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Many of you may have discarded the habit, assuming you ever had one, of attending Christian Church Worship services.   If so, I’ll remind you here that a long tradition for many such services is to feature what we call a Liturgist role in the service that involves reading aloud some small portion of scripture chosen for that day’s sermon. 


Occasionally, the role of Liturgist may fall to one who is back home “visiting” the old stomping grounds that weekend.  One who was accustomed to attending the service when still living at home.   Why not have her/him read the scripture as a kind of “welcome home” gesture? 


It’s a long tradition where religious ceremony and ritual worship is concerned.  Happened at least as far back as the time Jesus was attending such a worship service in his home Synagogue in Nazareth.   According to the story recorded in Luke’s Gospel (4:18-19) Jesus was asked to read aloud the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 for his homies that Sabbath day in worship.  


Those words go like this:  

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.”  Isaiah 61:1-2 (NIV)


Jesus read them like this:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)


Not sure if you caught it here, but Jesus messed up his job.   He read it wrong!  


Or did he?


You must admit, every now and then the worship liturgist misses a word or messes up a pronunciation or two or three.   It happens.   But to skip over the thing and miss an entire line?  I mean, what about “and the day of vengeance of our God” that Isaiah wrote and Jesus simply left out?   How could that have happened?


Surely Jesus knew that, by tradition, it was understood by his own religion and obviously by Isaiah the prophet that the year of the Lord’s favor would mean God’s vengeance being directed at their Gentile enemies.    It’s as if Jesus left out a key point in the passage.   God would one day do them the favor of letting their enemies have it.   POW!!!!  


It was in their Bible.    Tell it like it is!!


Only Jesus didn’t.


In fact, Jesus did even worse than that.   He used their Hebrew Bible to remind the homies who thought it would be so nice to hear him read aloud from Isaiah while visiting again in worship that God at times actually favored their enemies, such as the poor Gentile widow of Zarepath in Sidon. Or the poor Gentile leper named Naaman in Syria.   It wasn’t only the poor Jews that God sent Jesus to release from captivity but also the poor Gentiles.  


No.  Exclusions. From. God’s. Favor.  


God, if we’re to believe Jesus the worship liturgist, was not taking vengeance out on the outsiders, the outcasts.   God was in favor of all the poor.   All the oppressed, all the blind, all the prisoners.   And all means all.  


Even today I wonder if we in the church don't use the Bible to exclude those who are, well, different.   Those who are, well, enemies.   Those who look different. Dress different.  Talk different.   Act different.  Love different.   Vote different.   “Those” people.   Those who are in trouble with God and so will catch up with his vengeance one of these times.  During the year of God’s favor to “us” on the inside.   


Yep.   That’s in the Bible.   But so is a lot of other stuff.   And so is Jesus.   The One whose words are in red letters.   The One we call Lord.  


Sometimes the church gets it wrong. Maybe try and throw Jesus off the cliff. Sometimes we give the wrong one top billing and ask people to believe the wrong Word of God. To follow the wrong Lord.   Do we sometimes exclude because the Bible says……?  Why not include because Jesus says………?  Do we sometimes privilege Isaiah 61:1-2? Why not Luke 4:18-19?

Do we sometimes proclaim the good news of THE BIBLE & Jesus?  Why not JESUS & the Bible?

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