Luke 4: 14-21
This scripture that we read today is a great opportunity, for those who live today, to feel a little superior to the people who lived in Jesus’ time.
It’s easy for us to say, and indeed I have heard, that we would have known Jesus is the messiah at that moment in the synagogue.
But may I submit to you that, if someone who grew up in your church, whom everyone had seen for years, and then who went away for a while, to college or to military service or for a job, and then came back to your church, as asked to read scripture, and then claimed that the scripture they had just read was actually about them; may I submit to you that you might be thinking that person might be a little disturbed? I know that if it happened in my churches, I would be thinking in my mind which mental health professional I could call.
I’m thinking that the people in that synagogue that day were no different than us, and this was a troubling event. I can hear the voices! “Who does that Jesus kid think he is? We remember babysitting him; we remember him throwing the baseball through my window; we remember him dipping that girl’s braid into ink.”
It’s no accident that the second half of this passage ends with the townspeople wanting to throw Jesus off a cliff.
It’s a strong claim he’s making to the people he’s grown up with. And just as we would have reacted to someone making claims like that in our churches, so they probably reacted then.
He was right.
I’m not one for apocalyptic visions. If you asked me about the Mayan calendar, if you asked me about Harold Camping (twice!), if you asked me about every prophecy about the world ending, my answer is always going to be “don’t believe it!” But that doesn’t mean I do not believe Jesus will return. I just pretty much believe that Jesus will come again at a time and place, and in a way we don’t expect. I think it’s likely that he’ll return again as an infant, in an occupied territory, as a member of an oppressed minority. Maybe he already has been born, and lives in Syria, or Mali, or Darfur. Maybe he (or she) lives in the great big city dump in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, or the mountains of West Virginia. It’s going to be that sneaky, again.
Like a thief in the night. And it’s probably going to be someone we, because of our worldview and culture, don’t like. Someone who we are uncomfortable with, because of who we are.
There’s a t-shirt I once saw in Deep Ellum, the music and nightclub section of Dallas TX, that said “Jesus is Coming, Look Busy”.
We are not called to be people who recognize the Messiah when he or she comes. We are called to be, instead, people who are trying to serve God as best we can in whatever way we can, even when it is uncomfortable, or challenges our prejudices. And when we just happen to meet Jesus in those circumstances, among those whom we have learned to see as children of God, well, then, we have been caught serving. Oops. We aren’t called to be the people on the roof of the skyscraper, waving out bibles in the air as the comet flies by, but we are the people down the street in the basement, making sure the clothes are sorted properly, or that the women in front of us wearing donated business clothing, looks good for a job interview.
Giving people dignity. This is who we are called to be.
Who knows? Maybe some of those people in that synagogue later were convinced, and followed Jesus. Even if they remembered the baseball through their windows.
This is who we are called to be. Gentle, humble, joyful, passionate, generous, forgiving, compassionate, not prone to gossip, or prejudice.
May you be such people, in your lives, to the best of your ability. And know that we learn more how to do it every day. There are always people we’d rather not be around, and we are called to see them as children of God.
Let the Christians take care of themselves. You be a follower of Christ.