The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to 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)
This week, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has called for a Week of Action in light of recent events. It is meant to serve as an essential reminder to all Presbyterians in our country that God has called us to seek justice for the marginalized in our world – just as Jesus himself did. The long-term goals our leaders have lifted up this week are eradicating white supremacy and dismantling systemic racism.
This is the denomination of the church where I serve. Though the denomination does not automatically speak for all of the churches, nor for the people therein.
I, however, as a pastor, and therefore no longer a member of any church, wholeheartedly support this call from our denomination. Why? Because I believe it is what my Lord Christ would call me to do. I believe that, at this time and place, addressing the insidious and rampant racism within our systems and society is an essential way we proclaim the Gospel. And I know for a fact that previous generations of the church have made the same decision.
The passage above is the original Isaiah text that the gospel writers paraphrased in Jesus’ first appearance at his home synagogue during the beginning of his ministry. Both versions have their own unique expressions. However, the overall message is the same: Jesus came to turn this world upside down. He came to serve and lift up those who the world keeps in their place.
What does this mean for the church of Jesus Christ?
This is the Gospel made tangible. And we are to go and do likewise.
We are to bring good news to the poor (and help, too). To bring good news to the oppressed and work for their freedom. To bind up the brokenhearted. To proclaim release and freedom to the captives (def. a person who has been imprisoned or confined). To give recovery of sight to the blind (physical sight, too – not just the ones who have been spiritually blinded). To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor – the year of Jubilee, when all debts (yes money) were to be forgiven. For everyone. And to proclaim the day of vengeance for God – a comfort to those who mourn now.
Just as it was Christ’s mission, so it is also ours.
We are called to be actively making a ruckus in this world whenever we see people getting hurt. And make no mistake – white supremacy and systemic racism are hurting people. Daily. They are also sins of the highest degree.
And like every other sin, they have the propensity to live in all of us. No exceptions.
So, ask yourself this: is Christ’s mission something I can get on board with? Am I willing to put my voice, my reputation, my life on the line in service of the God of love? Even if it means standing with the poor, the oppressed, the brokenhearted, the captives, the sick, the indebted, and those who mourn vengeance never received? Even if my family or my friends will think I’m nuts, or worse, disown me…
The truth is that the call of Christ upon our lives requires no less than the willingness to sacrifice everything we have and are to serve those whom Christ came to serve – the weak and the lowly, the overlooked and the ostracized, the different and the intentionally ignored.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon us… so do the work the Spirit commands.