Keeping Our Mouths Shut
#KeepingOurMouthsShut is the podcast for January 27, 2019, the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. In Davos, all the wealthy and governments are meeting to decide your future. Who will speak for you and what does it have to do with Jesus in the synagogue of his home town? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke #Luke4 #Davos #WorldEconomicForum #PreferentialOption #Poor #Blind #Outcast #Oppressed
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/27/2019 The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 4:14-21.
This past week the “world’s 1,000 leading companies” met in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum “to shape a better future.” The description comes from the World Economic Forum website. When people meet, they usually meet to discuss their interests. I am encouraged by some of the stances taken by the CEO Marc Benioff and his concern for preserving the private information of his customers because he says that trust is the most important commodity a CEO must protect.
Because the “world’s leading 1,000 companies” are there in Davos, governments are there, too. (Well, our government is not there because our government is shut down at the moment.) The governments are there to be sure to hob nob and find the pulse of the 1,000 companies so that they can win them over to invest in their countries. In fact, if you look at it, the ideas that are exchanged will influence economies. Economies of the world influence the way we live. Who will get hired and what skills are required for jobs will be determined by who gets to set the agenda. At this point, the World Economic Summit is more than just a chance to go to Switzerland and ski in the mountains.
What I noticed from the reporting and the invitation list is that big companies are represented, governments are represented, but the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed by the world economy are nowhere to be found. Last week, it was reported on several news outlets that 26 people hold more wealth than 33 billion people in the world. Who will speak for the poor? Who will speak for the captives? Who will speak for the blind? Who will speak for the oppressed? The Gospel Lesson tells us who.
Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit after being out in the desert 40 days and 40 nights wrestling with the Devil, comes to his hometown, Nazareth. He had been teaching in the synagogues of Galilee of the Gentiles, an area Northwest of the Sea of Galilee that went toward Syria. The fame of Jesus’ teaching had spread far and wide. Yet, Jesus now returns to his hometown, where everyone knew him as a child, as the son of Joseph and Mary. Here, he steps up to read in the synagogue and he reads from the prophet Isaiah.
The passage he reads is from Isaiah 61. It is thought that these words were spoken by the messenger who came from King Cyrus of Persia to the people of Galilee of the Gentiles. Biblically, we know that land as the land of Naphtali. This region was taken under the reign of Tiglath-Pilesar III of the Assyrians. He was an oppressive ruler who took the land of Naphtali under his reign and sought to keep it captive under an oppressive regime. King Cyrus of Persia, on the other hand, was a leader in the area of human rights. Although Galilee of the Gentiles would be under Persian authority now, it would be returned to Jewish rule. This section of Isaiah stresses the action of God’s plan in historical events.
So, the message of Isaiah is that God is the true ruler. He has sent a ruler in Cyrus to establish release of the captives, recovery of sight to the blind who do not see it, a change in fortunes for the oppressed, and to give relief to the poor. Why would Jesus pick that passage as the hallmark of his ministry? Why would that passage be the announcement he chooses to make to the world from the Synagogue in his hometown?
It is because Jesus came to preach euangelion, the Greek word for Good News, from which comes the word ‘evangelism.’ Good News is not for just some, it is for those who need it the most. The values that we possess ask a central question about how we order our societies: Do we include the welfare of everyone?
The work of Jesus on the Cross includes everyone. Can you think of the sacrifice on the Cross just being for “many” and not “all”? Do you think that the Lord in heaven who cares about the hairs on every head of every human being in the world would be OK with leaving people out of the opportunity for forgiveness? Do we think that the God in heaven who created the Garden of Eden which had plentiful goods for all to survive would think it is OK that some go with and others go without?
Do we think that the 1,000 world leading companies in Davos, Switzerland know that people sell their food stamps because they have to pay for medicine that is not covered? Do we think that people in Davos, Switzerland know that a person will stay on public assistance because paying for daycare eats up what would be left to pay for food? Do we think that the people of Davos, Switzerland know that a person who needs a running vehicle to get to work NOW will take a bad deal on a bad car now rather than wait for a better deal on a better car in two days because they will lose their job due to lack of transportation?
How can they? There was no one at Davos, Switzerland who was poor, who lived in hills of West Virginia or the center of the City of Gary, IN, near us. There was no one at Davos, Switzerland who represented the poor, the outcast, the blind, or the oppressed. How will there be Good News for anyone but the CEOs and shareholders at Davos if the rest of us are not represented?
It is striking to me that Jesus’ first message to his home town, and Luke’s message by reporting this as the first message of Jesus’ ministry, is that God is concerned for the salvation and the real life matters of the poor, the outcast, the blind, and the oppressed. There is a New Heaven and a New Earth that are coming after the judgment where there will be no hunger and no one will care if we worked for the food or not. No one will be making judgments about our character based upon the balance of our checking account. Until then, Jesus has a message for those at Davos, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.” “Leave the crops at the edges of the field so the poor can glean.” “Woe to you who are rich now,…full now,…laughing now.”
One of our functions as the Church is to say that if there is any inequality it must be rectified in favor of the poor, the blind, the outcast, and the oppressed. That is our role because that is one of the reasons they hung our Lord from the Cross: he didn’t keep his mouth shut. Just like Cyrus is hailed by Isaiah for his relief for the masses, Our Lord Jesus came to set us free, all of us, and not only by pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, but by being people who demand fairness, push economies to be idealistic, and to be on the look out for the inequities of life. If not us, then who? If not us, then why?
It is called the “preferential option for the poor” and it is declared loudly and boldly by Jesus Christ in the passage for today. Where are the places the poor, the outcast, the blind, and the oppressed exist in our local communities? Who is sounding the word for them? Davos? I don’t think so. You? Me? I hope so. Jesus Christ, God the Son? Absolutely. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian