“Linchpin Church” Luke 4:14-21
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, January 27, 2012
You have brilliance in you, your contribution is valuable, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do, and you must.[i] That is a quote from Seth Godin’s book: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Godin’s book quickly became a bestseller and is still widely read and applied in corporate America today. Its challenge to individuals to approach their work with an attitude of indispensability has resonated with employees and employers. Even better, Godin’s presentation of workers as artists goes a long way to not only boost their individual morale, but also to inspire them to do our work with inspiration and flare.
Our Gospel text for today, Luke 4:14-21, gives us an up-close view of Jesus as he was beginning his career, starting out from day one as a linchpin worker. Luke provides for us an insight into how Jesus approached work in his inaugural sermon in his hometown synagogue. It is here in this first sermon of Jesus that we can clearly see how Jesus envisioned the kind of world God wanted and the individual contribution he would make to it.
To understand the kind of world God had in mind, we must first understand the one Jesus lived in as a child and as a part of a group of people. As we just considered in Advent and at Christmas, Jesus’ family and neighbors lived under the constant rule and domination of the Roman empire. Their rights, property, income, and future were trampled upon and kept in check by the soldiers and governors of their local cities. They were poor, sick, and enslaved. Jesus, as one of them, stepped into his calling from God, empowered by the Spirit, to share a vision from God for the world around him. And he placed himself at the center of it all. He took on his mission of being the Messiah, the linchpin and indispensable worker in God’s workplace of the world.
As we look at his life from that sermon forward, we see how he lived out his linchpin work. He spoke and became good news for the poor, spending most of his time with them as a teacher, a friend, and good news bearer. We also see him proclaiming to them that they were now free; how their oppressors and their chains of confinement could no longer hold them. We find Jesus moving from his first sermon to the streets of cities with a message for the blind that they could now see, remembering those like blind Bartimaeus and also the unforgettable man in John’s gospel whose encounter with Jesus left him saying, “I once was blind but now I see.” We find on page after page in the Gospels how Jesus lived out that part of his vision statement to “let the oppressed go free,” especially as we think of what it must have been like to be Mary Magdalene, the demon-possessed man at Gerasene, or the man on the next cross over at Golgotha who heard his emancipation proclamation in some of Jesus’ final words before dying, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” All of this and more about Jesus clarify for us today how Jesus not only spoke as a linchpin, he lived–and died–as one.
Speaking of “Emancipation Proclamation,” I thought this week about the movie, Lincoln, and the significance of Lincoln’s life to bring freedom to the enslaved. Take a look at this clip and consider the contribution of this one man to the liberty of all people. [YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiSAbAuLhqs ] This poor man from the backwoods of Illinois heard his calling and changed the world. He was a linchpin.
Linchpins are still needed for our world. God has given us just as much calling as Lincoln to change our world. This calling for us comes out of the same Scripture Jesus picked out for his hometown crowd to hear. Jesus entered his world as one who would be indispensable to the vision and work of God. And we have been called to follow in his steps, linchpins scattered throughout the world indispensable to bringing God’s plan to reality. As we gather here and begin our work in 2013, I invite you to catch a fresh vision of what God has called us to do; of how indispensable he has called us to be here in Highland.
I have grouped the various components of Isaiah’s prophecy and Jesus’ sermon into three categories, or applications, if you will. The first one is “Grasp.” We see how Jesus had a grasp on who he was and why he was here when he concluded his message with, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What a bold statement! As the body of Christ today, we are to continue to express that boldness. We are to grasp who we are and why we are here. We are to have an educated understanding of the flow of God’s plan in the history of our world, knowing where we come in as vital parts to bringing it to be for our time. Church for the Highlands is here for a reason. We have an identity birthed out of the idea that, if our church were to cease to exist, our neighborhood would notice. And so we moved forward with a mission to bless the Highland neighborhood with the love of Jesus through Volunteers of America and other community partnerships. This is our identity, our focus, and our business. As we keep going in this next year, we must be sure to grasp it.
The second application comes from one of the key words in the text–“Proclaim.” Seth Godin states that, The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin. I believe we see both of these in how Jesus gave his proclamation to the world. It is impossible to miss his passion for the work of God. And how can we miss his art in how he taught, how he healed, how he forgave, and how he rose again from the dead?
Church for the Highlands will be a linchpin church in this next year as we combine passion and art. We have had both of these ingredients in the past, but how will they continue in the future? Will the people who drive by this building get a sense of our passion and art? Will the people we serve snow cones and hot dogs to at a block party hear a proclamation of passion through our service? Will people we serve on Thursday night Highland Blessing Dinners notice that we truly care about them or will they see we are afraid to enter their world? Will our method of ministry be as poetic as it is passionate? As I look out at you today, I see that you are the answer to these questions. You as a church, and individuals within it, are here for such a time as this. You are linchpins, called and gifted to make an eternal difference in the lives of people who live here in Highland.
The third category here is “emancipate.” Part of being a linchpin church in 2013 is to free people who are still living in bondage. It is to tell or remind them that freedom has already been won for them; that the great Liberator has come. As we look at our community–and ourselves–it seems that we haven’t actually heard this; that we don’t know that we don’t have to live in bondage to our sins, our addictions, or our problems. Part of our job as a church is to keep saying this to the enslaved of our neighborhood. And the other part of this is to untie them, to “let the oppressed go free.” This is the purpose of our Christian Financial Services, helping people move out of the crippling cycle of debt and poverty and into a sustainable future, untying them from the chains of predatory lenders and modern day carpetbaggers. Emancipation is also the purpose of our Veterans Ministry Team, helping Volunteers of America and the VA free veterans from the burdens of war with others and then with themselves. Another example of this is with our Lighthouse Team, helping free at risk children from the captivity of poverty with the defense and security of education. Our work of emancipation takes many forms, but always with the central message of Jesus that rings out from his conversations with money-changers, religious snobs, and prostitutes of his time to us in all of our captivating forces in our world today.
These three actions–Grasp, Proclaim, and Emancipate–were foundational for the work Jesus provided for the production of God’s plan. And they are foundational for what we are to be doing as well. I close now with a quote from Godin’s book that summarizes what I believe we must consider as we begin each new year. As he described in his book, “This is not a book for the wild-haired crazies your company keeps in a corner. It is a book for you, your boss, and your employees, because the best future available to us is a future where you contribute your true self and your best work. Are you up for that?” (quote found at http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/7421862-linchpin-are-you-indispensable)
As we hear from the book God provided for Jesus long ago and for us here today, we have heard what it means to be a linchpin church. Now, are you up for that?