This Is the Year of Divine Favor

January 21, 2007

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Luke 4:14-21

14Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

 16He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
 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,
    19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

 20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I’d like to talk with you today about the topic of divine favor. This is the year of divine favor. What kind of year is this going to be for you? What kind of year is it going to be for your family? Have you thought about it? As we enter the threshold of a brand new year, do we wring our hands and say, “Oh, I don’t know what the future will hold? 2006 was not so bad, but what will the new year bring?” How do we enter the new year? What do we think?

 

I suggest to you, my friends, that the best thing to affirm is that this year is the year of divine favor. How can we say this? By what authority can we claim it? May I suggest the best one of all? Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s look together at today’s scripture reading, from the gospel of St. Luke. We have the story of Jesus beginning His earthly ministry. He’s traveling from town to town, and He’s speaking in synagogues, and we’re told that He’s very well liked. Then He comes to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. He was invited to speak there, and He sat down in the seat of Moses, the seat of authority, the place where a preacher preaches. The attendant handed Him the scroll of the book of Isaiah. Jesus took the scroll and unfurled it to the place of His choosing. He found the passage that He wanted to read.

 

“Jesus read, ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor of spirit. He 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.’ He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and as the eyes of all were upon Him, He began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” The Word of the Lord; thanks be to God.

 

The one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that Jesus loved this scripture. Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel it coming right through the words? Jesus loved this passage. He read this passage, and He’d studied it before, and He said, “Yes! This is who I am. This is what I am about. This is what I have come to do.” Let’s take a look.

 

“…to bring good news to the poor of spirit” – to bring positive thoughts to the broken-hearted.

“…to proclaim release to the captives” – captives of the spirit, people who are captive to negative ideas, to false thoughts about themselves, to false thoughts about God, people who are bound by limiting ideas.

“…and recovery of sight to those who cannot see” – to those who need spiritual insight.

“…to let the oppressed” – those pressed down, those abused – “go free” and really live abundantly.

And, don’t miss this one –

“…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is what we’re here to do, to accept the promise of Jesus, and to say, “This is the year of the Lord’s favor.”

 

How many times have we read that passage and let it go by? Oh, it’s a nice religious phrase, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a promise, and if we put God first in our lives, if we follow the Lord, if we strive everyday to do a little bit more of the keys of Christian living, we will find the Lord’s favor. We will find more and more blessings from the Lord. Jesus came to say not tomorrow, not later, not last year, but this year is the year of God’s favor. This is the year when God wants to do wonderful things for you.

 

Favor – what is it? It’s related to ‘favorite’, something special. It’s related to ‘that person really did me a favor’. It’s something good that came your way, with or without your asking, deserved or undeserved, something special. That’s what the Lord wants to do for you, in this year.

 

How shall we claim it? How shall we make this year the year of God’s favor? May I suggest a few things? First of all, set yourself free. Jesus said, “I’ve come to set the captives free, to set free those who are oppressed.” What do you need to be set free from? What fear is it that’s holding you back? Is it a fear of lack? Is it a fear of criticism? What is it that you need to let go of? I’d like to suggest that you release one fear this year. What is it going to be? What are you afraid of that is holding back the blessing of God?

 

I know I’m constantly working on this. Perhaps you have a fear of criticism. Maybe you’re a very sensitive person and you’re held back from trying your very best, for trying unique ideas that God has put in you, because you’re afraid of being criticized. Can we let go of that fear? Say, “Through Jesus Christ I am set free! I am free at last to be the person God has created me to be. I’m going to express the treasure that is within me. I’m not going to wait. I’m not going to let the fear of criticism hold me down.” There will always be critical people, my friend.

 

I know one gentleman, not part of this community, who is very good at pointing out how others could improve. He can always find lots of things that could be better. It would drive his wife crazy. One day, she mustered up all her courage and put her fears aside and said to him, “You aren’t happy unless you’re unhappy.” And that was the beginning of a setting-free for her.

 

What do you need to set yourself free from? “Oh, Pastor, I’m old. I’m so old. I’ve never been this old before.” Well, okay, but you’ll never be this young again. If you’re worried about your age, take a moment and pretend you’re five years older. Think how old you’ll be in five years and feel that. Say, my age is [this]. As you contemplate that, you might say, “Oh, I wish I were five years younger.” And then snap your fingers and say, “I really am!” Enjoy the age that you are; it’s a wonderful age. You are who you are. Age is just a number. You are spirit; you are divine, infinite spirit created by a divine, infinite God, made in His image and likeness. Amen? That’s who you are!

 

Let a fear go this year, so that God can have a straight path to bless you.

 

The second thing you can do to make this a great year, the year of divine favor, the year of abundant blessings, is to forget not all His benefits. “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” (Psalm 103)

 

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was a flying ace in World War I. Secretary of War Henry Stimson pressed him into service again during World War II. On a special mission in 1942, his plane was blown drastically off course and ran out of fuel, and Rickenbacker and the crew had to ditch in the Pacific, very close to enemy territory. Rickenbacker found himself on a life raft in the middle of the ocean. He had no drinkable water; the sun was beating down… for 24 days. For more than three weeks, he survived on that life raft. He prayed to God, and he said, “Dear God, if I am ever saved from this predicament, if I ever again have clean water to drink and solid ground to stand on, I’m not going to complain about anything.” And he kept his promise. That dreadful experience lifted him up and put things in perspective.

 

How about us? Do we have clean water to drink? Do we have solid ground to stand on? What did we say our problem was? Praise the Lord and forget not all his benefits.

 

I know a man who had an illness. He is part of this community. He went to four specialists to cure his illness, all at the top of their field. And all of them told him the same thing. “We don’t know how you got what you got; we don’t know how to treat it; and we don’t know that it will ever go away.” They were doing their best. But it didn’t help. He prayed. He lifted his hand during our prayer time. And he was cured! He was cured completely from the ailment and continues to be cured. But what does he say the greatest danger is? “The greatest danger,” he says, “is that I might forget. Things are so good now, that I might forget that the Lord has done this for me.”

 

Let’s never forget. Forget not the Lord’s benefits, because if we keep in mind the ways the Lord has blessed us in the past, we’re paving the way for future blessings, my friend. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

 

So, get free from a fear. Forget not. And be on the lookout for favor. Be on the lookout for God’s favor. You know, we can get so distracted by all the things that we have to attend to,  all the things that are going wrong, and all the things that are challenging, we forget that we are moving through a mountaintop of blessings all the time. When you get that parking space right where you need one, say “Divine favor – thank you, God, for everything.” When you get your paycheck, hold it in your hand and say, “Divine favor – thank you, God, for everything.” When you arrive safe at home at night and you pull into your driveway, say, “Divine favor is blessing me now – thank you, God, for everything.”

 

About a year ago I went to the doctor because I had some chest pains. The doctor looked at me and said, “You’re going to the hospital, friend.” He said, “I’m glad you came in today, because if you’d tried to come in tomorrow, there wouldn’t have been a tomorrow.” Divine favor! Thank you, God, for everything.

 

All around, we are surrounded by divine favor. And here’s the good news – there’s more coming. How do I know? Because Jesus said so. Jesus said, “I am here to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Friend, God has something good in store for you this year. Be open to it. Be ready for it. Clear away the fear. Forget not the blessings of the past. And be on the lookout for God’s favor, won’t you? Because it’s coming your way. This is the year of divine favor.

 

I’d like to close with this poem. The folks that write the Daily Word magazine made a birthday card one year and wrote a poem in it, and I’d like to share it as my blessing to you:

 

“Wonderful, wonderful fortunate you,

This is the year that your dreams come true.

This is the year that your ship comes in.

This is the year you find Christ within.

This is the year that you’ll live to bless.

This is the year that you’ll find happiness.

Wonderful, wonderful fortunate you,

May this be the year that your dreams come true.”

 

God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week, and a blessed year. Amen.

 

© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski