By Mother Rebecca Tankersley
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ!
This Sunday marks the end of the church year. For the past 52 Sundays, we’ve been reading from the Gospel of Luke, and our other weekly lectionary readings have been chosen, at least in part, because they resonate with the significant themes Luke seeks to share. This week, I’ve been reflecting on these themes and wondering how we’ve grown together over the past year as we’ve studied them.
For my part, I began this lectionary year by rereading my notes on Luke’s Gospel from my New Testament class. I do this at the outset of each year as a way of reengaging the gospel for that year. My notes on each gospel begin with one or more verses which encapsulate the themes the evangelist most wanted to convey – with a thesis statement of sorts. Luke’s thesis statement is beautifully captured in Chapter 4, verses 14-19.
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.
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, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “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, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Several themes jump out at me from this passage. Luke’s Jesus is anointed and Spirit-filled. He’s an acclaimed teacher. He’s faithful in worship, prayer, and in keeping the sabbath. Luke shows Jesus as standing firmly in the line of the prophets, those called to speak the word of God to the people of God. And though Jesus stands in the prophetic line, Luke is clear that Jesus is more than prophet. He is the One who has come with a missionary vision to gather all people, most especially the least and the lost – the poor, the captives, the blind, the oppressed – into the reign of God. And, above all, this is good news – news of salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness, love, and acceptance.
We’ve waded deeply in these themes for a year now. We’ve read about the time when Jesus met Simon, James, and John who “left everything and followed him” (5:11), about Levi the tax collector who “left everything and followed him” (5:28), and about the crowds who followed him (9:11, 23). We’ve heard Jesus say to those gathered around him, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (9:23) and read about many who struggled to leave behind their families and obligations to do that (9:57-61).
In my prayers this week, I’ve asked God to show me how Luke’s Gospel has impacted me over the past year. I’ve wondered whether I’ve lived more like Simon, James, John, and Levi or like those who struggled to respond to Jesus’ call. The reality is I’ve lived like those disciples in some moments and I’ve struggled to respond in others. I suspect the same is true in your lives.
This Sunday, at the end of our time in Luke’s Gospel, we’ll read the account of Jesus’ crucifixion. We’ll hear how, lifted high on the cross, Jesus remained focused on his mission. We’ll hear that the King of Jews is a very different sort of king than the world expected, and we’ll be reminded that we, too, have expectations that are challenged by the reality of God incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ.
My prayer this week as I worship with you on Sunday comes from Peter J. Scagnelli’s Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C. May we all,
Let this King’s cross become the shape of our lives; let this Lord’s compassion form our hearts; let this Shepherd’s embrace welcome us to Paradise. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
I’ll see you on Sunday!
About Mother Rebecca
Mother Rebecca joined Transfiguration in May 2018. She was ordained in April 2015, after having practiced law in Dallas for 16 years. Rebecca is married to Scott Tankersley, also an attorney, and they have three sons – Trevor, Elton, and Owen. Rebecca holds a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan. Her Master of Divinity was earned at Perkins School of Theology at SMU. She enjoys hiking, road cycling, cooking, and reading. You can contact Mother Rebecca by email.