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Thursday, January 15, 2015

January 24, 2015, 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany 2013 Year C

Quotes That Make Me Think

"...Jesus’ words are a call to real life, real people, real time. This is God in our present and in our reality."

Commentary, Luke 4:14-21, Karoline Lewis, at, Luther Seminary, 2013.

"A change in condition always accompanies an encounter with the divine. Radical change is what Jesus proclaims and will perform. Jesus does not merely affirm the condition of his children. He is about the reversal of fortunes that results not just in change in one's environmental state, but in the person itself."

Commentary, Luke 4:14-21, Roy Harrisville, at, Luther Seminary, 2010.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons


On this day which is holy to you, O Lord our God, your people asemble to hear your words and delight in the feast you prepare.  Let the Spirit that anointed Jesus send us forth to proclaim your freedom and favor.  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 4:14-21
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

In our liturgical reading we have moved from the Epiphany through the Baptism of our Lord, to his first miracle at the Wedding in Cana of Galilee.  We arrive this week to settle into a reading of Luke’s Gospel as Luke intended it, sequentially.  We land in this first reading (following the propers for Ordinary Time) on Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth.  It is never easy to come home, and it certainly brings its own challenges when you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, as in Jesus’ case.

We certainly have the parallels for this section in Matthew 13:53-54 and Mark 6:1-2 if you wish to read through them.  And, as in Acts 13:15 and the parallel passages we are given a view of the worship that dominated synagogue gatherings of Jesus’ time. (Haslam)

We are in transition mode in the Gospel once again, and here the words from verse 14: “filled with the power of the Spirit” remind us that in Luke’s Gospel we haven’t been at the wedding but rather at his baptism.  So we are in the midst of Jesus’ inaugural preaching mission which begins, according to Luke, at home.

For Luke teaching and preaching flows out of the Holy Spirit, as do all the activities of ministry.  This is clear throughout the Lukan Gospel and certainly in the first chapter of Acts: 5:3, 5:17, 6:6, 13:10, 22, 19:47, 20:1, 21, 21:37, 23:5, Acts 1.1.  The scholar Luke Timothy Johnson believes the Holy Spirit sent Jesus out on a preaching tour of the many towns and villages and that he is just now coming to Nazareth.  Jesus has returned to “where he has been raised.” Interestingly, Luke uses the term “nourished” here.  Jesus is returning to where he was nourished, and the word frequently means where he was nourished in his religious studies (see Luke, Luke Timothy Johnson, p78).

Some scholars believe that the words “as was his custom” were used to describe Jesus’ custom of teaching in synagogues. I believe this better belongs to the idea that as a pious Jew, Jesus knew that the custom of attending synagogue.  He was nourished in a Jewish home and educated in their religious customs and it was his nature to follow what his family had given him and return to the synagogue to worship on the Sabbath.  (The Sabbath is a theme in Luke’s Gospel and can be picked up in these passages: see also 4:31-37 (teaching and casting out a demon ); 6:1-5 (his disciples pluck some heads of grain), 6:6-11 (restores a man’s withered hand); 13:10-17 (heals a crippled woman); 14:1-6 (heals a man who had dropsy).
Third Isaiah, or later Isaiah, is so very essential in the early Christian understanding of who Jesus was and understanding his ministry.  This is true for Luke that begins with several citations and now continues in this passage with a reading that helps the reader know who Jesus is.  Just think about the prophetic words being read and how here in the midst of the people of Nazareth is Jesus the person who will fulfill in his ministry the very words of Isaiah.  Jesus will cure, bind up the broken-hearted, and announce the day of the reign of God, comfort all who mourn, provide for those who mourn free the captives, and to proclaim a Jubilee year.  You and I can think of moments throughout the Gospel narrative when Jesus does these things.  Moreover, you and I can also tell stories of when Jesus Christ did these things in our own lives, along our journeys.
Handing the scroll back to the minister or Hazzan – a person who is a synagogue leader, Jesus sits down.
We of course continue with the second half of the story next Sunday.  What is very important here is that Luke has moved this event to the very first part of Jesus ministry – considering where both Mark and Matthew place it in the Gospel. Luke is illustrating, and highlighting, who this is, what his ministry is and what kind of messiah is he going to be.  Luke’s Jesus is here for the disenfranchised and for the poor.  Luke wants this message to get out right at the beginning as if to inaugurate Jesus’ ministry with clarity about  his coming from God on God’s behalf to restore creation, making the wounded whole, and filling the hungry with good things.

Like so many stories in the Old Testament where God acts on behalf of his people because they are not being cared for, Luke gives us a vision of the incarnation where God is seeking to restore creation.  The restoration of creation for Luke begins with the understanding of God’s special interest in the poor, powerless, and voiceless.  Jesus’ work is a freedom and release from evil through exorcisms, healings, education, and economic transformation.  Luke Timothy Johnson writes, “the radical character of this mission is specified above all by its being offered to and accepted by those who were the outcasts of the people.” (Luke, 81)

Some questions I am pondering: Are we as a church involved in this work? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus and not be directly involved in the work that Jesus was involved in? Who are God’s people today that we are not being attentive to?

Some Thoughts on I Corinthians 12:12-31

We have a problem with this passage.  I believe as human beings we have a problem with this passage and as a church we have a problem with this passage.  I know a little about both.  As human beings and as church (we could put all organizations into this category as well) we like everything to be the same.  We just do. We don't need to get all into it; but we ought to admit it. We like regularity, dependability, and the expected.  We order our lives in this way. We order our families in this way. We order our organizations in this way.
The Gospel truth in this passage is, "everything can't be the same." (v19)  Paul writes, "If all were a single organ, where would the body be?"  Everything can't be the same.  The view at the whole of creation should tell us that fact; God didn't mean for everything to be the same.  The universe is filled with various things and colors of things and many multiples of living things.  Everything is not meant to be the same nor can it be...for if it was it would perish.  In Paul's language from the letter, if we there was only one organ it would be just that an organ - it would never be a body on its own.

Moreover, what makes the body the body is baptism; not right belief or right action.  What makes the body the body is God's grace and love.  In baptism we the community recognize the individual as an individual of God's; God's beloved. God's love.  In baptism we say outwardly and we mark the individual so that we may say to ourselves..."See everything can't be the same, look at this beloved person of god who is different from me, yet God loves them and they are one of God's family members." That is what we say in baptism.  
I think we forget sometimes. Sometimes we forget that baptism is just as much about the community as the individual who is being baptized.  We forget sometimes and we think baptism is about making everyone the same.  But in keeping with Paul's letter to the Corinthians baptism reminds us that everything is not the same.  People are not the same.  People come with different gifts.  People are different. Communities are different every time a new person is baptized and marked as Christ's own forever.  We forget that the marking isn't for Christ so he remembers.  The marking is so the individual and we don't forget!

But this same-ology is the sin of the church.  The great sin of the church (on every side of the aisle) is that we must all be the same. We must all think the same. We must believe the same.  We must be either Jew or Greek. We must be either slave or free. We must be either progressive or conservative; high church or low church; right or wrong.  You name the same-ology you choose.  I know my own!

Paul reminds us that when we make same-ology our theology we are doomed. The body will die. It will cut off its members and it will die.  That was the problem for the Corinthians. They thought some were right and some were not right; some had better gifts than others; some were in and some were out.  The Corinthians had a same-ology.

When we have a same-ology we can say I have no need of you.  Paul tells us that is not healthy nor good nor right thinking.  It isn't Gospel thinking to be sure.  

The Gospel of Jesus Christ reminds us all means all.  We have need of one another. Everything can't be the same.  When one suffers we all suffer.  We all have different roles and different work. We have a more excellent way and that is to be a community where everyone is not the same. We are to reject a same-ology.  

This is where we live right now.  I know it.  I recognize it.  Pretty much every side of our cultural divide, our religious power struggles, our cultural wars is promulgated by same-ology.  That will be what history will say about our time as leaders in the church.  I am not sure I am satisfied with that story.  I think I might want to write a new story about how the church awoke from its slumber to find that it was possessed by same-ology. That all sides chose to be clear about how God in Christ Jesus unites us.  We decided together in our different ways to work on God's mission instead of our own. We decided to put down our weapons which had been trained on one another and we charged together against the menace of poverty, lack of food, and all the evils of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.  I think I would like all the help I can get on that mission!  I think I would give up my same-ology to motivate and move the diversity of God's people to engage the Good News of Salvation and our particular and unique revelation of Jesus.  Yes...that is a much better story; a more interesting and scriptural way of doing Church.