Epiphany 3C, 2001
Luke 4: 14-21
A Liturgy is also available
A GENERATION CRYING FROM THE HEART...
Recently I came across a story which caused me to say:
"Gee, that reminds me of..."
And I know you will not be surprised by that statement.
So let me tell you the story and then the story it reminded me of.
Some years ago a lion escaped from its cage in a travelling circus.
The lion trainer couldn't find the creature,
and people were terrified.
They searched desperately, trying to find it before it hurt anyone
and before the evening darkness settled over the city.
They even calculated how far a lion could travel
and searched that radius of the city.
But the lion was not to be found.
As the dawn of the next day gilded the sky,
the lion was found only a couple of blocks away from where it had escaped.
The lion was pacing back and forth in front of a wrought iron fence
that appeared to be the bars of the cage.
The circus and the city was relieved when they found the lion
and returned it to its cage.
What the lion hadn't found out is that a few steps
beyond its pacing back and forth the iron fence ended.
Another step or two and the lion could have turned the corner
and found new freedom in new territory.
Now the story this story reminded me of.
When our black-and-tan dog was alive (NN) and I would take him for a walk.
Across an oval and along a path by the Botanic Gardens.
At least a couple of times a day.
Every day we walked beside the fence separating the path from the gardens.
Our dog walked along the fence looking longingly at the ground inside.
But there was no way he could get in.
One day, the garden’s Trust removed the rusty fence
but left the steel upright posts.
Again our dog walked along beside the posts, looking in longingly.
It took nearly ten days before he realised
he could now enter this promised land freely.
Every storyteller and every story told is an invitation
to make connections and to tell a story in response.
So it is with the stories of the lion and the black-and-tan dog.
And so it is with the storyteller Luke
and his story of Jesus in the synagogue, reading.
And it is with this story that I want to suggest
we come close to the centre of Luke's concerns.
For here, in this story, two things seem to happen.
• The Jesus of Luke sets forth his understanding of his vocation.
• And Luke the storyteller gives us a guide as to the following stories
he will present Jesus as dealing with.
And those stories are to carry his community - and us -
beyond the fences they and we erect in our minds,
into new pathways of imagination and mission.
Luke's Jesus seems to understand himself to be anointed for a ministry to the poor.
Luke deals with the theme of poverty far more
than the other gospel storytellers.
Luke's Jesus identifies himself as the one of who Isaiah spoke.
From that day in the synagogue, Jesus went out
to do what the prophet had foretold.
And Luke's Jesus further imagines his ministry
to be one shaped by the Jubilee Year tradition of Israel.
Israel was not to farm the land in the Jubilee year.
Debts were forgiven.
Land was returned.
Israel was to remember in this way
that the land belonged to G-o-d
and they were always sojourners in G-o-d's land.
Which is about as far removed as possible
from the economic rationalists at large in our governments,
and our commercial institutions!
But it was this vision which Luke has shaping Jesus' ministry.
An enlarged vision of life in obedience to God;
an enlarged imagination of life which offers
'release to the captives'
'good news to the poor'
'sight to the blind'
'liberty to the oppressed'.
I'm told that London newspapers, which usually take very little note
of what happens in Australia, expressed surprise
our prime minister (John Howard) could not weep for the 'Stolen Generations'
when the report was released four years ago.
So too did many Australians!
And several continued to challenge the prime minister to say 'sorry'
during the recent Federation Day celebrations in Sydney.
In stark contrast, weeping SBS newsreader Indira Naidoo,
during the Australia Day Council celebrations in Sydney in 1998, said:
"When I hear the heart-wrenching stories of the stolen generations, of thousands of Aboriginal children torn apart from their parents, I feel deep sorrow and I have to say sorry because I am an Australian too...
"Olympic medals and world tennis rankings are important to help us build our sense of pride and achievement, but it is how a nation treats its poor, weak, disadvantaged that we are judged on, by the rest of the world and by the next generation."
If we cannot weep,
if we can not imagine,
if we cannot acknowledge the pain of deaths and emptiness,
is it any surprise many of us in this modern society say that life is unfair?
As a nation, as a church, as a congregation...
We may only come to new birth, new life and resurrection after
we have lamented the loss and the pain which is happening
within our society,
within our city and
Until we take courage to do this,
to live the Jubilee Year of the Lord as Luke's Jesus envisioned it,
many cannot expect to do much more than exist.
You know, sometimes there are fences in the mind which no longer exist in reality.
But if we took just a few more steps
we can turn a corner and find
new freedom in new territory.