Never trust your home-town prophet…

Believe it or not, Jesus brought this on himself.

His presence in worship – reading scripture – offering opinions on the interpretation –

none of this caused any problems.

“All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.

They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

For the moment, it seems as though Jesus will be given the heroes welcome –

but he insists on guiding the conversation.

He anticipates their request

“do for us what we hear you have done elsewhere – Physician, heal thyself!”

and astounds them with the reminder that,

though they may claim to be “God’s chosen people”

God has regularly chosen to honour the unworthy with moments of grace.

Jesus did not harbour a grudge against these folks –

some of them may well have been his oldest friends.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus described himself

As being called to correct the expectations of people who were loved by God,

but had wandered off script just a little.

Exclusive claims are easy to make (and easy to maintain) but eventually,

someone will offer an alternative that cannot be ignored.

Any group that declares (with rigorous certainty) “WE are God’s people”

will eventually find themselves up against some who say “wait…WE are God’s people…”

any and all who would make this claim need to remember

that from the beginning, the whole creation was called good –

and now (as then) the whole of creation stands in need of redemption.

So Jesus reminder – Jesus insightful treatment of the Scripture that day –

was a tough pill for the home-town crowd to swallow.

When you praise the local hero – you expect that praise returned –

(we’ll tell you that we’re very proud of you  – you tell us how deserving we are)

and Jesus doesn’t do that.

He calls their attention to their error –

he catches them in a real (and dangerous) misunderstanding of their shared tradition,

and their response to this insight is to run him out of town.  The gospel according to Luke.

I’ve sat with this text on my desk for most of the week –

trying to decide what this means for the church – for you and I –

and some of the thoughts that I’ve entertained are frightening.

The notion that even Jesus had trouble getting his message across is not a comfort to me.

The reaction of the congregation is – to say the least – unsettling.

I’m never sure which side of the story best describes me –

am I offering a message that no one wants to hear,

or am I eager to dismiss the truth that people present to me

because it doesn’t match my dream for the kingdom of God according to Jeff.

This is the problem of the church –

a problem for all of us and each of us –

appointed messengers of the gospel and witnesses to the grace of God.

The challenge that is before us is always “are we on script?”

Is the message we proclaim, and the witness we offer consistent with the promises of God?

Do we really offer folks a chance to see

that the kingdom of peace and love that God proclaims in Jesus Christ

is for them, and not just for a chosen few?

Oh, I know – there are arguments for a very exclusive kingdom; but they are complete hogwash.

God erases boundaries, and overcomes obstacles

and we need to stop creating hurdles for God to demolish.

What we really need to do

is find a place for ourselves in a “kingdom” defined by love, justice, grace and peace –

I assure you that we won’t be surprised by the cultural / social / theological make-up of this kingdom because it will not matter.

The love, justice, grace and peace will have made every other definition meaningless.

This is borne out in Luke’s gospel too – but we usually miss it.

I nearly missed it.

Remember I said that Jesus brought this on himself?

By pushing their buttons – by reminding the crowd that the things of God often come first to those ;outside the fold” Jesus was stepping dangerously close to the line all preachers walk.

Comfort the afflicted – afflict the comfortable.  This is the preachers code

(it is no secret that it is how I approach my ministry).

Jesus took a chance, and his neighbours pushed back – all the way to the actual edge of town.

But at the very end of the story, the light dawns – the people relent – and Jesus makes his way from the edge of disaster to the next town on his itinerary;  “… he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”

Angry mobs don’t routinely change their mind about murderous rage.  I think that the truth dawned, and they relented – each of them – and discovered the truth of what Jesus had told them.

The Kingdom of God was revealed to them as larger than their confusion, safer than their tradition, more comforting than their certainty, and they stopped, and parted, and let Jesus go.

That is the good news moment in this gospel reading, and it is a long time coming.

It is a truth that tells itself in the gentlest of ways –

and it is reflected in our experience with one another even now.

Our certainty will not protect us.

Our tradition, our name, our self-declaration as a Christian people, our unshakable sense of call

None of these guarantee a meaningful experience of the new life promised by God in Jesus Christ.

We have been wrong before – we will make mistakes as our journey continues.

And the truths that we tell one another along the way will not always simple to hear;

but God willing, the light will dawn.

And we will abandon our foolish insistence on our own way,

and find the way that God has made for us.  Amen

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2 Responses to “Never trust your home-town prophet…”

  1. revjeff Says:

    Thanks Ena – we too are just getting winter back. The notion that the crowd relented is new too me, and not yet fully formed – but it suited my ‘mood’ at the time.

  2. ena Says:

    Hi Jeff, greetings from the banana belt, which is currently in the deep freeze. Winter!.
    Great sermon, not sure that the crowd relented and let Jesus go on his way, but still plenty to ponder.

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