Every time I read the proclamation from Jesus in Nazareth in Luke 4: 18, I am struck at his precision in articulating his life purpose as the Messiah. When he arrives in his home town, he unrolls the scroll and emphatically recites the words from the servant song in Isaiah 61, “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.”
In Luke, this event takes place at the beginning of the gospel to set the tone of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus clearly shares his messianic role, letting us know that he is a servant of God who will fulfill the desires of the poor and oppressed.Jesus’ whole life was lived according to the theme of bringing freedom to the marginalized of society. His first public words after reading the scroll begin with today: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled.”Jesus announced the inauguration of the mission of God in the world, and he sang the servant song until his death.
When I hear the songs of our Baptist forefathers and foremothers who truly joined alongside the mission of God, none ring louder than Lottie Moon. I grew up hearing Lottie Moon’s name frequently in church, especially on Wednesday nights during Girls in Action. I can recall two key takeaways about Lottie Moon that I learned as a child: 1) she was an important Baptist woman missionary, and 2) there is a Lottie Moon Christmas offering. I have only recently, however, understood the depth of her contributions to missions in Baptist life. When I look at her life as a missionary in China, I believe that she sang the same servant song that Christ did that day in Nazareth.
From the start of her ministry, Lottie Moon was clear about her call to be a servant of God. She was committed to doing kingdom work, believing that God’s kingdom was present in the world. She was persistent, dedicated, and loyal to her service in China, remaining there for thirty-nine years; yes, you heard me correctly: thirty-nine years! She managed a girls’ school, built relationships with the people in local villages, taught classes and preached. Words cannot appropriately describe the song of love that she shared with others in China through her teaching, preaching, and striking hospitality. Though she was often ridiculed and referred to as a “foreign devil,” she knew she had a message to bear.
Lottie Moon stuck to her guns and even challenged Southern Baptists back in the United States to become more missions-minded. She saw today as an opportunity to live out the mission of God. When famine hit in China, she knew that many of her friends in the community were not able to eat. She refused to live under better conditions than her neighbors, and she died while making a humble sacrifice to live in equality with those she loved. Like Jesus, she spent a lifetime living alongside others in community, serving their needs and spreading the hopeful news of God’s kingdom on earth.
Christ carried the tune of love in his sacrificial ministry, Lottie Moon marched to the tune of servanthood in China, and we can sing the same servant song today. Each of us have a song to sing and a message to bear; each of us have a call to be the presence of the kingdom of God. As we try to be lifelong servants of Christ, may we look to those who have come before us. Like Lottie Moon, we can follow the example of Christ’s ministry in our world today, participating in the already-present kingdom of God.
Lanta Cooper is a student at McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.