First Congregational Church
January 31, 2016
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Luke 4:21-30, 1 Corinthians 13
“Being Human with a Divine Savior”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
So my cousin Sven, having been a good Congregationalist all his life, was feeling a little curious one day, so he stopped by the local Catholic church and went into the confessional. He was amazed to find a fully equipped soda pop machine with everything from Dad’s Root Beer to Vernor’s Ginger Ale to Diet Coke. On the other wall was a dazzling array of the finest chocolate treats - from Fanny Farmer to Ghirardelli to Kilwin’s Fudge.
Then the priest came in. Excitedly, Sven began..."Father, forgive me, for I’ve never been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting than I thought it would be.” The priest replied, "Get out. You’re on my side.”
Last week’s scripture passage was right before the one for this morning. Jesus had spent his forty days of desert temptations, followed by the momentary spotlight of praise and popularity brought about by his teachings. Then he stood in the synagogue to read their passage for the day, which happened to be a portion from the book of Isaiah. When he finished, he proclaimed all from that chapter of Isaiah, was “fulfilled in their hearing.”
Before we start there, a couple of insights. Capernaum was where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John and where they lived and Jesus spent most of his adult time there. Nazareth was where Jesus mostly grew up. Before that, Elisha was a disciple of Elijah in the ninth century before Christ was born. Elijah raised the first person, a son of a widow, from the dead during a famine while Elisha cured a prophet of leprosy.
Luke 4:21-30 NIV
21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Thank you, Marti. This is not one of the easiest passages in the Bible. Jesus was doing so “well,” at the beginning of the passage, and by the end, they are ready to make him walk the plank. If he hadn’t mentioned the line “Physician, heal yourself,” he probably would have been fine. If he hadn’t implied a lack of faith in that crowd, they may have held a parade and community picnic to honor him.
But he didn’t clench his teeth or pretend that everything was rosy when it wasn’t. Maybe he raised his voice, but we don’t know. But what the passage says is (apparently without too much emotion), Jesus just walked away.
Maybe Jesus made a mistake here, by saying what he said. If so, then I think that’s pretty darn great, because even the great Son of God is also part Son of Man - as has been said. The greatest person in the entire world - because of his divine and human parentage - didn’t always have the most perfect days. Wouldn’t it have been helpful, even divinely enlightening, if we could know what it was that caused Jesus to take such a higher road?
At least for us, we have our own reminder of high road thought in one of the other lectionary passages for this day. We hear it - or parts of it - often enough at weddings, sometimes even at funerals. But in reality, it is way more “every-day” than those special occasions.
1 Corinthians 13 The Message
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. 12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Thank you, Marti. We can admit that the way this Luke passage turns out is not very nice. But we can also remember that Jesus came into this world - precisely to enter into all our human silliness and pettiness and tawdriness - so as to save us from all that - showing us over and over and over - how we can live as human beings with a divine savior.
That poet-devotional guy I like so much, Steve Garners-Holmes, knocked it out of the part twice this week, so here you go.
Imagine God's presence in you, God's power--
not to get your own way, not to sway crowds,
but to convey love, to be truth,
not just to say words but to live life
with power in it.
You do not have to apologize for yourself.
You do not have to be afraid
of those to whom you bring yourself.
You only have to be yourself.
And because it is from God
the truth of you will prevail.
In his second poem, embrace the words for yourself - as our final prayer.
I am a candle
whose only light
Created by Love
Let me burn today
in all I do
my only hope
my only success
love not devised
flowing through me
mercy for every person
gratitude for every thing
love in every breath
I your candle
my only flame.
And all God’s people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.