Luke 4:17-19 – The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to [Jesus]. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (NIV)
Recently, I asked the members of my congregation, "How many of you hold a valid driver's licence and are currently still driving?" About one hundred hands went up — almost all the congregation. No surprises there. Then I asked, "How many of you think you are below average drivers?" One hand was raised, then slowly a couple more came tentatively to life. Only three out of the entire congregation considered themselves less than average drivers.
I suggested that perhaps most of the drivers from the church down the street would consider themselves less than average — which would begin to even things out!
The reality is that most of us like to consider ourselves above average. We like to think that we (and our kids and grandkids) are above average, not only in terms of driving ability, but beyond. We like to think that we are above average in wealth, in independence, in intelligence, and perhaps physically as well. So when we come across teachings that Jesus offers us, such as that from today's Scripture, concerning Jesus' coming for the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed, we say, "Hey, that's not us! We are not those things. We aren't poor or blind or captive. We are all above average."
Recently, we've all seen images of grinding poverty pervasive in Haiti. We have seen a people oppressed, who are prisoners to their situation. We have witnessed people who are blind, perhaps even physically, but certainly blind to many of the opportunities of which the rest of the world knows. Others — not we — know of poverty and blindness and oppression.
Maybe. But maybe it is we who are poor. Maybe we wonder if we are not missing something when we watch those who have lost all, dancing in the streets, praising a God whom they have cried out to and become close to, for where else could they turn? We are witness to that, and we wonder why we — who appear to be favoured by God in all our blessings — don't experience the same kind of joy. We wonder why our level of suicide is eighteen times that of Haiti.
Maybe it is we who are blind to a simpler way of life and to relating to God and others. Maybe in our hectic world of sixty-hour work weeks, of mortgages and stock portfolios, of the pressures of getting ahead and of ensuring that our children get ahead, we are not as free as we would like to think.
Maybe we aren't above average after all.
Maybe we need Christ more than we think.
Prayer: Loving God, help us to understand that our culture needs You at least as much as others. Help us to understand that Jesus died for all of us, that we might live in a world more sensitive to the needs of others, and to Your calling on us as Your children, loved by You, despite our poverty, blindness, and captivity. Amen.