Jeremiah 1, 4-5, 17-19 + Psalm 71 + 1 Corinthians 12, 31-13,13 + Luke 4, 21-30
3 February 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
This episode in Luke’s Gospel is tragic and sad leaving us to ponder what went wrong, and how we keep that from happening to us. Think of it, and think what it means for those people in that synagogue and town. “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.” Luke is not proposing some disappearing act, he leaving us with the impression that God abandoned those people. They were left without Jesus. Now, I don’t know how that strikes you, but for me life without Jesus would be a terrible and sad way of life.
What led the people in that synagogue into conflict was the message of Jesus that suggested to them that they were a failure when it came to caring for one another, especially for the needy. Then came the challenging suggestion that God’s first concern was not them, but rather those they had left behind. This “son of Joseph” was suggesting that they, the Israelites, were not the real chosen people, but rather it was the poor made poor and left in poverty by the Israelites who thought that they were so special. That made them angry. Instead of being open to the message and accepting that challenge as a reason for repentance and change, they rose up, and Jesus left them.
At the heart of this conflict is the truth Jesus is revealing: God never called the chosen people for their own sake. God called them to be a sign to all the nations of what it means to live God’s plan for the world. Suddenly those people in that synagogue were face to face with the question of “Why?” Why were they chosen? Why did God protect, forgive, restore, and favor them? What were they supposed to do with all this favor? They thought it was all for themselves, that they were special, blessed, and privileged without asking why and what for. When they did, because of the comments of Jesus that day, the answer did not sit well. It meant that they were failing to live up to and become what God expected of them.
With the words of this living Gospel still fresh in our minds, its message is just as real and just as timely as ever before. We have to wonder why we call ourselves Christian and what it means. It certainly is not for our benefit or a reason to feel special, privileged, or somehow honored that God has given us the gift of faith. If we are called to be the presence of God or called to reflect the God who created us all in the divine image, we will be restless and more motived than ever to care for those no one else cares for, to protect those who are defenseless, to feed those who are hungry, and clothe those who are naked. There is no other way for us, and no excuse for delay. Thinking for one minute that somehow, we are the center of God’s focus and God’s favored ones runs the risk of Jesus passing through and leaving us. Our lives, our faith, our gifts are all given and entrusted to us for one thing, to accomplish the work in God serving the needs of others. When they said “no” that message in that synagogue, Jesus left. We can’t make that mistake.