The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
God 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.
I’m not big on souvenirs. Trinkets just don’t have much draw any more. This has been the case ever since my trip to Disney World following high school graduation. The gold-plated paperweight of Mickey Mouse riding the Rock’n Rollercoaster sure seemed like a must-have item when I stepped off the ride, adrenaline still pumping from my head down to my Visa. At home, though, after the excitement of the moment has passed, it can be hard to find a place on the shelf for all those paperweights that tend to get picked up along the way.
I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to travel to Israel/Palestine in May with a group from Campbell University as a way to cap off the three years I spent in divinity school. It was an incredible trip, filled with more visits to historical and biblical sites than I can recall without the help of a notebook. As someone who enjoys reading and thinking on the sacred stories of our faith tradition, the trip gave me an opportunity to gain real perspective on just how long it takes to travel around that Sea of Galilee Jesus is always sailing across, and to get a glimpse of what the psalmist might have had in mind when she wrote “I lift my eyes to the hills.”
Needless to say, I was compelled to make an exception to my “no souvenirs” rule. In my office at Pullen I have a small red rock that I brought back from the hill overlooking the city of Nazareth — now the largest city in the Galilee, but nothing more than a backwoods village in the time of Jesus. This jagged, sharp rock came from the cliff tradition identifies as the Mount of Precipice. Following Jesus’ inaugural sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth, his neighbors were intent on hurling him off the cliff just outside the town. The vertical rock face towers 397 meters over the rich farmland of the Valley of Jezreel below. You can read the rest of that story in Luke 4.
The winds on the cliff are fierce. It can be a bit unnerving just stepping off the concrete sidewalk to get a better view of the edge. The risk Jesus faced that day, at the very beginning of his ministry, was real. It continued to follow him for the rest of his life. I kept the rock as reminder that we are called to proclaim a dangerous gospel — one that challenges the status quo of society with a radical vision of God’s love that knows no bounds, and sees everyone as person of infinite worth.
May we have the courage to proclaim such a risky message.
May God help us live as though we believe it to be true.