One of the churches I served as pastor provided onsite sleeping areas and meals for the homeless population of the metropolitan area one week during the winter. Part of this hospitality included offering our guests an invitation for evening prayers. These prayer times were meaningful as persons who relied upon the generosity of others for the gift of daily bread would gather to give thanks for the gift of God’s grace that was sufficient for another day. The following are reflections I wrote after evening prayer.
“I have been standing on holy ground with the people Jesus was talking about in the synagogue. They are the poor, the captives, the homeless. People struggling to remember and recover the sight of God’s presence in their lives. We have shared our prayers. No excuses have been made. There have only been the cries of humble hearts searching and seeking to be made whole.
“Their stories have been shared. God has heard our prayers. We have celebrated the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The living presence of Jesus has been realized as we broke the bread and drank from the cup of Christ. I have been humbled in remembering what it means to be a servant of my Savior and Lord. I have heard the scripture being fulfilled.
“Their names were shared as prayer concerns were spoken. They were Harriett, Quincy, James, Keith, William, Vernon, Jane, and Penny. Some remained silent. We were all brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus Christ. We were all part of one body as we heard the voice of God speaking in our lives.
“Their prayers were for themselves. Their prayers were for one another. Their prayers were for loved ones. Their prayers were for jobs. Their prayers were for the homeless. Their prayers were for the grieving. Their prayers were for steadfastness in the challenges of life. Their prayers were for forgiveness and reconciliation. Their prayers were for giving thanks to God.”
As I listened to the prayers of that evening, I was reminded of the message of God that Jesus proclaimed as he announced the beginning of his ministry in the synagogue by reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah:
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 release to the captives and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
As I listened to the prayers of that evening, I was reminded how Jesus taught that the message of God was that Jesus is the message of God. Reading from the book of Isaiah, which was written about 800 years before he began his ministry, Jesus taught that he was the message of God as he said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Dr. Diana Butler Bass in her sermon, “The Power of Today,” writes about the significance of Jesus saying, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
“Today is a deeply dangerous spiritual reality – because today insists that we lay aside both our memories and our dreams to embrace fully the moment of now. The past romanticizes the work of our ancestors; the future scans the horizons of our descendants and depends upon them to fix everything. But today places us in the midst of the sacred drama, reminding us that we are actors and agents in God’s desire for the world.”
The Power of Today. http://day1.org/7044-the_power_of_today
It has been about 2,000 years since Jesus claimed that he was the one whom Isaiah wrote about. As we worship today, the question before us is the same question that was before the worshipers in the synagogue. Do we believe the scripture is being fulfilled in our hearing through the message of Jesus? The best way we will know our answer to that question is when we have departed from worship so we may share that Jesus is the message of God.
During the 1992 Los Angeles riots, a Hispanic man named Fidel Lopez was jerked out of his truck and beaten senseless by the rioters. A crowd of people stood by and watched as he was beaten. Suddenly, an African American minister, the Rev. Bennie Newton, came upon the scene. Immediately he ran and dove, covering Fidel Lopez’s body with his own body. He screamed at the wild-eyed mob, “Stop it! Kill him, and you’ll have to kill me too!” Bennie Newton turned back the rioters, then picked up the unconscious man and drove him to the Daniel Freeman Hospital. Later, Pastor Newton took up a collection at his church to repay Fidel Lopez the $3,000 the looters had stolen from him. Some days later, the two men met. They hugged each other and cried. Fidel Lopez said to the Rev. Newton, “How can I ever thank you? You saved my life. You could have been killed yourself. But why? Why did you do it? Why did you risk it?”
Bernie Newton [shared the message of God as he] said, “I did it simply because I am a Christian. I believe in sowing love, not hate. I believe in helping, not hurting. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and love. …”
- 24-25, If God Has a Refrigerator, Your Picture is on It, James W. Moore, Dimensions for Loving, Nashville, 2003.
What is the message of God you are sharing today? How is the scripture being fulfilled in your hearing as you share the message that Jesus is the message of God?
The Message of God
by Pastor Marc Brown
January 23, 2022
Accompanying Scriptures: Luke 4:14-21
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for January 23, 2021
Scripture Lesson Luke 4:14-21
The Good News “The Message of God”
Music “I Love to Tell the Story”
Closing Music “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated” arr. John Purifoy