It’s another January day out there. Cold, but not as frigid as yesterday, though the cold is returning we’re told. Sun peeks out now and then, but not enough to chase the blues away.
You stumble through your days / Got your head hung low / Your skies' a shade of grey / Like a zombie in a maze / You're asleep inside / But you can shake awake / 'Cause you're just a dead man walking / Thinking that's your only option / But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day / Sun is up and the color's blinding / Take the world and redefine it / Leave behind your narrow mind / You'll never be the same
Some argue that a Christian should never be blue. A true follower of Jesus should never be down, depressed, we hear. That’s why we often hide it when we are struggling. There is a switch we can flip. Knowledge we can claim that can turn everything around. The problem is there is. Maybe not a switch to throw, maybe not anything quite so easy. But there is new life to be had. There is a fresh start, a new way of living in the world, a way of being. Of loving and being loved. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly, and yet it still slips through our fingers with surprising speed. What will it take for us to be able to throw that switch, to be able to come alive?
Luke.4:14-21 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 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, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
There is an invitation here. It seems so obvious. I know that this is really about Jesus. The season of Epiphany is all about Jesus, not about us. At best we get to stand in the glow of the light that comes. But it is about Him. Look at His own words as he stands to read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” Did you hear it? “He has anointed Me ...” “He has sent Me ...” This isn’t about us, this is about Him.
And yet, everything about Him is also about us. Or rather, everything about Him is an invitation to us. We bear His name, we call ourselves “Christian” which literally means “little Christs.” We are trying to be like Him. And though we fail more often than we succeed, we continue to try. We continue to step out. We continue to pore over His words to find the hidden meanings and insights into how to live the life He lived. Continue to seek to come alive.
Come alive, come alive / Go and light your light / Let it burn so bright / Reaching up / To the sky / And it's open wide / You're electrified / When the world becomes a fantasy / And you're more than you could ever be / 'Cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open / And you know you can't go back again / To the world that you were living in / 'Cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open / So, come alive!
There are those who claim that Jesus was just wrong when He preached this first and shortest sermon. “Today” He said. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Fulfilled? How He even assume that? How could He believe that freedom has been achieved, that vision has returned, that the poor are lifted up? It hadn’t happened then, and it hasn’t happened yet to this very day. He must have been wrong. Right?
But was He? What did He announce? He announced that the Spirit had anointed Him to preach. To proclaim. And preach He did. Proclaim He did. He preached a world that we couldn’t see yet. And then called us to see it too. 'Cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open / And you know you can't go back again / To the world that you were living in / 'Cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open / So, come alive! He asked us to come alive, to live in a new world. A world beyond our vision. A world based on our devotion to Him, our obedience to Him. The Kingdom. We are called to dream the Kingdom of God into being each and every day. To move forward as if we saw something no one else sees. At least those who aren’t yet alive, who haven’t yet given themselves to a declaration of jubilee. Of freedom and redemption. Of love and transformation. Of value, immense and deep value.
We struggle to see our value. We feel worthless more often than not. Empty, a zombie in a maze, a dead one walking. Yet we are called to know, to hear and proclaim our value, our worth. Not just ours, but any and all who claim this Christ. Any who shake awake enough to hear His words, His proclamation.
Any and all. That’s what got Him in trouble. But that’s next week’s part of the story. We’ll come back to that. For now we’ll simply acknowledge that those who are alive will always look like freaks to those who are dead. Who are not yet alive.
But that’s the invitation. The call to come alive in Christ. The invitation is to dream with our eyes wide open. To believe in something we don’t always see, love and justice, forgiveness and mercy. Because He saw it, He proclaimed it, He lived it every day, with every breath. And we want to stand with Him. He asked us to stand with Him. He said “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In your hearing. Meaning us. In our hearing. It was an invitation, a call to join Him in the mission to proclaim, to make disciples, to be the church. In your hearing, He said. Not just the vibration of your eardrums, but in the secret corners of your heart where you live and define yourself. Hear it there. Hear it in the fabric of your soul, in the strings of your heart. In your dreaming with eyes wide open. Come alive, He says to us. And join Me in the proclamation.
Yet it seems impossible. Beyond us. Our eyes don’t see as clearly as His do. Our hearts can’t stand the rejection, the despair like His did. We give up, we blink away the dream we can’t hold on to on our own. We have trouble standing against the tide of those who think differently. Who want to build walls and not bridges, who want to call names and point fingers and not see a common humanity in the ones called least of these, who say security is our highest goal and not community. It’s beyond us to hold on to this dream, this proclamation, this kingdom.
The truth is it is hard, too hard for us. Beyond our power. Out of our reach. Which is why we need help. Like He did. Wait, what? He had help? Luke says He did. Did you notice? At the beginning of the text. Right there it says He had help. He relied on a power that came from above. “Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.” Filled with the power of the Spirit.
On our own power we can’t hope to come alive. We can’t hope to dream the kingdom dream. We need the power of the Spirit to stand. And once we open ourselves to that power, then we can’t go back. Come alive.