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What's Next??

"As soon as you move away from the person of Christ, as soon as you move away from that divine humanity, you're sunk in every direction. This whole business is not really about the theological perception of the church; it's about fidelity to a person." - Fr. Roland Walls

What's next for Jesus? In the story we follow on Sundays in our readings, Jesus was recently baptized by John the Baptist and received a calling, an anointing by the Holy Spirit to send him into ministry.

There are tremendous examples of calling by God and anointing with God's Spirit for ministry in the Hebrew scriptures and New Testament alike. Again and again, we see prophets called by God to a mission, a proclamation of God's message to God's people. And we see this in the story of Jesus.

After being baptized, Jesus returns to his home town. We read this Sunday,

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. 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." And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." - John 4:14-21

In this story we see Jesus proclaiming his calling, or vocation, in the synagogue, by using the words of a different "call story." Here is quoting from the prophet Isaiah writing about being called, anointed, to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor. The author of Isaiah describes being anointed by God's Spirit to proclaim Jubilee, the year of God's favor and blessing. In the jubilee year, property was reset, debts were forgiven, and slaves freed. The jubilee was a sort of Sabbath year just like the seventh day was kept as a Sabbath day.

Perhaps, as some scholars have supposed, Jesus used this text from Isaiah to claim the same ministry: a call to the year of jubilee once again. The practice was lost by Jesus' day, and perhaps Jesus saw himself calling for jubilee. We do not see much of that in the other gospels. Maybe instead, Jesus saw the same mission as his own mission. God called Jesus to a ministry of proclaiming release to captives, of giving sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the Lord's favor. That would certainly be consistent with what we see in his teaching and miracles in the Gospels.

This is important to us because Christianity is fundamentally, as the quote states at the start of this article, fidelity to a person. Christianity is fidelity to the person Jesus. We've received his teaching and accounts of his miracles, ministry, death, and resurrection in the Gospels. We are to be faithful to him. Understanding how Jesus saw his own ministry is an important step in faithfulness to following him.

So what was next for Jesus? He returned to his hometown and began his ministry of freedom, healing, and reconciliation. That ministry is now ours to inherit and follow.

What's next for you?

To answer that, you must first look at where you are in your journey of faith, your walk with God, your Christian "discipleship" (to use a churchy word), and what gifts you have to offer. As St. Paul writes,

"Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. [...] Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts."

You might be feeling like we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Healing? Tongues? What is this? This doesn't sound like the Episcopal Church?

Perhaps before even contemplating what gifts you have to offer in ministry it is important to ground yourself in prayer and route yourself in your faith journey. The Episcopal Church developed a wonderful set of practices called The Way of Love to help you orient where you are in your journey. You can read about it here on our website on the section aptly titled: What's Next?

What step of the Way of Love are you on? Turn? Learn? Pray? Rest perhaps?

Bishop Daniel Gutierrez has called our whole diocese to a Week of Morning Prayer to reorient ourselves in spiritual practice, prayer, and fidelity to Jesus. He's asked us all to spend a week practicing Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer as parishes as well as devoted time for reflection. We will be taking a week at IHS for Morning Prayer in mid to late February, and offer a morning prayer service each morning at the start of the day. Even if you can't make it to IHS for this, you can practice morning prayer at home with your Book of Common Prayer or online at

So what's next? For IHS what's next is figuring where we are as a congregation, where our individual members are in their spiritual journeys, and listening. We are listening to where God is calling us. Sometimes, that means not acting as fast as some would like. God's time is not our time, and sometimes God says stop. Sometimes God says wait. Sometimes God says rest, even for a fully year.

So for you, what's next? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

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