Ask anyone who matters to them and chances are they'll name a person who has been a blessing to them. Blessings, not curses, are a source of abundant life. Think about it. Have you ever known someone who could curse life into being? Blessing is a cause of abundant life and a few weeks ago I preached a sermon on it.
This is the fourth of five sermons on those causes. I draw from the Luke 4:16-21 for this sermon. As I've mentioned before, I'm following Gary Gunderson's book, Leading Causes of Life and hope you'll check it out.
Just a note: I goofed and lost the recording of this sermon, hence the text wall. Regularly scheduled programming with the last sermon.
In Luke 4 Jesus visits his hometown and gives his "mission statement." This moment underscores Jesus' actions in Luke's Gospel and then is continued by the church in Acts. It is, without a doubt, chock-full of blessings.
Blessings are the lifeblood of God's work in the world. The very nature of blessing is to announce a worldview. Jesus does this in Luke 4 by reading from the prophet Isaiah.
Whenever you talk about blessings in a pragmatic sense we like using words like "resources" and when we talk about our big fancy houses or cars we say we are blessed. Luke 4 isn't about any of that. Or at least Jesus doesn't come from blessings in the same way we do. So, here are a few ways I think we can take Jesus' mission and make it our own.
- Jesus blesses from abundance (v.18). Ask anyone in America if there is enough to go around. There is a reason we have such inequity. Because obviously there isn't enough. And those who have, well... they have to keep a big pile of what they have and keep it. You never know when you'll need it, right? Huh. So I'd argue that most of us exist in a world that believes in scarcity. We have to pinch our pennies, amarite!? Well, Jesus doesn't see it that way. There is more than enough to go around. Enough of what? Well, food for starters (manna). And forgiveness in good measure (mercy). When Jesus says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..." he is acknowledging that God has sent him to bless those who aren't. We hear it so often we forget that "Good news to the poor" means giving blessing to those who don't feel very blessed. Setting people free, giving folks sight, and declaring the year of the Lord's favor can't happen unless there is abundance. There is more than enough, for all.
- We are blessed to be a blessing (v.23). Blessing that doesn't lead to hope is a curse. Blessing not shared becomes privilege or entitlement. The most sure way to keep a blessing is to share it and the quickest way to lose it is to keep it. Israel (as the Gospels portray it) forgot this fact and just wanted to be blessed for itself. Why was Abraham blessed? What would come of his descendents? All the world would be blessed through them. When we try to hoard God's blessings and keep them to ourselves, we miss the boat.
- Jesus doesn't play by insider's rules (v.30). This is where Jesus goes awry with the crowd. He points out that God blessed non-Jews previously and implies that God will do this again through his ministry. Well that doesn't sit well with the crowd. They want to kill him when he tells a story about God blessing non-Jews. This story of course is still played out in our world. We want God to bless US and OUR OWN. Everyone else can receive curses for all we care! Well... Jesus is going to bless who Jesus wants to bless. :)
So what are we to do? I hope we will act like there is enough to go around. I hope we'll share what we've been given. And I hope we will pay less attention to making God work for us and more attention to working for God. Christ's mission, in Luke 4, is to bless those who need a loving God to set them free. In this sense, we all qualify for God's mission through Jesus Christ. May we continue that work as people who call on his name.
Christ invites us to be blessed. May we bless others in and around Oakmont.