Posted on Sun, Jan 31, 2016
January 31, 2016
Fourth Sunday in Epiphany
Gospel Text: Luke 4:21-30
Sermon Title: “Truth Hurts!!”
20And 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. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ 24And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers* in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
On Friday night, during our Mindfulness class (the concept of “love” is the central focus of Mindfulness), I posed the question, “why do we love?” Or “Why are we called to love?” “What is the purpose of that specific and very important calling to love?” We began to talk about the necessity to make the effort to love, so that we can begin to understand the blessing of first, being loved, and second in sharing love, compassion, mercy, kindness etc. I.e., “You won’t know the meaning of love unless you share it.”
Most people wanted to say that it is important to get to the point that we don't look at the act of loving like a discipline, but something we shouldn't even have to think about; the act of loving, showing compassion, kindness, mercy, justice, etc should be the very nature of our being… Then we began to explore the question, “What is our nature?” One aspect of mindfulness and our nature is to “let go of all the attachments that distract us from seeing ourselves and the world as it really is.” I.e., “I’ll love you God, only after I am able to get my work done, or I take care of such and such responsibility.” That is an attachment that we allow to stop us from loving God.
In Christianity we speak about confessing our sins so that we can hear that we are forgiven, and be released from the power of sin, so that we can be the Children of God, our Baptismal Promise proclaims we truly are… We want to confess to God all the things that distract us from living in the joy of forgiveness and let God make us clean and new again.
Our Baptismal Promise proclaims to the world and our hearts that from now on, we are no longer (insert your name), but (your name) “Child of God.” Your name is just a title, or a label, your identity as “Child of God” has much more meaning and lasts forever.
That means, when we look at our neighbors, we are not just seeing ‘so-and so,’ but according to our Baptismal Promise we are seeing ‘so-and-so’ “Child of God.”
If we could see God in everyone we met, wouldn't that change the way we see our neighbor, or the stranger? Couldn't it change the way we treat our neighbor and stranger? With the concept of national boarders getting fuzzier each day, this is a message we truly have to proclaim to the world. Because, if we could learn to look at the world as God sees the world, I think there would be a major shift in the way we all look at the poor, house-less, hungry, rich, poor, people of different traditions, sexual orientation, language and even religion…
Then we began to discuss the difference between “Imitating Christ,” or like we often use the phrase with Stephen Ministers, “Being Christ” for the other person. HOW can we be Christ to each other? Can we recognize Christ living in the other person? And how should we respond? IT WAS A HEAVY CLASS!!!
Jesus does pray, (John 17:20-21) “‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,* so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Today’s text shows us a moment in Jesus’ ministry, when the Christ of God, the Chosen One of God, was in the midst of God’s people, and they couldn't even see Him. They couldn't see their Messiah before their eyes because they were so distracted with attachments and expectations, that rather than rejoicing they were with their Messiah, they chose to kill Him.
Before Jesus returned to his hometown, he did something around Capernaum, but we don’t know what it was. All we know is that he did something big and before he got home, as far as his village was concerned their homeboy had done well and had already become the talk of the town.
Bishop Murray gave us a very good introduction to today’s scene in the text, and even with Jesus removal of the concept of “Vengeance” from Isaiah’s prophesy, the people seemed to take Jesus’ message pretty well… until they realized that the prophesy that Isaiah was writing, should only be spoken by the Messiah, when the Messiah would appear… far into the future. The book of Isaiah was written roughly around 740-680 B.C, and according to Jesus the prophets’ prophecy was fulfilled when the apparent son of Mary and the carpenter’s Son Joseph stood up to read it at that very moment… as if the Prophets message was for their local boy and him alone!
Rather than just expounding on the hopeful message of the future works of Israel’s Messiah according to the revered prophet Isaiah, the local kid just stood up before all the people who have seen him grow up before their eyes, and has declared himself their holy Messiah, sent from their same God of Abraham, Moses and Jacob!!! Some in the synagogue surely thought, “Isn’t this a little presumptuous?”
I have had some great confirmation students grow up and learn from my teaching, but if one would suddenly get out of the pew and walk up here and say, “Thanks Pastor Tim, but I’ll take it from here… this message is for me to preach… They are looking for greeters at Wal-Mart, you might want to check that out!” I would probably have something to say about that… But wait a minute; did the people not connect the dots as they watched Jesus grow up before their eyes? Surely, they knew that:
Did the people living around Jesus all those years, fail to see Jesus as he truly was? Or, was it not until Jesus’ baptism that changed everything? I am not sure, I wasn't there, and I couldn't see their faces…
But one thing is for sure, Jesus recognizes that the people certainly don't have eyes to see, ears to hear, and especially the heart that would recognize the kind of Messiah, God had in mind for them. They couldn't see the real nature of Jesus as the Christ, and Jesus just told them the truth. The Truth hurt.
They were blind to see Jesus as their Messiah because Jesus was too familiar for them, and they were expecting someone very different than the son of Mary and Joseph from being their Messiah.
Jesus says to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” “ Jesus is just voicing what they are thinking, “if you are the Messiah, do the miracle you did in Capernaum, right here before our eyes, and then we might believe!” Jesus kept hearing this test, even to the day he was hanging on the cross, for theirs and our sake…
Jesus is just telling them the truth; but they only see Jesus as Mary and Joseph the carpenter’s son.
And Jesus continues by bringing up the great prophet Elijah when God showed God’s faithfulness by sending a fearful Elijah to a widow, so that she could save his life. God SAVES the great prophets life by choosing a poor widow to fulfill God’s mercy!!! In Jesus reading the text from Isaiah, Jesus is the same God of compassion that chose a widow to save Elijah that is standing before their eyes.
This is the Truth, but not what the people wanted to hear, or believe. Jesus isn’t the kind of Messiah that they were expecting God to send them! They want a warrior like David to carry out their desire for Revenge, Vengeance against their oppressors! They were living under oppression and injustice and THEY WANTED VENGEANCE!
It is so sad that you would think that if the people would have been able to connect the dots about what they had experienced throughout the youth of Jesus that when they realized that the Messiah was living in their midst they would be filled with joy! But instead, according to Luke, they are filled with rage!
And they take Jesus out to the cliff to kill him. The cliff they were going to throw Jesus off of was actually the cliff where they threw their garbage. So, because they could not see God in their neighbor’s son Jesus, they chose to throw Jesus out with the garbage…
But as we know, Jesus had much work to do, and this was only the beginning of his ministry. I love how Luke tells us that Jesus walked through their rage and out to the village in order to go and serve the hurting people that had eyes to see and ears to hear the words of Jesus. His next stop was back in Capernaum where he taught again on the Sabbath, and healed a man who was a captive to a demon… And so it began, a ministry of healing, teaching forgiveness and God’s justice, and in Jesus’ words and deeds, many people could see that Jesus was truly a man sent from God and worth believing.
Sometimes the Truth hurts when we learn of our attachments and issues that we allow to stop us from hearing and believing the Word of God, AND that we are truly only children in this very scary world… but we are not lost children, we are claimed by the Holy God of the Cosmos and redeemed through the faithfulness of our savior and redeemer, Jesus the Christ. Where is Jesus? Right now, through the Holy Spirit, residing in you, your neighbor AND THE STRANGER. Amen.
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