Readings: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; I Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
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 liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort those who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his 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. [Isaiah 61:1-4, NRSV]
It’s one of the best lines from the Belushi/Aykroyd comedy, The Blues Brothers. A scary nun charges Jake and Elwood Blues with saving the orphanage, but doesn’t say how. So they go to the greatest church service in Chicago (The Old Landmark), seeking inspiration; in the middle of James Brown’s preaching/singing, Jake sees the light and finds his mission: save the orphanage by getting the band back together. Several amazing musical numbers later, by means legal and illegal, Jake and Elwood do just that. Then they go to jail – the consequence of their questionable means to a holy end.
The movie works as a comedy because Jake and Elwood aren’t exactly choir boys, or the best and brightest the world has to offer. They just happen to be the ones God appointed to the task. But if you take out the musical numbers, car chases, and colorful psychos, it’s pretty much your run-of-the-mill mission from God.
God doesn’t waste epiphanies: they have a purpose. Seeing the light is just the beginning of a divine mission. If it doesn’t lead anywhere, it’s just so much theatrics and self-congratulation. And the mission isn’t glamorous or all that interesting; the work is hard, it doesn’t usually bring more wealth or social status, and thanks may never be given. But it is holy.
To proclaim good news to those who need it most, to ease the burdens of those who are in desperate need of help and hope, to rebuild what tragedy and tempest has destroyed: that is why God anoints.
Worship with great joy and enthusiasm. Be ready to see the light. Then head out on your mission from God. It may cost you something, but isn’t it worth it?