- The Rev. Arianne Rice
“Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." Lk 4:21
Today we hear a bold gospel describe the work of the church. That all of us are called to share our gifts in unique ways – our own unique talents. Not everyone a priest, not everyone a teacher, and absolutely no one speaking in tongues at the church of the Good Shepherd. We have quieter gifts.
Today we give thanks for those gifts – quiet or not. Today we do some of the business of being church. We give thanks for people who step up. Who donate talent and treasure - but give the most precious gift of all - time.
Time away from all the important tasks and work that is needed in their life - in their family - in their jobs and responsibilities - to set their heart and mind and sometimes hands to the tasks of our life - and our family - and our jobs and responsibilities as a church. Time is a precious gift shared by leaders in this community.
Taking time to pray for one another - time to read God’s holy word together - and listen - discern - what in this time and place is God calling us to do? Where does the Good Shepherd call out and say - hey, follow me - let’s go!
And today we hear a bold proclamation of Jesus. I know it may not sound very bold - I mean you’ve heard me proclaim the gospel a bunch of times - you’ve heard this gospel multiple times. And sure we know what the good news is all about by now - helping the poor - restoring sight to the blind - making a way for justice so that the oppressed can be free.
But it is bold – and even more so where and with whom Jesus shared it. He has been gearing up for this moment. He just spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. Tempted time and again to prove his divine lineage with those “if only” statement – tempted to use the power of an Avenger-like superhero. But instead, Jesus trusted in the power of the Spirit. The power relationship. Trusting that the power comes from the relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – that all he needs to do what he is called to do.
And so we read he is filled with this power to get started in his ministry. And where does he get started? Does he start at the mountaintop proclaiming to anonymous crowds below – who he is and what he is called to do?
Nope. He just goes back home. Nazareth. Does anything good come out of Nazareth, You remember one of his disciples saying that, don’t you? Jesus must think so - because here he is - in his home church. Among his family - among his friends - among the people who saw him go from “yay big” - to where he stands today - to this spirit-filled young adult.
Do you remember what it was like when you were a young adult and you went home to be with family and thought - I’ve outgrown them, they don’t get me anymore. Do you remember or do you know that weird feeling to be with your child who is no longer a child become an adult and you don’t get them - you think - who is this person. They used to be “yay big” now they’re making bold statements and telling me what’s what.
What do you think it means that that is where Jesus gets started? To say that today the scripture of Isaiah – the prophet who says do justice – restore – reconcile – free those who are captive in your community – this is who I am and what I came to do, Jesus says.
This is a bold proclamation. So today I think between Paul and the gospel – we are encouraged and challenged to ask – how are we boldly following Jesus? How is this scripture fulfilled in our hearing today.
Last month I was with our Outreach committee at our meeting. Every December there is money left in our budget to distribute. A portion 10% a little more of our operating budget is for Outreach every year – we know how some will be spent with the partnerships we have, and we know there will be needs throughout the year – so come December, we have to make sure and distribute what’s left.
I suggested we take a portion of that money, representing a little more than one average pledging household, $3000 and designate for our Diocesan reparations fund. Passed 2020 the resolution our Diocese would commit $1M of it’s endowment and ask congregations to join with them in funding and in researching their history.
Immediately we discussed that reparations that gets everyone’s agreement. It’s one of those loaded words that often cause immediate argument, people hear it and stop listening. And for awhile here I’ve been very deliberate in using Isaiah from this section where Jesus speaks – where it reads – Is this the fast that I choose – I choose that you loose the bonds of injustice – be restorers of the streets you live in – repairers of the breach.
But at this point in this community (that I’ve been at since I was yay big) I praying we are bold enough to come together and talk about reparations and economic disparity and systemic injustice. As someone as the 8 am said – I think we all agree here in Baltimore that the disparity is getting scary – and the whole point of church and the whole point of church is to be able to have conversations about what we disagree on. Yes!
And my concern isn’t that we can’t do that – I know we can do that. Do care? Do we want to? Or are we done giving our time to lean into these hard conversations and assessments? Could we put an announcement – would we be bold enough to put in the RRLAIA an announcement that in our parish hall we’re going to have a facilitated panel discussion on reparations – come one come all?
How bold do we want to be letting people know about the work we do? Because we’ve done reparations already – that’s SLYC. Do we boldly want to tell the people in our community – who know us – in our schools, in our country clubs, our social networks – that today we do the work of combatting injustice in our community – and we want to talk about.
Two things in closing. Next month is our vestry retreat. One of the reasons we moved Annual Meeting to January was so that we could get to the work of ministry in the program year. And we have a faclitator leading the retreat. And she asked what’s the focus? What do you really want to do? And I said, our work with the school is important and we’re church. What church is our why for being church today?
Sometimes we get caught up with who we were. Oh, there aren’t as many here, there aren’t as many families, as many teens, as many pledging households. Ok – we are still the body of Christ. When we were the conversation at Outreach – it was explicitly stated – let’s not make a decision based on fear – based worry that they’re will be disagreement – let’s step out in faith, today.
That’s Jesus question today – from his hometown church – to ours. We have a youth acolyte today. We haven’t had a youth acolyte since 2020. She’s been here since she was yay big. What bold memories of Good Shepherd will she carry with her? How does this community – here and now – inform her understanding of what it means to be a beloved child of God?
I hope and pray that the Church of the Good Shepherd – continue to live into the bold witness of Jesus Christ – who came to proclaim the good news to the poor – release to the captives – to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.