for life transformation? That’s the question that needs to be uppermost in our thinking about Sanctuary.
We exist not just for the benefit of Christians, but for the benefit of those who are not-yet-Christian most importantly.
Now, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be Bible studies, or social events or those kinds of things;
But it does mean that in all we do we seek to provide an environment where people can learn of Jesus and experience the life transformation that comes through relationship with God through Jesus.
So Margaret runs Interweave, women’s craft group. But she doesn’t just want a nice little sewing club of church ladies, she sees it as an opportunity to welcome people from outside our church family into an environment where they can be introduced to Jesus and to our loving church family, church community. She wants to see lives transformed.
Debbie & Mel run our two Youth Groups – not so the church kids have a nice safe fun time together, but they want to create an activity and an environment where kids with no faith background can be introduced to Jesus and to our loving church family. They want to see lives transformed.
The Mainly Music team love running their sessions, but they don’t do it just because they want little kids to have a fun half hour each week. They do it so that they can form relationships with the mothers, introduce them to Jesus and to our loving church family. They want to see lives transformed.
You get me?
The worship band enjoy playing music – but what we want to do is bring music that helps you worship, and conveys the power of the Holy Spirit to everyone who gathers in this room. Not so you can go home saying I enjoyed the music, but so that anyone who doesn’t have a life transforming relationship with Jesus will be nudged closer to it through the music and worship.
I hope I’m making sense.
We’re not a social club – we’re a mission centre.
We want to commence a play group this year – so we can see lives transformed through an encounter with Jesus. We want to offer Positive Lifestyle Program and counseling here – so we can see lives transformed through an encounter with Jesus.
It’s got to be this desire to see lives changed that must drive all we do.
Of all the texts he could have chosen, of all the sermons he could have preached,
of all the ways he could have announced his mission to his family, and friends, & literally his old neighbours,
Jesuse chose a passage about sharing good news,
about compassionately meeting people’s needs.
About transforming people’s lives.
About caring for people.
About making disciples
About reforming society.
THAT is the mission of Jesus. That is the mission of this church family.
A family with one arm around each other, and the other arm open to welcome people in to the family, into the Kingdom of God.
Reaching out through relationship, through servant evangelism, reaching out by surprising people with God’s love, making it as easy, and fun, for you to invite your non-Christian neighbors and friends to come and be a part of all we do and are and will be. Each month one of our Sunday nights will be designed for people who aren’t yet people of faith. And we hope you’ll take the opportunity to invite people along to these and other things we do.
We want to see transformed lives. That’s our measure of success. Not attendance on a Sunday night, although that usually is a testimony to transformed lives. Because if you’ve truly been blown away by Jesus, you’re itching to get amongst his people, and to worship him with others.
Transformed lives. That’s what we want to see.
But let’s just go back to Jesus message again, and look from an individual view, rather than as church. What might it say to you?
Well – let’s say you were put in the same position as Jesus. Come up and tell us - . . . what’s your mission statement. What’s the purpose of your life? What are you about? What are you aiming to achieve while you still have breath and a beating heart?
Don’t panic--we’re not gonna go around the room and answer that question--but how would you answer it? Have you found a mission? Have you discovered something worth giving your life to?
I know we all have to pay the mortagage or the rent,
we all have jobs, or classes, or chores or stuff--
but let me just ask you to prayerfully consider three quick questions:
First, what are you doing that will last forever?
what have you found that matters?
What are you going to do that is great for eternity?
Second, what is God calling you to do?
He anointed Jesus for his mission – what part has God anointed you to play in the Grand story?
And, third, what are you waiting for?
This church family needs you. Right now – not next year. It needs your ideas, your help, your resources, your time, your love. It needs all of you.
Because all around us there are people who are spiritually, emotionally poor,
There are people who don’t know what it feels like to be free,
There are people who are stumbling through life blindly,
There are people who are oppressed, who are living without the means to make choices.
We are calling 2013 a year of growth. You’ll hear us talk about it all the time throughout the year. We want to see each of you, and me, growing spiritually, believing that if we grow, and are healthy in our faith, the church will grow numerically as well. That the healthier and stronger we are, the better equipped we are to guide people towards life transformation.
Get on board. It’s going to be a fun year, with lots of great events planned. It’s going to be a special year, as we share together, learn together, grow together, and as we witness life transformation together.
So I want you to go away from here tonight understanding that the mission of Jesus is our mission. That this is not a social club, but a mission centre. That we are family, with one arm around each other and the other open wide. That we will continue to try things, anything, that we think can help us form relationships that lead to life transformation.
I want you to resolve to assess your life. What’s your purpose? What’s your plan? What are you willing to do for God through this mission centre? Pray about it tonight before you hop into bed. Pray about when you wake up in the morning while you’re eating your corn flakes.
And I really want to encourage you to get right into it this year; perhaps lay one or two things aside for now, as I am doing, so that you can devote more time and energy into the exciting ministry that God has ahead for us.
Will you do that?
The Spirit of the Lord is on us – he has anointed us to preach good news, he sends us to proclaim freedom, to help the spiritually blind to see, to release people from the oppressions of life. He sends us to proclaim the year of Jubilee, the time of forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration. He has anointed us to be agents of life transformation here on the Mornington Peninsula.
And as all the eyes were fastened on him, he said,
As from today this mission is being fulfilled in your hearing.
(Some of the content of this message was inspired by a message given by Bob Hostetler)
Last Modified on 29/01/2013 09:16