the one of great expectation...
February 4, 2019, 8:00 AM

Sermon from February 3, 2019

Text: Luke 4:21-30


Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, last Sunday we talked a little about the WWJD movement – what would Jesus do. We heard that Jesus very plainly states who he is and what he would do as he read from Isaiah 61:1

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.

That’s what Jesus would do for he stated that this prophecy was fulfilled in the people’s hearing that day – and Jesus still does all of that today.

But, this Sunday we hear and read the second part of that story and it takes a drastic turn. You might say, that another thing that Jesus would do, would be to say things that make the people that watched him grow up want to hurl him over a cliff.

The people (perhaps even rightly) get really upset with Jesus because of what he says. They’ve heard all about the things that he’s done outside their community – the community that helped raise him. They’ve heard the stories from around Galilee and Capernaum and I think they are a bit excited about what he could do here in his hometown. Perhaps even giving them the benefit of the doubt – a hometown discount you might say. I mean, is not this Joseph’s boy?

Whenever I read this part of Luke’s gospel, I always think of my friends and others who have small businesses or work in ‘cool’ places. They always tell me stories about others who want ‘free’ stuff from them. Oh, you started a business making quilts and patterns? Think you can make me one on the side? Oh, you opened up a salon? Maybe I can drop by and you give me a new style *wink*. You’re working for a video game company, perhaps you can throw me a few games from time to time. I mean, we did grow up together, we’ve been through some things you know!

Now, everyone gets perks from time to time, heck the reason I’m so in love with video games is that one of my friends gives me stuff from Gamestop; it’s a lot of fun.

However, I make a point not to expect or ask for free stuff from my friends, and I’m more than happy to compensate them fairly for their work. I’ve heard from a lot of folks with small businesses that one of the biggest frustrations from running your own business are those who expect a ‘deal’ because they know you. Many people do not understand the time and commitment needed to create or develop that ‘thing’ they want.

I get the feeling this morning, that Jesus might be hearing a bit of that from the community he grew up in. If he did that stuff for people he didn’t know, imagine what he can do here? We deserve this. We’re his friends, we’ve known him for a long time, we know stuff about him. He’ll surely cut us a deal, give us his undivided attention and his best work and since he knows us, we might not have to ‘do’ what the others probably did. We’re a step above them, right?

Now, of course the text doesn’t say that, but you can imagine it right? It’s possibly why Jesus quotes the ol’ saying that a prophet isn’t ever accepted in his hometown.

One, they ‘know’ who that person was and two, they expect a lot.

So, Jesus dives into a story after hearing the murmurings and loud whispers of what ‘his’ community expects of him.

There were a lot of widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, but where did he go? Not to them – but instead he went to the widow at Zarephath in Sidon. Far away from them. There were many who were sick with leprosy in Israel, but none of them were cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.

Jesus boldly states to the community that he grew up in – it is not all about you. It really never has been. God’s goodness and grace is extended far beyond what even you consider ‘wide.’ Jesus’ ministry and life are not to be simply contained among a select and exclusive few. His call and life are to reach to even more individuals, to help bring God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love to those many would never expect.

And when you tell someone they aren’t your ‘focus’ right now or that they have work somewhere else that needs to be attended to or that you can’t give them that ‘thing’ for free – what can happen? People lose their mind.

I cannot believe she would treat me that way! How dare she not give me a free photo shoot, we’ve known each other forever! How inconsiderate that they can’t bake my wedding cake – I invited them to the wedding for crying out loud! What do you mean you can’t slide me some food across the counter? Man, we go way back!

Jesus says some not ‘great’ things to the people, he definitely seemed to push up against (and possibly over) that edge pretty firmly and the people are driven into a rage. A rage so hot that they drive him to the cliffside and are preparing to toss him over.

That got me thinking. In spite of that rage – Jesus still loved them. In spite of that anger, Jesus still proclaimed to the God’s good news of life, mercy, acceptance, and forgiveness. In spite of this moment, Jesus’ ministry continues.

Jesus was and continues to live into the most misplaced text in all of scripture – First Corinthians 13. Many weddings include this text, even though it isn’t about the love between spouses at all. Blame our terribly limited English language that only has one word for ‘love.’

St. Paul is telling the church in Corinth about God’s love for them. And sure, we are to model that love and live into that love for others, but truthfully, we will fail more often than not.

But, Jesus in our gospel lesson today and throughout the gospels themselves lives into and practices this sort of love that is patient and kind, not envious or boastful, doesn’t insist on its own way, not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoings. But, rejoices in the truth – always. It endures all things.

Of course, this isn’t a love that sweeps bad things under the carpet, but it is a sort of love that endures in spite of those terrible things we do. It is a love that continually reaches out to us to show us a better way even when that way drives people raging with anger – anger enough to kill you – anger enough to succeed in ending your life. As Jesus’ will be ended because of that anger – an anger directly related to how he lived, what he said, and who he spoke to and interacted with.

And you know what? Jesus calls us into that service and love as well. He really does. Jesus calls us into a life of faith that reaches out to those outside the typical ‘communities’ we surround ourselves with. Jesus’ call pushes us to the edge and the fringe of life and culture to proclaim God’s love to all. Sometimes – a lot of times – perhaps even most times – that proclamation, service, and life will step on toes; lots of them.

That those in traditional seats of power will be angry at you because of the words you speak and the life you share. All because you’re following the model of the one who went before us and who draws us all – all of creation – into himself to show that love for the world.

And as you do that? When you might not think you have the words, the strength, the ability? God is with you just as God was with Jeremiah, dipping into your life – being poured into you in baptism, being fed into your very being through this meal, wrapping Godself around you as you read scripture, and serve with others, and live into the promises and faith that God has in you. For even though you might not think you possess the gifts and skills to do what you feel called to do, God is there with you to guide you along the way.

Guiding you and calling you to live into the sort of love that God has for you – that love that endures through all things. And we will still fail and fall short in living into that love, but we remember that God is able to love us perfectly, completely, and fully. That in spite of our failings and sin and sidetracks – we are loved so that we can continue to live into that love for each person around us. No matter who they are. No matter where they come from. No matter how they speak, or dress, or act. No matter if they want to hurl you over a cliff because you proclaim the message of Jesus that extends to those that many wouldn’t expect.

God calls us to endure in that love and God’s love endures for us through all of it – even when we cannot. Amen.

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