February 3, 2013
Communion Sunday & Council Commissioning, Souper Bowl of Caring
"Being Sensitive to the Light"
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
If we were to create a list of the ten most beloved Bible passages, the section for this morning is most likely not going to be found on that list. I'm guessing that I'm not alone in not remembering it too well - if at all - although most of us have probably read or heard it somewhere along the line. It comes from the book of Luke, which begins with the prophecies and births of John the Baptist and Jesus, Mary and Zechariah's songs, the account of the shepherds and angels, Jesus as a young boy, his baptism and Joseph's genealogy, and right before our passage for today, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness and home-going to Nazareth, where he grew up, where he read from the scriptures and began to teach.
Today's passage references Elijah - who rescued just one person in all of Israel during a famine and and Elisha - who healed just one leper, even though each had the power to do more than just one in each instance. When you add that "element" into the rest of our passage, it makes for one tough piece.
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and 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! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “I tell you the truth,” 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 down the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Thank you, Mary Ann. I wish there were more time, because I'd love to let you all sit for a few minutes - with this passage and the sermon title, "Being Sensitive to the Light." But giving a big clue - it's the season of Epiphany - the one we sometimes refer to as "the season of light." I chose that title to "play with" Jesus being the light of the world, the light of Christ, and because I remember being so influenced by the sunlight that came out a week ago Saturday. Then when the sun came out yesterday, well, it had God written all over it.
Back to the passage, if nothing else, it paints a picture of how fickle our human nature can be - first we like him, then we hate him. It's too cold, it's too hot. We need snow. We've had enough now! It's not so much that that part of our nature is bad, but more that it is what it is - and we all fall into it from time to time, sometimes more often than at others. And maybe that was part of the issue: that Jesus was pointing out how contradictory we can be, even in the presence of truth and light. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am quite happy knowing my own mistakes, believing that I can hide my flaws, and I don't need anyone - including Jesus - to point out my downfalls to me - thank you very much.
I wonder if our passage for this morning is something like the first steps you take out of the eye doctor's office, after they've dilated your eyes. Or when we were kids, and you were playing in a dark room, and you suddenly turn on the flashlight into your friends' eyes. The pain, the pain, the pain! Maybe it doesn't happen as much as we get older, because maybe we get better at ignoring those times when a truth becomes so pure, so lit up, so true, that it becomes like a laser of light shining into our hearts.
Maybe Jesus knew that the people who were angry with him were that way because he had just "fulfilled the scripture" in their hearing. We know "now" that Jesus came to point us in the direction that God would have us go. But back then, he probably took them off guard, so they knee-jerked their way all the way out the edge of town. Maybe it was that they wanted healing, blessing, satisfaction, but they didn't know what it was for which they asked. So Jesus took a time away, to allow their eyes to readjust to the intensity of his light and truth.
Today we celebrate a different kind of light. It's not a painful laser light, nor an annoying florescent light. It's more like the welcome of a farm light on in the middle of the night - out in the middle of no-where - greeting the passer-by, or the warm glow that you see when you look toward a candle - through a glass of wine. It's the light that welcomes us and leads us and heals us as we partake of the cup and the bread. Today we take time to remember, to drink in the idea that God has need of the light that Christ brings to our hearts, that allows others to come home to Christ, to feel God's presence more strongly - through us.
So let us take that time, to say what we need to say to God, that we might hear what God has to say to us.
Let us pray. Gracious, welcoming, loving God, we thank you that we are always at home with you, in your light. Remind us that there are so many that struggle with darkness and alienation and brokenness, and they need our kindness, our validation, and our sparks that display your truth and healing. Heal us, hold us, encourage us to be the people you see us to be. And all your people say, Amen.