I went home from work one evening last week and told Cyndy, “I had the best afternoon. I was doing what I love and, I don’t mean to brag, but I did it really well.” I suspect you’ve had days like that. Things just flow. You’re in the zone. It feels like there’s an alignment between who we are, the energies and values that drive our life, and what we’re doing. Everything is just right. When has that happened to you? And what did it show or tell you about yourself and your life?
Then there’s those other times. Last Sunday I told you about my whining. There was no flow or alignment. Everything was out of sync for me. I suspect you’ve had days like that too. There’s no driving energy or passion, we’ve lost our wholeheartedness, and we wonder if this is really all there is to our life. When has that happened to you? And what did it show or tell you about yourself and your life?
And then there’s those other other times when we look back on something we’ve said or done and ask ourselves, “Where did that come from? Why did I do that? Is that really who I am and how I want to be?” They are those times when old hurts, archaic fears, childhood voices, or ingrained patterns take over and possess us before we know it. When has that happened to you? And what did it show or tell you about yourself and your life?
Behind each of those situations are questions about who we are and what our life is about. I think that’s what Jesus is responding to in today’s gospel (Luke 4:14-21). And I think it’s always a work in progress, even for Jesus. Wasn’t he still wrestling with those two questions in his conversations with the Syrophoenician woman and in the Garden of Gethsemane?
Those questions about who we are and what our life is about aren’t so much questions to be answered as to be lived. Chances are your answers to those questions today are not what they were thirty years ago, ten years ago, or even two years ago.
Think about what’s happened for Jesus. He’s been baptized and he heard a voice say. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Then he went to the wilderness where for forty days he was tempted and ate nothing. I see those two experiences as images or metaphors for love and suffering. Love and suffering are the two great teachers in all our lives. They are the two things that have the power to get our attention, make us a bit more self-reflective, and change our lives. They have the power to shape and form our lives in ways other things or experiences do not.
In today’s gospel Jesus has returned to Nazareth, the town where he grew up, to the synagogue where he worshipped as a child, and to the people who know him. He takes and unrolls the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah and reads:
“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 then he announces, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
But here’s what I wonder. Is Jesus the only one anointed to fulfill the words of scripture? What about you and me? Might we not also be anointed to do that?
Those words from Isaiah and Jesus’ comment on them are the first recorded words of Jesus’ public ministry. The words Jesus reads from Isaiah are not an exact quotation of Isaiah. Jesus has chosen and arranged particular portions of Isaiah’s text to create a specific message.
I think what Jesus does today is an expression of his baptism and his time in the wilderness. Love and suffering have been doing their work on him. He’s been paying attention and listening to the life that wants to enter the world through him. He’s been discerning what matters most to him and the values he wants to embody and live.
It’s as if Jesus is saying, “This is who I am and what I’m about. These are the values that energize and drive my life. Today I am giving myself to something larger than myself and my own interests.” What if that’s our work too? What would that look like in your life today? In what ways have love and suffering shaped who you are and revealed the life that wants to enter the world through you?
Jesus neither reminisces about the past nor forecasts the future. He comes to his people and speaks about today. He says that today is the day of fulfillment. Is he talking about today, January 23, 2022, or is he talking about today as in that day he was in the Nazareth synagogue? Yes, yes he is. Today is the day, and every day is today.
If it’s not happening today what does it matter if it happened yesterday? If it’s not happening today it probably won’t happen tomorrow. Today is the day. And what we do or do not do today makes a difference for the lives of our children and grandchildren, the life of the word, and what tomorrow looks like.
Today the Spirit of the Lord is here. Today is the day of anointing. Today is the day to bring good news to the poor. Today is the day to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. Today is the day to let the oppressed go free. Today is the day is the day to proclaim 2022 as the year of the Lord’s favor.
And the fulfillment doesn’t end there. I think Jesus is talking about today, this day as the day of fulfillment, more than he is giving a specific or exclusive list of things being fulfilled. So we could also say that today is the day to love, today is the day to tell the truth, today is the day to forgive, today is the day to end racism, today is the day to welcome the migrant, today is the day to feed the hungry, today is the day to reconcile and make peace. Today is the day because, as we heard in our old testament reading from Nehemiah, “This day is holy to our Lord.” This day.
Today, not yesterday and not tomorrow, this day, is the day of fulfillment. There is no other day. I won’t get yesterday back and I don’t know if I’ll have tomorrow. Today is the day. If not today, when?
- In what ways is this fulfillment happening in your life and my life today?
- And in what ways are you and I participating in this fulfillment in the life of another today?
This fulfillment is always in progress. It’s who we are becoming and what our lives are to be about.
So let me ask you this: What’s the scripture you’ve been anointed to fulfill today?