If I made you close your eyes and read you passages from all 4 Gospels (the first 4 books of the New Testament)—Matthew, Mark, Luke & John—you would almost always be able to pick out which book was Luke because it would mention so frequently the Spirit. (This week’s Gospel text starts out “Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returns to Galilee…” Jesus has been in the wilderness, he’s coming home after the Spirit drove him, tempted for 40 days by Satan.)
The Holy Spirit figures into Luke’s Gospel more than any other Gospel, and twice as much as Matthew and John (larger books). (Come read Luke with us on Saturday!) You see, the different Gospels have different agendas, and one of Luke’s main agendas is to proclaim the work of the Spirit, in Christ’s life, and then that same author, Luke, goes on to write the book of Acts, where the Spirit figures into our lives too, not just Christ’s, but the life of the church (the Spirit is Christ’s gift to the church) — many words are spoken and deeds are done by everyday Christians, because they are “filled with the power of the Spirit”. (Martin Luther King, Jr. was just an average man, actually. But filled with the power of the Spirit, he said and did great things.) How does the Holy Spirit figure into your life and into your being? Specifically, how does the Spirit “fill” you?
Imagine a man rowing a little boat wildly at sea: a metaphor for our lives (think of all we do, rowing, rowing, rowing, even while we’re exhausted). And now envision that man putting up a sail, and letting the wind fill that sail, putting his oars back in the boat, off he skips across the water…[p] Spirit’s driving.
Heather and I have a friend from college, SH, who’s a pilot...and he also loves to sail and surf. And one time he was describing to me in beautiful detail that moment that he never gets tired of when he flies: when the wind lifts the plane off the ground at take-off. If you’ve ever flown, you’ve probably felt that too…[that moment], when you no longer belong to the ground...and you’re taken by the wind. Shin pointed out that it’s the same kind of moment in sailing and surfing too…
The word spirit in Greek and in Hebrew is the same word for wind and breath: pneuma in Greek / ruach (f.) in Hebrew.
The Holy Spirit fills us like wind in our sails and allows us to move in ways and into places we never could have...by our own rowing.
So how does that “flesh out” for you? [p]
Well, in Jesus’ case, filled with the Holy Spirit, he faces temptation in the wilderness (first 13 verses of Chapter 4), and then he faces, perhaps even more impressive...his hometown crowd. For a prophet, it’s hard to return home and get any kind of serious audience. Everybody just sees you as this innocuous kid. Has anyone ever taken the wind out of your sails when they told everyone that they knew you when you were a teenager? That’s what the hometown crowd can do. There’s great power in that. You can have power over a person when you say, “I knew him/her/you when…”
Jesus is only about 30 years old here (dismissive of young Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez...) But he’s got something to say, in spite of the power that his hometown crowd might have over him. And he says it. Come back next week (for Part 2 of Jesus’ Homecoming) to hear how they respond, but here’s what he says...here’s Jesus’ Inaugural Speech agenda:
He lays out our priorities for the new term. And it’s aggressive. These are not gentle suggestions, or sweet promises for after we die!
This is what Jesus comes to do in the world now, with real people, in real time. I tend to want to spiritualize this list, but I’m convinced that Jesus in the Gospel of Luke would chastise me heartily for sugar-coating and making excuses. Here’s Christ’s agenda! He declares war on my ease and comfort, on my unwillingness to change and take risks. If the Gospel of John’s all grace overflowing like gallons of wine, then the Gospel of Luke is Spirit-fire.
Here’s God’s holy-righteous, fiery, Spirit-borne agenda: To bring good news to the poor. (What would that be? What would good news to the poor mean, someone without a paycheck and no back-up?) To proclaim release to the captives. (I’ve known people who worked as officers in prison system: I wonder how they hear that? Know anyone who’s locked up?) Recovery of sight to the blind (sounds the least controversial, the most innocuous, for us...until Christ tells me that I’m the one who’s blind, and when my sight recovers, by the power of the Holy Spirit, there are people and situations that I will suddenly see that need healing). To let the oppressed go free (in case you didn’t get it the first time) and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor!
This is an offensively economic reference. The Year of the Lord’s Favor comes from Leviticus, and it’s the idea that every seven years is to be a Year of Jubilee, where every person and every nation is to forgive the debts owed to them. The Lord’s prayer, which comes right out of the Gospels, actually says, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The Lord’s prayer is inherently economic...and therefore problematic. Because incurring and collecting debt is the way our system works. Yet Christ is inaugurating something radically different!
And all this is all because he is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Friends in Christ, that same Spirit fills you this day! [p]
It lifts you and me to say, do and imagine things that we never thought possible. It’s that moment where we no longer belong to the ground. We are taken by the Spirit, by the wind, and we are lifted. There’s a moment as the spirit-filled body of Christ, where we no longer speak our own minds, but rather speak the mind of Christ! We’re taken by the Spirit, you see.
My own mind usually suggests caution and retribution...but we are of one mind in Christ, so loving our enemy is Spirit-borne. That’s not me rowing wildly alone. I can’t love my enemy by myself, but with the community and the Spirit, I sail.
My own mind might suggest shrewd financial dealings that always benefit me and the people closest to me...but we are of one mind in Christ, so we share our wealth freely and joyfully. That’s not me panting breathlessly on the sea, wondering how I’m going to make it. I can’t give generously by myself, but with the community and the Spirit, I sail.
My own mind might suggest isolation, cut-off, from the messiness of the city, of civilization, of community that are naturally not perfect, to say the least. It’s cleaner to just go it alone. “Let me just paddle here! And you paddle over there!” [p] We can’t live faithfully together, on our own accord. We can’t do church on our own accord. We’ll tear each other down, break up. But with the Holy Spirit, we sail. We lift upwards, we trust, we hold each other, and we soar.
With the Spirit, we hear the Gospel, and our sight is restored.
With the Spirit, friends in Christ, we are set free, even if that makes us uncomfortable! We are set free.
Praise the one who frees us, this day and every day. Praise the one who brings light to a weary world. That light is ours, and it’s ours to share! AMEN.