Devotional Message: The 4th Sunday after The Epiphany (2/3/2019)

Lessons

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
1st Corinthians 13:1-13
St. Luke 4:21-30

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love; and that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

4:21 Then he [Jesus] began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 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 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.

St. Luke 4:21-30, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: For the Sake of the World

There are times when so much takes place in such a short time that someone who has been in a long deep sleep (like Rip Van Winkle, perhaps) might not even recognize the world they wake up to see. Political change; cultural change; technological change; moral change… it all comes so fast that we begin to fear that if we were to miss too many news cycles we could be hopelessly left behind.

That is what seems to happen in this weekend’s Gospel lesson. Last week everything seemed to go so well. Consistent with Jesus’ experience throughout the region, when he makes his way to Nazareth, his home town, and speaks during worship on the Sabbath, his own people receive him enthusiastically. Today’s text begins as well: his listeners speak well of him. They are amazed at what he has to say. They seem to marvel that this is the same young man — Joseph’s son, for goodness sake! — who grew up in their midst.

Then in an instant everything seems different; everything appears to to go wrong. Jesus challenges his listeners. You will most likely quote the proverb, “Doctor cure yourself.” and expect me to do the same kind of wonders here that I have done in Capernaum, he says. In fact, I expect that from you because no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s own hometown. And then, pushing the envelope even further, he reminds them of two great figures in the Hebrew Bible: Elijah the prophet, who lived in a time when there were many widows in Israel, but who only connected with one of them: a foreigner at Zaraphath.  And Elisha, his successor, who lived in a time when there were many lepers in Israel, but only healed one of them: a foreigner from Syria.  At this, the assembly shifts from amazement to rage. They drive Jesus out of town, and try to throw him off a cliff!

In verse 23, Jesus begins a challenge that turns this gathering on its head. We’re not completely sure just why he does this, but the suggestion is that on some level he knows they feel entitled to the benefits this young man from their own town has to share. So he draws a very clear line for them. The new work that God is doing in this world is not just for those who are on the inside; not just for us. Instead, it is for all the world. Look at what Elijah did. Look at what Elisha did. This is what God is doing.

It gets to the heart of what being church is all about. There are many benefits to being part of a worshipping community, but the reality is: It is not just for us. We are called beyond ourselves, to be the presence of Christ in this world. As Elijah reached out to Zarephath; as Elisha received someone from Syria; as Jesus touched and healed people all throughout the surrounding districts, so we are called to do the same. In fact our mission field is just outside the front door of our house. The world awaits us there. Let us bring them the presence of Christ.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why do the people of Jesus’ hometown seem to expect preferential treatment from him?

  2. How do they respond when he focuses on ministry to those who are outside Nazareth?

  3. How does the early church live into this sort of ministry; this sort of mission?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I thought of the church, or the faith, as a solution to my problems; a source of help for me?

  2. Who lies just outside of my community, that God might be calling me to reach?

  3. How might I reach out beyond myself to make a difference in the life of someone else?