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1 Corinthians 12:12-20; Luke 4:14-21

Here’s a question: What did Jesus do? (He healed, taught, forgave, etc.) And here’s another question: Why was Jesus here? (Hopefully a bigger-picture answer.)

I’m thinking about an anecdote that has affected my thought about the church, organizations, and life in general. The story is that Ray Kroc, who built the McDonald’s chain, asked a group of MBA students what business he was in. They laughed, but he clarified that his business was not hamburgers, it was real estate. Selling hamburgers was his job, yes, but at a job you work for someone else. With the land under the restaurants, Ray’s money was able to work for him – that was his business. Both of these were money-making enterprises, but Ray tried not to lose focus on the primary one. His advice to these students was to do your job, but focus on your business – and they’re usually not the same thing. Now, I should be very clear that at HCPC, we’re not in business for money. We’re here for something else: to renew the world, to be part of God’s community, to carry on Christ’s love here and now.

Using these terms, I’d say that Jesus’ “job” was healing, teaching, forgiving, and so on. That’s what he did, and obviously he did it well. In today’s passage, however, he’s laying out something more than what he did. We can call it his “business” to share the good news, release the captives, restore vision, and announce God’s reign. How he did it was, first, by doing his job to heal, teach, forgive; and what’s key is that he shared this ministry with all people, not just the religious and social insiders. What turned Jesus’ “job” into God’s “business” was the crucial context in which he did it. The mission he lays out here finally plays out as his work leads through death and resurrection, where he brings life to the ultimate location of brokenness, oppression, and darkness. And after the resurrection, Jesus’ mission continues when the Holy Spirit comes to keep the church in business.

I hesitate even to say that – “keep the church in business.” I don’t want us to hear “staying in business” as meeting a budget, adding contributors, and promoting programs. All of that is great, but it’s not our business. It may not even be our job, scary as that may be. Our business is to proclaim the good news, to dismantle oppressive structures, to name and inhabit God’s presence in the world. This is the business we inherited, because it’s Jesus’ business.

As it happens, passing down the business is part of Jesus’ business. When he says, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read,” I suspect he may be telling us that we’re now part of the new reality Jesus describes. The Spirit of the Lord was on Jesus, and now it’s on us too. We belong to God’s work of good news, liberty, sight, freedom, and salvation. All this happens among us, as we’re called to be part of it. Our job will be different, even as the business is the same. Jesus’ business today may call us to do work that Jesus never did.

So there’s the question for our discernment today: Who are our poor, captive, blind, oppressed, or dispossessed? (Answers could point to people in our community dealing with generational poverty, which for the first time in history now means a minority of people. Many of us feel captive to mortgages, cell phone plans, or dead-end jobs. Blindness points to a couple of things: illness such as cancer, mental illness, etc; and the inability to see our neighbors across differences of race, sexuality, geography, or religion. People can be oppressed by dictators who take their voices, by being too poor to buy access to power, or through exclusion from ancestral land or families.) We know we’re in Jesus’ business when this – not ourselves – is whom we serve.

To live Jesus’ life for the people we named would be a challenge. This business carries risks to our assumptions and even to our livelihoods, and of course we remember its cost for Jesus. But in doing these things, I suspect we find them for selves. When we proclaim good news to poor, we often hear our own good news. As we give release to captives, we might find our own freedom. When we bind up the broken, our own wounds will be bound. Of course, that’s not why we do this; the bottom line is always God’s call, not our own needs or desires. But God has a way of making good things work out.

I’ll invite us to imagine how this might look here. We’ll get practical soon, in the discussion portion of our meeting. As we discuss and serve, may Christ’s Spirit be with us.

Amen.

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