Feb 6 2022 – Sunday Worship Posted
- On February 6, 2022
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Welcome to our time of worship! My hope is that you have had a good week.
This week our reflection will be the conclusion of the reflection on Luke’s story of Jesus mission statement in Nazareth! I have divided the reflection, as well as the readings from Scripture as a way to guide the reflection … so be ready for a 2-part reflection today!
The music that I have selected to accompany worship draws together a number of themes that are part of this simple yet complex story. They are also from a wide range of musical genres and modes of performance: diversity and including the different is part of the message!
The first hymn is a song of praise!
- Let heaven rejoice – Chris Brunelle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svm99U4jsrQ
The second hymn is a proclamation of the identity of Jesus.
- Handle’s Messiah – Choir of King’s College: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3TUWU_yg4s
The third hymn invites the Spirit of God to stir us from our placidness and challenge our perspectives.
- Spirit, spirit of Gentleness – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rgLsoWxwyU
And, the fourth invites us as disciples to choose to follow Jesus!
- I have decided to follow Jesus – Lydia Walker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OWWqS1jnOw
Church Opening: Session met on Friday, and we were, as of yet ,unable to set a definitive time for reopening … but I expect that it will be sooner than later. I hope to be able to announce a reopening date next week!
If anyone would like to have a pastoral visit, please let me know and we will find a time for us to get together.
Service of Worship
February 6, 2022
Luke 4: 14-21
14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “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,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Reflection: Part A
The passage that we just heard, is the reading that we listened to last week. It describes a scene in the small village of Nazareth – the place where Jesus grew up and where his faith was nurtured. Luke tells us, that, as was his custom, Jesus attended synagogue on the sabbath and on this occasion he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. In Luke’s telling of the Jesus story this is the moment when Jesus claims his identity and begins his mission.
At the end of last weeks reflection, I provided the invitation to consider a number of questions.
- Had you heard something, that was not what you were expecting?
- Had you realized something, that had you feeling differently?
- Was there something that caused you to rethink your understanding of who Jesus is or what his mission on earth was really all about?
I indicated that it was important for us to take a few minutes to reflect upon these questions before we heard the next part of the story because in the next part of the story, we get to hear the response of the people who were gathered in the synagogue on that day. And this is important because, as I alluded to, the people who heard Jesus speak on that day 2,000 odd years ago were moved to take decisive action. What they heard affected them to such an extent that they could not let the words of Jesus linger without a response.
So if you haven’t yet taken the time to answer the questions … or if you can’t remember what your responses were from last week … I invite you to stop the video for a couple of minutes and answer the questions … And if you are with someone else, I invite you to share your responses with each other. …. And take your time … once you press that pause button … I’m not going anywhere. … (Take a drink of water).
So what was your response? Perhaps it was similar to some of the responses that I received form members of the congregation. Responses that ranged from “I didn’t hear anything earth shattering.” to “this actually stirred me! This is a really big deal!
Perhaps you noticed, as did some other members of the congregation, that this passage from Luke dealt with the identify of Jesus and you responded, as they did, along the continuum from the positive support for Jesus expressed in the statement “our home town boy is the Saviour!” to the disbelief at the audacity of Jesus to proclaim himself as the chosen one – the Messiah.
Or perhaps you were affected by Jesus’ interpretation of the prophet Isaiah that left out the part about the vengeance of God and understood that Jesus was reframing for the people who were present in the synagogue … and for us … the true nature of God as loving and compassionate.
The important thing is that you have considered your understanding of God, of Jesus and Jesus’ mission … so that when we hear the next part of the story we can consider the reaction of the community from a place where we have be thoughtful … for our perspectives and what we believe may also be challenged.
Let’s listen now to the conclusion of the story.
Luke 14: 22-30
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[d] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Reflection: Part B
When they heard this, they were filled with rage … and grabbed Jesus and took him to the hill outside of their village so that they could throw him off a cliff! What happened? What was it that Jesus said in the synagogue that was so disturbing to the people who heard it … to the people in the community where he grew up … to the people, who only moments before were amazed by the gracious words that came out of his mouth … what happened so that these same people grabbed Jesus so that they could throw him off a cliff?
Think about that for a second. When have you ever been so upset that you have joined with others in protest? Or when were you ever so outraged that you joined in a mob?
I wonder if the people who joined the trucker’s Freedom Convoy to Ottawa were that upset. Certainly, they felt that their right to earn a living was being denied by the covid-19 restrictions and they held the political leaders responsible. But were they that upset that they would seize someone with an intent to do harm?
I wonder if the people who stormed the US Capital last January were that upset. Certainly, they expressed that their rights had been violated and that from their perspective the real winner of the election has been denied his democratic rights. But were they that outraged that they would throw someone over a cliff?
I wonder if the 250,000 people who were part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom thought that they had reason to be that upset. Certainly, their young charismatic leader, Martin Luther King Jr. thought that they did. And certainly, the words that he spoke and the dream that he shared, inspired some and outraged others. (pause)
Words that upset. Words that inspire. Words that cause people to question their beliefs. Words that challenge people to come face to face with their perspectives and their prejudices. These are the kind of words that Jesus spoke in that synagogue in Nazareth … and they are the same kind of words that linger for us to hear … as we gather together in our virtual place of worship today. (pause)
Jesus used two specific examples from the Jewish Scriptures to illustrate his point. He used two stories to define the Mission of the Messiah: who the Messiah had come to save and how the Messiah would accomplish his salvic work. Both stories involved an important prophet from the Jewish tradition. And both stories were about how God showed preferential treatment to those who would have been considered outsiders or even enemies to the Jewish people.
Now here is the thing, I imagine that both of these stories that involved the prophets Elijah and Elisha were familiar stories to the people in the synagogue. And I also imagine that up until that morning when Jesus used them to interpret Scripture in a different way, that these passages would have affirmed what they believed and their perspective of their faith … not challenged them or their perspectives.
Picture this, the Jews considered themselves the chosen people. And their God was the vengeful God who would liberate them – as he had from the bonds of slavery in Egypt. The coming Messiah was coming for them and for them alone … to heal and liberate them to the exclusion of the others who were different, were foreigners or who occupied their land. (pause)
But … the two examples that Jesus used reached beyond the people of Israel to welcome and include those who were most representative of the gentiles, the marginalized and the excluded.[i]Both of these examples represented the extreme outsider to those in the synagogue crowd, and they served to drive home that the point of the good news that Jesus proclaimed was for those that the people in the synagogue excluded.
Perhaps excluded isn’t a strong enough word here. Let’s go back to the healing of Naaman by the prophet Elisha. When Elisha healed Naaman, Naaman was a leader in the Syrian army. Naaman was an enemy who was despised, feared … hated by the Jewish people. And on that day in the synagogue, Jesus reinterpreted the Scripture in a way that indicated that not only was their God not vengeful, but that the Messiah had come to save the very people who they hated. And not only that, if they were unwilling to change to accept and include these people … well, perhaps they would be the ones who would be excluded.
Jesus spoke words that outraged the people in the synagogue and caused them to question their beliefs and come face to face with their perspectives and their prejudices – and they rejected his message. (pause)
I wonder, do we hear the words of Jesus in the same way? David Ostendorf a United Church of Christ minister who served as the Executive Director of the Center for New Community, an organization committed to building community, justice and equality would argue that we do. He would content that much of what passes for organized Christian religion is sterile and impotent and ignores the broader horizon of our faith and that God does not quietly accept our well-worn narratives, smothered over and sweetened by our complacency and comfort.[ii]
Ouch. Certainly, we who are gathered today are not like the people who Ostendorf describes or like the people who wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff? … Or are we? (pause)
I become overwhelmed when I spend time on passages from Scripture such as the one that we heard today. For we live in a world where there is as much disparity as there was at the time of Jesus … and arguably even more. We see troop build-up on the border of the Ukraine, and saber rattling through South Asia. We see protests over civil-liberties and the conflicts related to public health directives concerning vaccines. We see people excluded from churches because of their sexuality and stigmatized by society because of their addictions. We are beginning to understand the effects of systemic racism that exist in our social structures. And we are all too aware that while we in Canada exist in relative prosperity, over 9% of the world’s population lives below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day.[iii]
On this day, as individuals, and collectively as members of our Christian fellowship who are gathered together to hear and reflect upon the words of Jesus, can we honestly say that the Mission of the Messiah has been fulfilled?
That the prisoners have been released?
That the outsider has been welcomed in?
That the ostracized and the marginalized have been included?
That the Good News has been received by the poor?
Can we, with integrity, declare that we have done enough? (pause)
As I said, when I spend time with passages such as this one, I become overwhelmed. Certainly, they are meant to challenge our perspectives; however, they are also intended to inspire us! The words of Jesus call us a place of honest and integrity – not to condemn us – but to invite us to be part of the Messiah’s Mission. To join with God to create a new way of living – for ourselves and for all of creation!
So as we end our reflection this morning 3 more questions to consider ..
- Which of our perspectives or beliefs do we need to challenge?
- How must we listen, so that we can hear the words that Jesus spoke, as words of hope?
- What one thing can we do today, to welcome and include the outsider or the marginalized, and become part of the of the Mission of the Messiah?
May your heart be open to the hear the words and moved to action through the stirring of the Holy Spirit.