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The Rev. Joseph Winston January 24, 2010
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 In the 1950s, Dmitri Konstantinovich Belyaev (1917 - 1985) wanted to know how wild animals became the horses, sheep, goats, cattle, cats, dogs, and chickens that we have today. He was especially interested in how wolves transformed into the dogs that we keep in our homes. Belyaev assembled a team of scientists to help answer this important question. They captured undomesticated silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) native to the former Soviet Union and they started breeding only the foxes that did not fear humans. After a short while, the scientists slightly modiﬁed this approach. Now they only selected mates from silver foxes that responded to humans in a positive manner. After ten generations, both the attitude and appearance of the foxes changed in a visible way. Humans no longer frightened the foxes. The foxes now acted like
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
the domesticated dogs we all know when their caretakers came to the kennels. They greeted their visitors by barking, the foxes wagged their tails when people approached, and they even licked the human guests. When you looked at them, you would think that these foxes had transformed into dogs. The solid coat of the wild silver fox now had spots. The upright ear characteristic of wild foxes was missing. Even the fox’s straight tail was lost. In its place, the tenth generation fox had a curled tail. Through the work done by Belyaev and the rest of his team, the scientiﬁc world now knows that by selecting the attribute of tameness, we can breed animals that we can control. The author of today’s Gospel lesson already understood this fact that we only rediscovered ﬁfty years ago in the technical community. Humanity wants to be in charge of everything. Jesus makes that point perfectly clear in His selection from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1; 58:6; 61:2; 29:18-19). He speaks these words to the assembled group:
4 18 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 favour. (NRSV)
Even after all these years, it still hurts to hear this message from Jesus. Not 2
even today, have we been able to master the areas of ﬁnance, judgement, science, and life together. Every one is still broken. Listen at what we cannot do and how Jesus ﬁxes our problems. Our economy has failed us. From one administration to the next, through every recovery program we have ever thought of, and in each part of our country, we still have the poor. We have been unable to eliminate this problem that has plagued us for ages. Jesus will not accept our failure with economics. He comes to anyone who does not have enough food on the table and says, “Eat freely. I give it all to you.” This is not cheap talk by the Son of God. He fed the ﬁve thousand (Luke 9:12-17). To those who cannot afford a home, Jesus gives you a place to live (Luke 20:38). Everyone whose burden to too great to bear, Jesus comes to relieve you of your debt (Luke 11:46). Our justice system has failed us. The innocent are in prison and the inverse is also true. The guilty run free. Neither aspect is correct and we all know it. Every person we incorrectly incarcerate means that we are willing to swap someone else’s rights for our own convenience. This never a fair trade. On the other side of the equation, not providing a safe place for everyone robs people of freedom. They cannot live without fear. That is not right either. Jesus expects that everyone be given justice. One of the tasks of the Messiah is to ﬁx our broken laws (Luke 4:31-44; 6:1-11). Another one is to provide complete and total forgiveness to all the hardened criminals who ask for it (Luke 23:39-43). Our technology has failed us. No matter how advanced our science has be3
come, we still have disease and all the horrible problems it brings. Every day, children are born with deformities. People of all ages catch illnesses that maim and destroy the body. All by itself, this is bad enough but we still have other issues that we must face. The cost of providing health care is higher than many people can pay. This causes terrible choices when one must decide between treating the sickness and putting food on the table. In the Gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus offered healing without cost. He freed people from what was tormenting them (e.g. Luke 4:33-36; 4:41; 6:18). He cured Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). He helped all the sick in Nazareth and in the surrounding countryside (e.g. Luke 4:40; 5:15; 5:17-26; 6:17, 19; 7:110). Death is something we must live with. It comes through disease, accident, and old age. Even with all of our science, we have not been able to give life back to someone after their demise. Jesus gives life back to the dead. He raised a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-16). A girl lived once again because of His gift (Luke 8:49-56) Our society has failed us. People that do not look like us know the difﬁculties of ﬁnding meaningful work. It is a fact. Women make less money than men do. We know that this is true. We also take advantage of the most vulnerable people that live with us. Women abort their children. Children ignore their aging parents. For many, death happens alone, away from friends and family. One of the jobs of the Savior is to ﬁx all these problems found in our world. Jesus ate and drank with the people that good folk ignored (Luke 5:27-32). He saw 4
all the ones the rest of society ignored (Luke 5:31). He also expected all of His followers to do the same and help everyone they encountered (Luke 10:25-37). History tells us that anyone who attempts to change someone’s life for the better is a severe threat to the rest of society. They show everyone how little of life we actually control. The traditional way to solve this problem is to murder the person and put them out of our misery. This pattern is also found in Luke. The same men who heard Jesus preach the words from the prophet Isaiah call for His life. After hearing these words, they turn into an angry mob, capture Jesus, and bring Him to a hill where they want to kill Him (Luke 4:29). Far too often, that is our behavior. We try to restrict the salvation that Jesus brings to the world to only the forgiveness of sins. Make no mistake about it. Granting pardon for what we do wrong is a very important part of Christ’s sacriﬁce for us. In fact, it is what gives us everlasting life with Him. But our actions that ignore today’s Gospel lesson with its emphases on how much Jesus actually helps everyone says something else about us. Our desire to constrain what Jesus can and cannot do is nothing more than a blatant attempt on our part to domesticate the Messiah. We want to limit who He can save. Thankfully, Jesus refuses to live up to our deﬁnition of a Savior. He comes to bring good news to the poor. He gives release to the captives and sight to the blind. He frees the oppressed. Even though you might not realize it, you belong to each one of these groups and you directly beneﬁt from Christ’s saving work. 5
The poor of the earth are a much larger group than those people who lack ﬁnancial resources. True wealth is not measured in dollars but instead by who can give you real life. Only God can do that. Before Jesus came into your life, you could not live up to your full potential since you always had to worry about what happened next. Now you know. You are Christ’s and you will be with Him forever. The captive people are found in every walk of life. They are the people held in the prisons of their own making. Christ breaks down the walls that divide us. Jesus removes the barriers between God and you. He frees you from your cell and calls you to live with all of creation. The blind are all those people who cannot see God, the true power behind all of creation. Jesus gives you Holy Spirit who lets you truly see. You realize now that God is in control of the world and that He has a place for you in His house. The oppressed are everyone who this life drags down. Jesus lifts that burden from you. With that weight off your back, you can now live. Domestication of animals serves a useful purpose since it transforms wild beasts into creatures that bring us beneﬁts. Jesus will not allow us to change Him into something that He is not. Nothing we can do will stop Jesus. He will save you no matter what it takes. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”2
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