Present Company Excepted
Yr C ~ Epiphany 4 ~ Luke 4:21-30
This sermon may be uncomfortable. It might be uncomfortable for you to hear, and parts of it are definitely uncomfortable for me to preach.
Are you nervous? You shouldn’t be.
I’m not going to go ballistic and yell and scream or anything.
But I might poke a little, and it might poke some more than others.
And some who need to feel a poke may think I’m talking about someone else.
The truth is, we all need to be poked by this message. All of us.
We begin where we left off last week. A quick recap: It’s the very start of Jesus’ public ministry. He goes to worship at his hometown synagogue and is asked to read scripture. He selects a very provocative text about freeing captives, forgiving debts, erasing land ownership issues, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour. This is a direct reference to a concept called Jubilee which is basically a giant reset button that utterly upends the entire world order as far as economics and power goes – and then he sits down.
But the sitting down is actually the teaching time. And he delivers a one sentence sermon (don’t get your hopes up!) that concluded last week’s reading and begins this week’s:
Luke 4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Last week we explored these challenging words from Jesus, and we pressed pause on the story to make sure we spent time understanding just how radical the Jubilee values he was championing were. I also tried to emphasize that having Jubilee values being fulfilled in your hearing meant the concept becomes active for you when you hear or perceive or understand it. And once you hear it you can’t un-hear it so you either need to say yes and act on it, or say no and ignore it.
Upending an economic order and a power structure that treats all of us here pretty favourably is a very hard thing to do. But it sounds really good, doesn’t it?
Jesus’ synagogue crowd agreed.
Luke 4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the words of grace that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
They’re great words. Faithful words. Inspiring words.
And the people in that synagogue that day, (and probably the people in this church last week, and now), received those words and judged them to be very good! They were impressed by Jesus – even though they knew he was just Joe and Mary’s kid – and they were impressed by these high-minded ideals and values.
And then, seemingly inexplicably, Jesus turns on a dime and starts poking them in the eye.
Luke 4:24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.”
Maybe he saw something as he looked at them. Sometimes a preacher can look out and know that their listeners did not take in the point they just made on the level they’d hoped to communicate on. (Present company excepted.)
Maybe Jesus knew that his proclamation should’ve produced more than just a few “atta-boy’s” and that his congregation should’ve been less impressed and more convicted.
Maybe Jesus realized that they were more pleased by their local boy making good than they were motivated to actually embody those Jubilee values and that world upending worldview.
Maybe he looked at them smiling and nodding and discerned that if they really understood they’d have a very different expression on their faces.
So Jesus went after them – and they didn’t like it! read on