Embracing the Social Gospel

The Passage

“…He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.
Unrolling it, he found the place…”  Luke 4: 16-17

Take a Moment to Ponder

The passage is found in the gospel reading (Luke 4:16-19) for Emancipation. It also includes a quote from Isaiah 61. Jesus had gone to the synagogue in Nazareth. He was in the habit of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and would have been familiar with their subculture. He was handed a scroll to read, and he looked for a specific passage.

Jesus could read and from an early age, he questioned what he read and gave it contextual meaning. At twelve he mystified the learnt men of the temple; he told the Pharisees that they were counting thyme and cumin and neglected justice and mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23). Jesus then did not arbitrarily read the passage from Isaiah but decided that Isaiah 61 was what the people of Nazareth needed to hear.

Jesus always brought people from the edge of the Jewish society into the mainstream. The lepers were sent to show themselves to the priest so that they could once again participate in religious life. It’s the same thing with the woman bleeding for 12 years. The man blind from birth no longer needed to beg, and the man who had nobody to lower him into the pool was no longer at the mercy of others.

How do we understand this particularly during our national celebration? I am suggesting:

1. As disciples of Jesus how do we follow in his footsteps of bringing the marginalized into the center?  

2. Statistics from 2018 tell us 13% of our 15-24-year-olds cannot read. How do we ensure that they do not become a social burden on our society?

3. Jesus read. Have you read anything that compelled you to act on behalf of others; to improve your spiritual life, further persuading you to make people’s lived theology a better one?

Take Action

We are challenged to not only know Christ and make Him known but act on God’s behalf. As Luke 4: 18-19 says God has anointed us to free people from the sins of the community. One of our national sins is the number of persons unable to fend for themselves who are a burden to society.  We, the hands and feet of Jesus must seriously consider that God is depending on us to make a difference, to understand our communities, to critically analyze what is needed, and act in such a way that life is improved. Whatever our life’s work, our talents allow us to do this.

Let us pray.

Liberating God, enable us to free ourselves from fear and encumbrances that prevent us from participating in your social gospel. Enable us by your spirit, to boldly journey with others for better. Soften our hearts that we may work to ensure that all persons in society can live with dignity in the name of Jesus and for his sake. Amen.

Contributed by Rev Hilda Vaughan