Sunday, November 11, 2012

Voice of Hope

Gutenberg Bible, located at the New York City Public Library

    As a Resource Room teacher, I spend much of my time helping children learn to read.  Some children have difficulty learning the letter/sound code.  Others have broken the code but don’t have any idea what they read.  The words slip out of their minds.  One of the techniques that I teach to build their comprehension is to help the words create sensory images.  Your five senses are touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing.  I want my students to be able to create such a vivid picture in their minds that they can walk around in it and make observations as though it were a movie set.  Because we are individuals, with different life experiences and different talents, our images will not be exactly the same, but they should have the important things in common.
     With that brief reading lesson in mind, I’d like to take a look at a passage of Old Testament scripture that Jesus quotes in Luke as He begins His ministry.  Picture this in your mind.
     Jesus steps to the front of a crowded Nazarene synagogue on the Sabbath.  He unrolls a scroll from Isaiah.  Can you picture Him placing His finger gently on the words and then looking up at His audience?  As He reads His voice swells and He looks from individual to individual.  He wants them to recognize their reality and pair it with the hope that God has for them.  Jesus reads this:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach 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. (Italics are mine.)  Isaiah 61:1-11
     The audience for this text is  afflicted, brokenhearted people.  They are captives.  They are in prisons of their own making.  They are mourning.  They have experienced devastation.  Some are more broken than whole.  They are people like us.   Some of us are brokenhearted, mourning the loss of a loved one.  Some of us have not heard words of praise and our spirit is faint and weary.  Our minds are clouded with worry about an illness.  Poverty has come knocking.  We look too often at the images that can easily drown us.  But Jesus points to Gods reality.  God wants us to focus on the images of hope, reconciliation, deliverance, and healing.  Things are not as they seem.
     Jesus stood among the people in the synagogue and He stands with us.  He speaks of good news, gladness, and praise.  He can comfort those who mourn, because He broke the power of death. Jesus steps into our failures and disappointments and helps us to see the hand of God.  So I would like to finish the scripture from Isaiah 61.
... to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, 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 mourning and a garment of praise instead of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the lord for the display of His splendor.
     Jesus comes among us and clothes us in garments of praise and salvation.  No matter our condition, God wraps us in the cloak of integrity, wholeness, and holiness.  A gift of love.  A gift given to each of us, to be received with joy.
     Let's finish the movie in our minds.  Then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him and He began by saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

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