“The Spirit of our God is upon me:
because the Most High has anointed me
to bring Good News to those who are poor.
God has sent me to proclaim liberty to those held captive,
recovery of sight to those who are blind,
and release to those in prison --
to proclaim the year of our God’s favor.”
- Luke 4: 18-19
Is this passage just poetry, or is it a proclamation of an alternate vision of how life can be? Is it timely today? I believe it is a proclamation that is relevant to guide discipleship today.
Throughout 2018-2020, the Church of the Brethren is searching for a compelling vision that can unite us in the face of deep differences about scripture and faithful discipleship. I pray that the Holy Spirit will enliven this process and bring us results that are surprising and encouraging.
What could it mean for the Church of the Brethren to center this “mission statement” of Jesus? Does its poetic structure enter your heart and leave you longing for more than you are getting? Might it till the soil so that you are ready for a bolder practice of agape love and a riskier commitment to follow Jesus?
In every community, there are those imprisoned, those suffering, those who are chained by circumstance and systems of suppression, downpression, and oppression. What if these realities were allowed to become the center of our beloved denomination’s mission and ministry?
It would mean a focus on refugees, immigrants, prisoners, the poor. As Jesus did. It would open our hearts to women, people of color, and those that are gender-nonconforming. As the early church did. It would mean speaking hard truths about how the church and society fall short of God's vision, building communities of honesty, intimacy, and vulnerability to strengthen us in making this vision real. It would mean continuing to invite all to God’s open table of love and fellowship. As our risks grew, God’s power would rise in us in accordance with our need.
We don't need a new compelling vision. Let’s take a risk; let's allow the seeds planted in the Church of the Brethren for the last three hundred years to germinate yet again, bearing fruit in our lifetimes. What if we took ourselves seriously as people who:
work for reconciliation AND struggle for justice,
serve those in need AND overturn tables in the temple,
deeply abide in the Spirit AND live out our values in our everyday lives,
cherish AND challenge the received tradition?
May we resonate in Luke 4:21: “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
By Matt Guynn, OEP Director of Church and Community Group Organizing
We invite you to explore the notion of compelling vision, pose questions about what it means to adopt one, and further discuss the value of Jesus' "mission statement" in the comments below.