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Thursday, January 28, 2016

January 31, 2016 Epiphany 4C

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Do we really want a gracious God? Certainly we do -- for ourselves; but can we have a gracious God if we don't believe that the same grace is given to those sinners outside our church doors, outside our faith, outside our boundaries of acceptability?"

Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen at CrossMarks Christian Resources.

"You see, it really is all Jesus’ fault – he goes and does the one thing you’re never supposed to do, even to strangers, let alone to friends and neighbors: He tells them the truth, the truth about their pettiness and prejudice, their fear and shame, their willingness, even eagerness, to get ahead at any cost, even at the expense of another. And so they want him gone in the most permanent of ways."

"Three Questions and a Promise," David Lose, WorkingPreacher, 2013.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons


God of the prophets your love reaches far beyond the boundaries of covenant and command.  Redeemed by a love so patient and kind, may we offer that same love to others and so proclaim you to the world by the witness of our lives. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some Thoughts on Luke 4:21-30
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

As the radio storyteller Paul Harvey says, “Now for the rest of the story.”  This week we continue with the story of Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth.  We might recall the passage describes the kind of Messiah Jesus is to be, the kind of work he will undertake, and the people to whom he has come.  The reign of God in the Gospel of Luke is well underway and change, transformation, and restoration are coming.
The parallels to this passage in the other Gospels are: Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6.

Then Jesus sits down and begins to preach and teach, “Today this scripture which you have heard is being brought to fulfillment.”  We certainly understand this as we think over the life and work of Jesus.  What I love though is that the Greek literally means that the prophecy was “in your ears.”  The idea that the prophetic message of Isaiah is being embodied in their midst and the words are inside them, in their ear, in their head, where they could not get rid of it.  The proclamation was so powerful that the message was in them and with them and they could not think of anything else. 

The people at first receive the words with grace, even commenting on the wisdom this son of Nazareth offers.  There does seem in their words to be some discrepancy between the child they knew and the grown prophet who stands before them.  Luke Timothy Johnson points out that this is quite minor compared to the scandal it creates in the other two Gospel narratives.

We might remember that we, like the first readers of Luke’s Gospel are surprised by this reaction of the people.  We know this Jesus as the Son of the most high (1:32), the holy one, the Son of God (3:21-22).  While no scholar I read picked up on the subtlety of this question in the minds of Jesus’ neighbors, I have frequently wondered if it is not possible that this is Luke’s answer to the skeptic new believer seeking to understand and reconcile Jesus’ earthly and homely beginnings verses the claims of his followers.
Jesus then offers the reality that a prophet is not often accepted in his own home town.  Jesus is pulling a very ancient tradition into his teaching, recalling Israel’s treatment of the prophets.

Specifically you can go to 1 Kings 17:1, 8-16; 18:1 (the widow of Zarephath); 2 Kings 5:1-14 (the healing of Naaman). Luke universalizes Isaiah 61:1-2 (part of Jesus’ reading in vv. 18-19). For the rejected prophet, see also 6:22-23; 11:49-51; 13:34-35; Acts 7:35, 51-52. The pattern of the rejected prophet theme is found in Nehemiah 9:26-31. The stages are:
  • The people rebel, and kill a prophet
  • God punishes the perpetrators
  • God shows mercy through sending a new prophet
  • The people sin and reject the prophet. [see Chris Haslam’s web page for more on this]
What is revealed here is the beginning of Jesus’ preparation for the mission to the Gentiles. What binds these stories together is that Elijah and Elisha are sent outside Israel to the Gentiles; Jesus will do the same. We already know from Simeon and from the Isaiah passage quoted earlier in the Gospel that the ministry of Jesus will extend to all nations. Here Jesus himself offers a prophetic vision of God’s reign. The people in the narrative are hearing this for the very first time.

Jesus is not accepted in his hometown because his mission extends beyond his hometown.

If Jesus was to enter our congregation today who would be the Gentiles? We understand of course as that as followers of Jesus you and I have become inheritors of the promise of Abraham and the great ancestral faith of the Jews. But I can’t get away from the idea that today we are more like the people in Jesus’ hometown. He is our boy. We know him. Can he really be calling us to go out into the world? Is it possible that Jesus’ mission lies beyond the church today? Is Jesus already working outside of the Church to bring in the reign of God? Certainly as the church we acknowledge and believe that we are filled with God’s Spirit and are the living Body of Christ in the world. That being said, I don’t want to be caught at home.

Some Thoughts on I Corinthians 13:1-13

Clergymen with brooms fight in Bethlehem Shrine:
Not a lot of love here.
Paul has been teaching the Corinthians that God expects a different kind of community for his followers.  It reminds me of his term used in his letter to Galatians, "the law of Christ."  The law of Christ is essentially the bedrock of Paul's faith, nurtured in his Jewish upbringing. The law of Christ is: love God, and love neighbor.  The Holy Spirit enables us to do this work. And, we might remember that the Holy Spirit itself is God's perfect love.  So it is that we see Paul's deep theology throughout our passages over the last few weeks.

The Corinthians are inpatient with one another, jealous of other people's gifts, boasting that they have it right and others have it wrong, they are arrogant, rude, insistent they have it right, irritable, resentful, highlighting and gossiping about what is wrong with their fellow members, hopeless, and they easily give up on one another, their community, and God.  In other words the Corinthians are exactly like us today.  The very characteristics of the Corinthian church also Characterize the modern Western way of being Church.  The culture wars which have divided our church are an epidemic of Corinithianitis.

This is not the law of Christ.  Paul lives in a time when the lifespan for most people was 20 years at birth; if they survived the first years, it might grow to 40.  Children ran a very high risk of malarial infection, some estimate 50%.  Regarding society: 5% enjoyed wealth and 95% lived in appalling conditions.  Life was hard - period.  And yet, here Paul is speaking about love.  His message is radical.

I can imagine these Corinthians thinking, "Our problems are much more serious.  Love, what a ridiculous notion.  How will love help anything?"  Yet it is Paul's law of love which pervades his message to the Corinthians.  More importantly he reverses the nature of doing and receiving   In other words Paul doesn't say to the impatient Corinthians, if you have patience then there is love.  This is essential to understanding this law of Love.

Love is the primary gift of the Holy Spirit; for the Holy Spirit is itself love.  Paul says to the Corinthians and to those with Corinthianitis today: God's love pours out and our response is love; love to God and love to one another.  Paul says, if you love then patience comes. If you love jealousy and boasting fall away.  If you love you will not be arrogant.  If you love you will not be rude.  If you love you will be a partner for the kingdom of God and not insist on your own way.  If you love you will not be irritable.  If you love you will not be resentful.  If you love you will not rejoice in the failings of others but you will rejoice in their best nature and their successes.  If you love you will be strong and have forbearance   If you love belief will come, hope will happen, and you will endure.

Hmmm. That is hard medicine because the key ailment of Corinthianitis is that I don't want to love the ones that are hard to love. I only really want to love the ones that are easy to love.  Deep beneath this is the reality that I don't believe or feel that I am loved.  But I read this passage over and over and I don't see that particular rule of life expressed by Paul.  Imagine have to be open to receive God's love from whence it comes, respond in love to whomever comes, and live love wherever it may lead; and that is the Law of Love.

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