My favorite passage of scripture is Luke 4:18-19. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus is quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 while omitting the phrase, “The day of vengeance of our God.” The audience may have been hoping for the “fulfilment of Scripture” to include the judgment and destruction of political enemies. We all have a secret list in our hearts entitled “People who deserve the vengeance of the Lord.” This prophetic proclamation of Jesus lets everyone know that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing (Luke 4:21).” Jesus is anointed to heal the broken hearted and the time is now. The kingdom of Jesus extends God’s grace and mercy to people outside of familiar religious traditions and cultural circles. His healing and hospitality also invite hostility. “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath (Luke 4:28).” Jesus always makes church people mad! Dinner church makes people mad too! Vengeance will have to wait. Jesus has some healing to do.
When Jesus is baptized, he receives approval from his Father. “The heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ”You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (Luke 3:22).” It has taken me a while to believe that I am beloved by God. Through the dinner church I have learned that the kingdom of God is in our midst when the church is among the poor. “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours (Luke 6:20).” My prayer Is that the church would find its authority by walking in the anointing of Jesus. The favor of God is good news to the poor. The dinner church turns enemies into friends. “The vengeance of the Lord” becomes “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink (Romans 12:20a).”
I was driving home last week wondering what loving our neighbors will look like going forward in this time of uncertainty and divisiveness. How political enemies could become friends? How the dinner church could move forward during a pandemic? Within the span of thirty minutes, two people from our dinner church called. One gentleman wanted to thank me. The dinners had helped encourage him through a time of unemployment and homelessness. He now has an apartment and a job! He credits God and the prayers he received at the dinner as central to his improved situation. Another friend called to invite me over for coffee and to see if I had any extra polo shirts! Vengeance will have to wait. Jesus has some healing to do.