“On a Mission from God”

“On a Mission from God”

Advent 3 (NL3) John B. Valentine
Isaiah 61:1-11 December 13, 2020


I want to TRY to do something that I’ve actually never done before.

Seriously ... I want to try ... TRY .... to show you a video clip in the context of a sermon.


• I know that some sanctuaries nowadays are designed to make sure that video screens can be seen by everyone ...

• And I know that some of my pastoral colleagues insert video clips into their sermons ALL THE TIME ...

• And I know that some of you have been exhorting me to utilize technology for sermon-illustrations for quite some time now.

But I’ve always resisted the temptation ... mostly

Because our worship space really isn’t set up to do such hi-tech things ... and

Because figuring how to do such things would involve a pretty steep learning curve on my part.

But ... given the pandemic ... I don’t really have either one of those excuses to fall back on anymore.

Because we’re not actually using our worship space for worship right now ... and

Because I’ve spent the last nine months now learning how to edit and splice video and all!!

So I’m warning you in advance that I’m going to give it a shot.

+ + + + +

You see ... any time I find myself pondering the text that Bob Bauer read for us this week ... the 61st chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah ...

My mind immediately conjures up images of “The Blues Brothers” movie.

(I kid you not .... “The Blues Brothers” movie!)

Now ... I KNOW that “The Blues Brothers” is NOT the sort of movie that you’d normally associate with church ...

After all ....

• It was pretty violent ...
• And pretty profane ...
• And more than a little inappropriate ...
• And I’m certainly NOT commending it to you as worth your time ...

(Even though it DID have some great music ... Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and James Brown ...)

But “The Blues Brothers” movie DID have within it one of the more memorable movie quotations of all time.

Dan Ackroyd ... a.k.a. Elwood Blues ... declaring ... in no uncertain terms ... “We’re on a mission from God .....”

You see ...

The whole premise of “The Blues Brothers” movie was that Elwood and his brother Jake ... the legendary John Belushi ... were trying to raise money to save a home for wayward boys in the south side of Chicago ... the orphanage in which they’d grown up.

And their fund-raising effort involved putting on a benefit concert ...

And ... in the face of every obstacle that came their way ... Elwood simply asserted that it MUST be done ... for “We’re on a mission from God .....”

[Insert video clip of Dan Ackroyd declaring “We’re on a Mission from God!”]

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Now ..... any of you perchance able to guess as to WHY ol’ Pastor John gets to thinking about that movie and those video clips when Isaiah 61 gets read???


You see ... at the beginning of Isaiah 61 ... we heard the voice of the servant ... the suffering servant ... of God ... declaring that HE is “on a mission from God.”

How was it that that text began???

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.

He has sent me

• to bring good news to the oppressed,
• to bind up the broken-hearted,
• to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners;
• to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
• to proclaim the day of vengeance of our God;

• to comfort all who mourn,
• to provide for all who mourn in Zion
• to give them a garland instead of ashes,
• to give them the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
• to give them the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

This suffering servant of the Lord is on a mission ... specifically to the have-nots of humanity ... to give to hurting people what it is for which they so desperately long.

This suffering servant declares ... in no uncertain terms ... that he is on a mission from God.

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But what makes these words from the opening of Isaiah 61 particularly significant has to do with where and how they make another appearance in the Bible ... later on ... in Luke’s gospel.

You see ... right at the beginning of his earthly ministry ... Jesus goes to worship ... takes up a scroll ... reads those very words ... sits down ... and then says “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In other words ... it would appear that those words from Isaiah 61 become the self-avowed mission-statement of Jesus.

Jesus says that HE is “on a mission from God” ...

And that HIS mission is:

• to bring good news to the oppressed,
• to bind up the broken-hearted,
• to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners;
• to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

That HE is on a mission ... particularly to the have-nots of humanity ... to give hurting people what it is for which they so desperately long.

+ + + + +

You know ... its been what ... five or six weeks now??? ... since our nation went through a REALLY divisive election ... no???

A take-no-prisoners contest in which people said brutally harsh things about one another and has left not a few among us wondering what the next four years may hold for us as “we the people.”

Now ... obviously ... in the days since that election ... there have been umpteen ‘experts’ ... left, right and center ... who have tried to explain what happened ... and what it meant ... and what it revealed about us as a nation ... what the underlying truths are that that election reveal about us.

And one of the ways that it has been parsed is along the lines of the question “Is the government to be trusted to do what needs to be done?”

• Whether we should trust the government or not trust the government ...

• Whether it should be the government that is the primary means by which a societal ‘safety net’ is established ...

• And just how high up that safety net shall be.

Now ... honestly ... those are big questions ... to be sure ... and we may fairly disagree about the best way to ensure that there IS help for hurting people ... be it through government service ... or churches and charities ... or some other way ...

But ... at least among those of us who call ourselves Christians ... there cannot be disagreement about whether or not hurting people should be helped in the first place.

HOW hope can be made real to people who are hungry ... to people who are oppressed ... to people who have been broken by the travails of this world ... to people in bondage to the powers and principalities of this world ... is legitimately up for debate ...

THAT hope be made real is not!

Because we have no right to call ourselves followers of Jesus if we are unwilling to follow where it is that he leads.

For his mission is necessarily our mission ... and thus Elwood Blues is right ... “We’re on a mission from God.”

A mission to:

• to bring good news to the oppressed,
• to bind up the broken-hearted,
• to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners;
• to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

+ + + + +

I ran across a story this week about a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart.

It seemed she was VERY depressed ... for the world seemed to be falling apart around her and she didn’t know what to do.

Anyhow ... one day she decided to venture out go shopping ... and she went into a strip mall and picked a store at random.

And she walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. (She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she'd seen on holy cards and devotional pictures and all.)

She finally got up her nerve and asked ... "Excuse me, are you Jesus?"

"I am."

"Do you work here?"

"No, I own the store."

"Oh, what do you sell here?"

"Just about everything" ... Jesus said ... "Feel free to walk up and down the aisles, make a list ... see what it is you want and then come back and we'll see what we can do for you."

She did just that ... walking up and down the aisles of the store and marveling at what was being offered.

There was peace on earth ... no more war ... eradication of hunger and poverty ... peace in families ... no more drugs ... harmony ... clean air and water ..., careful use of resources.

Needless to say ... she wrote furiously on her scratch pad ... and by the time she got back to the counter ... she had a long list.

Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up at her, smiled and said: "No problem."

And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things ... stood up and laid out a whole series of packets on the counter.

"What are these?" ... she asked

"Seed packets" ... Jesus said.

She said ... "You mean I don't get the finished product?"

"Oh, no” ... Jesus said ... “This is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You go home and plant the seeds and nurture them and help them to grow ... and someone else reaps the benefits."

"Oh” ... she said.

And she left the store without buying anything.

[Insert video clip of John Belushi declaring “The Lord works in mysterious ways ......”]

“On a Mission from God” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with worship on December 13, 2020.  The text on which it is based is Isaiah 61:1-11.