Jesus came to fulfill in vivid colors the ancient prophetic words of Isaiah. Surrounded by His hometown friends, family and neighbors, Jesus read:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)
The year of the Lord’s favor was bought and paid for by Jesus’ example and great sacrifice. Sadly times do not change. Even today if those on the margins of life are going to enjoy life, freedom and the dignity of being created in the image of God, it comes by heralds of a new day willing to lay down their lives for others.
When I was just a boy playing in the dirt with green plastic army men, a war was raging for freedom that I knew little of. Even though my mother was born and raised in Northern Mississippi, I knew little of the struggles of the civil rights movement. I vaguely remember grainy black and white pictures of angry mobs yelling a little African American girls going to school, and wondering why are these people so angry.
In 1964, Carolyn Goodman, mother of young civil rights worker Andrew Goodman, heard the news that haunts every mother. Her son was missing in Mississippi. Andrew had gone south on a mission to work so African Americans could vote just like every other American citizen. For forty-four days she waited, and hoped for good news. One dark day the bad news shook her world. Andrew along with two co-workers were found dead near Meridian, Mississippi. Andrew had been shot by a .38-caliber revolver once in the chest, but his African American friend James Chaney had been savagely beaten to death.
In stead of retreating into her grief and despair, Carolyn took up her son’s cause. She chose to go to the front lines when most respectable adults left this work to the “children.” Carolyn adapted the words of poet Stephen Spender for her son’s tombstone. Inscribed are these words:
“Born of the sun he traveled a short while towards the sun, And left the vivid air signed with his honor”
May each of us be voices for freedom, understanding, community, and declare the “year of the Lord’s favor” by our words and deeds.