Jesus was abundantly clear about his mission. He was clear that it had practical implications for life and love in the here-and-now. In the Gospel according to Luke (4:14-21), just after he has entered the synagogue at Nazareth, he is given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. There he reads what we now know as Isaiah 61:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus then claims this as mission and sets about doing those very practical here-and-now things.
Later in his ministry, when it was still not clear to many of his friends and followers who he was, he is asked by some disciples of his cousin John, “Are you the one, you know, the One? Or should we be looking for someone else?” Jesus replies, “Go and tell John what you see and hear—that the blind are seeing, the lame are walking, the deaf are hearing, the dead are alive again, the poor, for a change, have heard some good news.”
It is interesting to me that at a time in the life of the church, and the Anglican Communion in particular, that Jesus never makes mention of doctrine, order, or polity as signs of God’s presence (I should go on record here as saying I actually happen to believe that such things are one of the means through which God works in the world, but they are still fundamentally institutional concerns, and at best, derivative.) No, Jesus is saying that if the hungry are fed, the Kingdom of God is at hand. If the sick are healed, it is by the power of the Spirit. If those whose hope has died is somehow, mysteriously resurrected, then he is somehow involved and surely present.
I wonder if some of the present arguments that we are having in the church might take on a different tone if they were framed by such things as:
- Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
- Achieving universal primary education for children.
- Promoting gender equality and empowering women.
- Reducing child mortality.
- Improving maternal health.
- Ensuring environmental sustainability.
- Creating global partnerships for development.
Our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori has demonstrated such a strong commitment to God’s mission in the world by making the MDG’s the centerpiece of the church’s mission strategy. Please join the brothers of the SSJE as we seek ways to make these Gospel goals concrete and practical in the here-and-now.
For more information about the MDG’s and for suggestions for ways in which you can make a difference, visit www.e4gr.org.