"Year of the Jubilee"

JANUARY 7th, 2018                                                                                      PASTOR DON PIEPER

ISAIAH 61:1-7                                                                                              LUKE 4:14-21


                                                “YEAR OF THE JUBILEE!


            So..., it's a new year!  Out with the old, in with the new! So what do you do with that?  Time for

a change...?  Personal change?  Are any of you making any new year resolutions...?  Like what...?


                        Hobbes:           Are you making any resolutions for the new year?

{p. 164}           Calvin:             Yeah.  I'm resolving to just wing it and see what happens.

                        Hobbes:           So you're staying the course?

                        Calvin:             I stick to my strengths.


            Staying the course, at least for Calvin, tends to lead to a collision course with trouble! Are we any different?  I know my inclination to “wing it” doesn't usually end very well either.  Be it resolved that I be absolved of all past wrongdoing...!  Sounds like what Jesus called, “the year of the Lord”!


            In Luke 4 we find Jesus at the very beginning of his ministry. Back from a soul-searching, forty days in the desert that has sharpened his sense of purpose, he sits among his peers and is handed the scroll of Isaiah.  Looking into the faces of those around him, Jesus opens it and stands up to read.  The room goes quiet. Word has it, that Jesus has been filled with the Holy Spirit's power(Luke 4:14)  He teaches with such authority! Jesus chooses a text, and reads: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, for he's anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of  the sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord.”                                                                                                                                           (Luke 4:18-19)

            His audience shift in their seats and exchange knowing glances.  Then “(Jesus)  rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.”  (Luke 4:20)


            It's the moment they'd all been waiting for. You could've heard a pin drop. He had their undivid-ed attention.  When a rabbi sat, he intended to teach.   “The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'                                                                                                                                             (Luke 4:20-21)

            The attendant holding the scroll?  His jaw did one of these... This was a messianic text, referring  to 'the anointed one', or in Hebrew, the messiah, who'd usher in the eternal kingdom promised to David. 


            Jesus was standing among his neighbors and family of faith, and saying, I am he! This messiah, anointed in the very Spirit of God, of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke hundreds of years ago, this one who'd proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and heal God's people – well that's who I am & what I do!


            Jesus wasn't just winging it.  He was clarifying who he is and what it is that he's about.  He was claiming Isaiah 61 as his mission statement and later authorizing us to do the same.  As he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  So go, and make disciples...!” 

                                                                                                                                    (Matthew 28:18-19)

            This prophetic mission statement authorizes us in five ways.  First, we're anointed “to preach the good news to the poor”.  (Isaiah 61:1/Luke 4:18) When the poor see us, they should be like: Yah!


            The Greek word for 'to preach the good news' is euangelizomai, from which we get the word 'evangelize'.  God cares enough to send the very best - his only Son.  We show we care by sharing him and looking for ways to meet the physical and spiritual needs of those who're going hungry!  


            When those around him were hungry, he gave them food to eat.  When their souls were empty, starving for hope and direction, he fed them God's Word, demonstrating its potential for their lives. 


            I read recently of Evan Roberts, the man at the center of the Welsh revival of 1905. Early on the Spirit gave him an overwhelming experience of God's love.  As a result he was filled with compassion for others: “I felt ablaze with a desire to go thru the length and breadth of Wales to tell of the Savior: and had it been possible, I was willing to pay God for the honor of doing so.”  (Evan Roberts)


            So many of you have been likewise anointed!  I'm moved every time I hear of how Josh and Natalia have opened their home to people in need..., and witness to them in word and deed...! 

            So one, we are authorized to preach and be good news to the poor.  Second, we are authorized to bring healing. We've been anointed “to bind up the brokenhearted”(Isaiah 61:1) 


            The word for 'bind up' means to bandage, soothe, heal, to restore to wholeness.   We've been granted God-given authority to bring healing to the broken hearts, lives and relationships around us.  A number of you have pursued inner healing thru theophostic prayer ministry.  One of you received such a powerful breakthru this past year that your outlook totally changed – and your children took notice...!


            Our community is in desperate need of the Spirit's healing touch. As Christ-imitators, and in the power of His Healing Spirit, we can have a huge impact by living out our calling by providing the place and the means by with which the brokenhearted can have their hurts healed.  We gain confidence by praying over one another...so that we can pray in power over others.   (Chris praying over woman...!)


            Third, we've been given authority “to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourn-ing, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  (Isaiah 61:2-3)

            Those who 'grieve', who are vulnerable to despair, tend to lose perspective and lose sight of God's goodness and grace.  We've been given authority to lift them into God's presence and to point to a hope that transforms the darkest Friday into the bright dawn of the resurection! 

            We've been anointed to bring comfort in a way that the world cannot. As Paul put it: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like all the rest who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13)  We've been anointed to bring a comfort that brings fresh vision...! 


            Fourth, we've been authorized to rebuild what has been destroyed.  The prophet suddenly shifts from the first person singular to the second person plural, from “The Spirit of the Lord is on me”  (61:1) to “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.” (61:4)

            Clearly the prophet saw that the messianic hope that would be fulfilled in one who would come to save the people of God from their sins would be a hope that would be embodied in the people of God themselves as they too came to be anointed in the Spirit of the Lord.  In this way, and together, this living temple of the Lord as Peter referred to the church is to be about the reconstruction business! 


            The church is not to be a place of judgment and condemnation, as was the religious community of Jesus' day, but a place of hope and understanding, a place where bad choices can be forgiven and an opportunity to start afresh can be found – a place where people can come as they are, wounded and wounding, and be given a vision for the reconstruction of their lives. 


            Fifth, we've have been authorized “to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”  (Isaiah 61:2)


            The 'year of the Lord's favor' is reminiscent of the Jubilee year.  Every 50 years the trumpet was to sound and liberty was to be proclaimed throughout the land and to all its inhabitants. Slaves and their children were to be set free, and criminals and political prisoners were to be liberated.   It was a kind of Emancipation Proclamation, only the freedom being offered was for every conceivable kind of bondage - bondage to poverty, injustice, shame and disgrace, for those trapped in sin or otherwise displaced!


            Jesus offered himself as the means for being set free.  To those who'd gotten lost, wandering in the darkness of sin and self-absorption Jesus said, “I am the way.”  To those entrapped by inner lies or other deceptions of the enemy Jesus said, “I am the truth.”  And for those who'd chosen belief systems and life styles that lead to death..., Jesus said, “I am the life.”  (John 14:6)

            My friends, as Jesus noted: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  (John 8:36)


            Jesus looks at these five ministries Isaiah prophesies about and says in effect, 'That's who I am!  That's what I do!  I was authorized from above to do what I've been doing.  Now I authorize you under the same authority, to do likewise: to tell others the good news, to heal the brokenhearted, to comfort those who grieve, to rebuild what's been destroyed and to proclaim deliverance to those held captive!'


            This is the year of the Lord's favor – of Jubilee! To be sure, we will catch resistance. The enemy is taking prisoners and holding no quarter, but we've been authorized, and anointed..., with power!


            We've been called to shed the light of God's grace into the gray of a dark day, a day in which people are increasingly distracted, discouraged and deceived into captivity.  We're here to declare that this is the Year of the Lord's favor and to sing a new song, the Lord's love song, in this time & place!


            The story is told of a prisoner, falsely convicted, who refuses to abandon hope and seeks to extend the light of that hope into the dark, dismal recesses of his prison home...

            [DVD clip from Shawshank Redemption; 1:07:30 – 1:09:47]


            There's a song delighting the ears, singing about something so beautiful..., that it makes one's heart ache!  It soars higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream, and when one fully takes it in, embraces it, and responds to it, it causes the walls that entrap to crumble and fall away, and in that moment...every last man and woman and child among us feels and truly is...free indeed! 


            John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Church, once described ministry as “meeting the needs of others with the resources of God.”  (John Wimber)

            That is what we're about.  We're about meeting the needs of those around us with the resources of God and no resource is more powerful than the Spirit of God in which we were anointed, just as Christ was before us.  The results of such a ministry are described by Isaiah in vivid imagery: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”

                                                                                                                                                (Isaiah 61:3)

            People who were previously impoverished, imprisoned and embittered are now enriched, free, and joyful: a new life has been planted.  And now they, in turn, are able to be a source of strength to others.  The transformation in their lives is a visible testimony to the working of God's Spirit through a trusting relationship in God's Son, Jesus Christ. 


            That's who we are. That's what we do. For “The Spirit of the Lord is on (US!), because He has anointed (us) to preach good news to the poor..., to proclaim freedom for the prisoners..., to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord – the Year of Jubilee!”  (Luke 4:18-19)