All spoke well of him… but after they heard [the rest of what he had to say], all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of town… so that they might hurt him off the cliff. (Luke 4:22, 28-29)
So a little irony here: I plan worship way in advance. I work a season at a time. And I clearly had not remembered my plans for these few weeks – which include preaching on that passage (that was from the lectionary last weekend and on which I wrote the article last week) this weekend. Oops.
To remedy this, we are going to take the full passage as a whole, which includes not only Jesus’ first sermon, but also the reaction of his home synagogue to his words.
Every preacher will tell you that all of us have felt the need, while visiting home from seminary, to preach that sermon. The one that our home church needs to hear. But that one that is very likely get us thrown off a cliff. It is an irresistible urge – that hopefully most of us do end up resisting.
It is one of those things about knowing a church so well. You know the good, the bad and the ugly. Part of you wants to fight the ugly. Rectify the bad. And probably throw the good baby out with the bathwater.
In this case, Jesus speaks to them of how God does not work the way the people expect. During the days of two of the great prophets – Elijah and Elisha – God only sent these prophets to individuals, foreigners in fact, and not to all the “seemingly” faithful people.
That is because it is not about doing the right things or knowing the correct concepts – it has always been about being in relationship with God. Understanding who God is. Becoming bound up with the One who made us. That connection will cause us to do rightly and think correctly – but according to God’s standards, not ours.
Church folk don’t always want to hear that. We humans love our in and out groups and we do not want to hear talk about the ways we might be falling short. We just want to focus on how we can keep the people who are not like us away.
Jesus tears all of that to shreds and asks us to let go of our legalistic ways. Instead, Christ invites us into deeper relationship with God through deeper relationship with one another. Including all those people we want to keep out. Why? Because God is love. And like candlelight, love only grows when it is truly shared.
It is just that simple and it is just that hard. Let’s get to work.