One of our Scripture readings yesterday (Ash Wednesday) was from Isaiah 61, where we are told, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.” (Isaiah 61.1) As I noted in the service this word was not just for Isaiah in his day. In our day God continues to anoint people to bring the same good news to us. And then, as God in Christ thus liberates us, he simultaneously anoints us (you and me) to share his word of liberation with others. I was then amazed at the many different ways and opportunities to proclaim liberty God placed before me throughout the day.
It started with someone texting me a question. Their employer is mandating that all employees must be vaccinated or face termination. He wondered what a Lutheran response to the mandate would be. I told him that the Fourth Commandment calls for us to honor and obey those with authority over us – which includes our employers. I also said that we teach people to live according to their conscience – but be willing to “suffer the consequences” should our conscience call us to disagree with those in authority over us. I also shared with him the wording of a letter I have written on behalf of a few people who faced a similar situation (If you would like to see what is in that letter, send me a request and I will email it to you). My prayer is that I was proclaiming liberty to him.
Then I served as an intercessor between an individual and his mortgage company. A recent health setback had caused him to fall behind in his payments. Good news was proclaimed to both parties as the issues were resolved through STL’s Compassion Fund.
And then there was a series of phone calls from an individual. In appreciation for how the Lord has bound up her broken heart over the years, she wanted to remember STL in her estate. We explored a variety of options and by the end of the conversation she was rejoicing.
After the noon service someone who recently lost a loved one had some questions about the resurrection and God’s activity in her life. She knew the answers to her questions but was looking for some reassurance. The liberating words of the Gospel gave her the comfort she sought, and her tears – which I expect will still come at unexpected times – were replaced with a peace-filled smile. Yes, our God is still binding up the brokenhearted today.
Then came a conversation with another, discussing a visit – and future funeral arrangements – for a special-needs family member who seems to be approaching the end of her time on earth. After that I was able to gather with a small group who had not been able to meet around the Lord’s Table since before the pandemic. Finally, on my way home to rest before our evening service, two more people – and almost three – received the liberating long-sought after, Sacrament and ashes. The mighty arm of our gracious God is at work … but generally through simple little acts of kindness.
The trouble, grief, and pain in our world is all around us – both near and far. We hear of what is taking place in the Ukraine and we tremble. But then I read some of the testimonies coming from God’s people there and in Russia, and I rejoice. They are confident that God is at work in the conflict. And they continue to pray, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
My days may not seem to be similar to yours, but I believe the similarities far outweigh the differences. Life is busy for all of us – just in different ways. And you, believe it or not, have just as many opportunities to fulfill your calling – on a daily basis – “to proclaim good news to the poor; to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.”
Consider how many different people you interact with – or have the opportunity to – on a daily basis. Start with family members and friends, add to them coworkers, emails, and social media, phone calls and texts. Then include the random people you walk past, stand in line with, or drive past. How many of them could use a hug, a smile, or just a “how ya’ do’n?” In this beat ‘em up, dog eat dog world, many people are experiencing the poverty of no encouragement or hope, their hearts are broken thinking no-one cares, or are captive to negativity and pessimism. And the Spirit of the Lord is upon you to change their world through simple acts of kindness (ask me sometime about the man who ran out of gas).
After worship someone thanked me (STL) for something I didn’t even know was going on. Then, just before bed, I received a phone call to plan a couple baptisms – this makes four we have booked before Easter – with a couple others still in the works. Can one be exhausted and exhilarated at the same time? I think so … because that is what Christian liberty is all about … hearing the good news that binds up our broken hearts … and sets us free to see and do the little things that brings liberty to others.
My role – and I sincerely believe this – is simply to supplement, to reinforce, the PRIMARY care you provide to the world. The more you recognize what God in Christ is doing in you through the proclamation of the good news, the more you will be set free to proactively love all your neighbors … which really is what liberty is all about.