September 24, 2020

Signs of Hope

Luke 4:14-21

“The Spirit of the Lord . . . has anointed me to proclaim good news . . . and . . . the year of the Lord’s favor.”

—  Luke 4:18-19

Sometimes I worship with a congregation in a maximum security prison. The good news of God’s grace moves powerfully and deep in that congregation. The worship often includes testimonies of changed lives. The preaching hits straight to the heart, mixing humor with seriousness. The singing is passionate, even boisterous, led by the musically skilled jailhouse band. Worshipers from every race come together in unity to pray, praise, and be ministered to.

These verses from Luke 4 remind me of that community. And while many of the worshipers there have life sentences, as I think about Jesus’ words “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners,” I realize that these worshipers are truly free! Their eyes shine with gratitude, their voices let loose in praise, their hands reach out to one another in tangible expressions of the communion of saints.

Every worship service ends with the community forming a large circle, holding hands, and singing, “My friends, may you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. . . . To God be the glory. . . .”

Pondering why the worship blessings there are so rich, I am drawn to the phrase “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” I realize how easily I like worship to match “my favor.” And I have learned that the saints in that prison are my role models for worship, for living out Jesus’ declaration of free, new life. Thank you, brothers!

Jesus, thank you for proclaiming the Lord’s favor, and for the free, new life it brings. Amen.

About the author — Syd Hielema

Syd Hielema serves the Christian Reformed Church in North America as director of a ministry project called Connections II. He has also served with Faith Formation Ministries, as a professor of theology and youth ministry at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, and as a chaplain and professor at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario. Syd has been married to Evelyn for 43 years, and they enjoy bird watching near their home in Ancaster.

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