The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God…
Luke’s gospel tells us that God’s Spirit was upon John even before birth, as he leapt in in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when her cousin Mary entered, pregnant with Jesus. They may not have met again for many years, but Jesus was very much around when John was exercising his ministry at the Jordan, ultimately coming to him to be baptized himself. And though John’s message was more fierce than comforting, it was Good News he was announcing, Good News that God was near, on the move, coming soon, already here – and people better get ready. (Here’s Curtis Mayfield on that subject… and a version by Joss Stone.)
Believe it or not, this is also an aspect of John’s ministry that we share, united as we are with Christ, filled with God’s Holy Spirit. That good news of release and justice and favor is now ours to deliver to this hurting world. We are the Jesus Movement, participating in God’s great mission to reclaim, restore and renew all of creation to wholeness in Christ. This ministry has a personal dimension, to be sure, and also a global, societal one. Here’s what is promised for those whom the Lord has anointed to bring Good News:
They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display God’s glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
God is already at work building up the ancient ruins, the ruined cities, healing the former devastations. This vision may strike us as ludicrous, aware as we are of how busy humankind seems to be causing more ruin to the earth and its cities, but this is the promise we proclaim, the promise we live into, the promise we are bringing into being.
Where are you being called to be an “oak of righteousness” this year?
What ruins are you in the process of helping to repair, whether on a street or in someone’s heart?
People, get ready, there’s a train a-comin’,
It's picking up passengers from coast to coast.
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’;
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
Are you ready?