Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hometown Crowd - Luke 4:14-30

Luke 4:14-30
There was nothing unusual about this particular Sabbath day. People were gathered as they had year after year in the familiar synagogue. Everyone knew everyone, they were friends, family, neighbors.

But, I guess, there was one thing a bit different: One who had grown up in that village, raised in that synagogue, the Son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter, was back. He’d been away. Rumors had spread in the town. I heard he took a vacation with the devil in the wilderness I heard he performed miracles in other villages. I heard he preaches some controversial sermons. But, he was their boy; now a man. Hey, Jesus is back, let’s get him to read to read the scriptures and preach this morning; let’s hear what he has to say.

After a few prayers had been prayed. Alms for those in need had been collected and distributed. It was time for the reading. “Jesus, would you care to read and comment?” As he moved toward the Moses seat -- the solid slab about knee high that jutted out from the wall of the back of the sanctuary, a seat of authority -- Jesus was handed the scroll by the synagogue helper - the scroll of Isaiah - the prophet during Israelite exile. He stood next to the Moses seat, and found the place where it was written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me To preach good news to the poor; To proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

He slowly rolls up the scroll; allowing the words of Isaiah to settle;
he hands it back to the synagogue helper; words are formulating in his head;
He sits on the Moses seat; Is now the right time?
A gust of wind whisps through the crowd. A little child makes a sound.
All eyes were fixed on him. Yes.

He began his sermon: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” - the first public words recorded by Luke, apart from reading scripture, Jesus speaks as an adult, and that is Jesus’ entire sermon. If only all sermons could be that short! “Today this scripture has been fulfilled.” “Hoy se ha cumplido la Escritura.”
And what was the first word of that sermon? “Today.” “Hoy.” Hoy Que? What has happened today? The message he reads from the scroll is of God’s powerful desire for liberation in the form of debt forgiveness, release of wrongful imprisonments, adequate health care, freedom from oppression, and land reform.
“Today.” Hoy. “anointed me” = to carry out this the Divine vision for the world! Today. Hoy
God’s vision, which would be Jesus mission, the mission of the disciples. and is to be the mission of the church in every age, time, and place. Healing, restoration, renewal, and justice, Today. Hoy

Today does not mean, that’s the way things used to be in some nostalgic “yesterday.” Today does not mean desperately slipping into some vague notion “Someday”. Today. Hoy. Can Healing, restoration, renewal, and justice be part of our reality today? The world is too full of injustice: The world is too full of impoverished starving people The world is too full of hopelessness. Our prisons are too full - full mostly of poor and minorities International prisons full of untried alleged terrorists... Our society is too blinded by materialism, greed; - systems of oppression are justified with every purchase - got to have our stuff and have it cheap. no matter the work conditions, wages, or environmental implications. Take away driver’s licenses; set up a system which creates another class who carries certificates, we need cheap labor to sustain what we’ve got. Craft laws so that the rich become richer, taking from the starving poor, and who would ever consider a law in which ever so often, the rich have to give back to the masses that which they have taken. Ha!

But Jesus says, “Today” “Hoy” Healing, restoration, renewal, and justice “The kingdom of God is now.” Was this a hoax?

Those gathered in the synagogue that day wanted to see what today meant? They were willing to give their boy the benefit of the doubt. They had heard the stories of “today” in other places. They wanted to experience some of what he was doing. Didn’t they deserve it? There is strange turn of events
After the short sermon, by their boy, Jesus some were amazed; wow, and to think he used to play with my boy Zacheriah Some, wondering - huh, well, if he means today, does that mean he’s going to perform healings in our town?! Some doubted, I’ve known this guy since he was little, he could barely swing a hammer... he better prove what he can do.

Jesus tells two short parables: 1) physician, heal yourself 2. No prophet is accepted in his hometown.
Then He refers to the works of Elijah and Elisha, in in so doing basically says, you aren’t getting anything from me.... Just because I grew up here, you don’t get special privileges. Just because I played on these dusty streets, doesn’t mean you deserve any special treatment. From amazement, and wonder, the crowd suddenly turns on him; they turn into an angry mob, grab him, drag him out, and try to hurl him off a cliff! Got to be careful what you say around your family and friends :)!

It’s interesting to see how Jesus reacts to this hometown crowd. Why didn’t he just give them what they wanted. Perform a few miracles, Exorcise a few demons, Just appeased the crowd, Jesus: “okay, bring me Sarah, her hand is withered and can’t cook, and her husband, Noah’s looking so frail and thin.” And while you’re at it, I heard my old buddy Jebediah’s been acting so strangely...I’ll get that demon out! Why not just give them what they want? I try to think about how it is when I go home, back to familiar, family and friends.

I’ve lived away from where I grew up, off and on for the past 20 years. It’s strange sometimes to go back. Sometimes I revert back to old patterns of behavior that I’ve been working so hard to change. And it drives me nuts when old friends or family put me into those little boxes of who I used to be. Around the familiar, guards are let down a bit. Sometimes it’s easier to say and do things we might not say or do outside of that context. Family systems are strange things.

Jesus is in this familiar system; maybe let’s his guard down a bit. And, maybe the hometown crowd was getting a little pushy because they felt like they could. Like any hometown hero, they expect him to give back to them, to show them special favors. They want some of what good things they’ve heard about him for themselves. Maybe all of this contributes to his making with this hometown crowd an essential point to this gospel message that he is proclaiming.

The family and friends and the familiar, serve as an example for all of us: If you want Today, to be Today, you’re not going to get it with an attitude of I deserve, If you want Today to be Today, it will come from an attitude of I will serve. That’s what the message Jesus read from Isaiah is all about. A servant’s song, a song that Jesus wants anyone and everyone who has ears to hear and obey. Today, hoy.

Anyone can see the needs, and anyone serve. “You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love." (mlk)

When we approach the world or God, as the hometown crowd did, thinking it owes us something, because of this or that. We miss the point of the gospel. When we justify our lifestyle by saying I worked hard, I deserve it. We miss the point of the gospel. When we assume that because we’ve been a good person, gone to church all our lives, pray hard claim to know Jesus well, that we deserve to have things work out the way we want them to; we miss the point of the gospel.

Jesus took a great risk in making the hometown crowd serve as an example for all of us when we have an attitude of deserve. But when there is a conversion from a posture of I deserve, to a posture of I will serve. We may find that in service, we experience the healing and liberation and the joy we’d always longed for.

Jesus’ mission and the content of his call to discipleship and to the church are filled with God’s passion for the outcast, the poor, the oppressed, and the lost.” May the spirit of the Lord fall upon us, and give us that same passion - compassion. May the spirit of the Lord fall upon us, and transform within our hearts, any sense of “give me what I deserve,” into, “empower me to serve.”

Today, can be Today. Here and now, when we will work together to make Healing, restoration, renewal, and justice - God’s vision - a reality here and now. For this is our true calling!  

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