by Daniel Schwick
Do you remember being told as a child or telling your own children to “use your inside voice”? Learning to modulate one’s voice is an important lesson that most of us learn in early childhood. Filtering the content of our speech for a variety of settings is also an important lesson we learn in a civil society. Thus, we hear the common advice never to talk about religion or politics in “polite company.” And certainly not in the church.
The church, we are sometimes told, is a retreat or refuge from the worldly concerns that swirl all around us. The church is where we get away from the world to surround ourselves with the peace that passes all understanding. But then, just at the conclusion of this blessed communion, we are catapulted out into God’s beloved world with the admonition, “Go in peace; Serve the Lord.” And we boldly say, “Thanks be to God!”
But will our actions be as bold as our words? And will our words get translated into bold actions by following the model of Jesus himself and his closest followers? Jesus summarizes his understanding of his own call to mission when he quotes from the ancient prophet Isaiah in what I like to call Jesus’ inaugural address:
the spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because [the Lord] has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
[the Lord] 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. (Luke 4:18–19)
Another way to look at this passage is to understand it as Jesus’ own mission statement, drawn from the ancient prophetic tradition of his people. If we fancy ourselves to be followers and imitators of Christ, doesn’t it make sense that we would emulate his mission in our own lives? This is a mission of proclamation of good news for people living in poverty, people who are captive, lacking vision, or downtrodden. This is a mission to proclaim that God is in love with God’s creation.
The Rev. Daniel Schwick is vice president for church and community services at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. He previously served for 14 years as the director of Lutheran Advocacy—Illinois, the ELCA’s state public policy office in Illinois.
To learn more about speaking boldly and being an advocate, go to www.elca.org/advocacy.