Luke 4:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version)
21Then [Jesus] began to say to [all in the synagogue in Nazareth,] “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23He 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.’ ” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But 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; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They 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. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
ELCA Book of Faith Initiative Devotional Questions:
What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text?
What delights me in this text?
What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? You might remember a time when all spoke well of you, or it was difficult to be in your own hometown, for example.
What is God up to in this text?
Sometimes, I think time goes faster the older I get. It was just a few days ago that we were gathered at the manger, worshipping the newborn king Jesus, and in this text he is all grown up and causing trouble. I wonder if that’s why we like Christmas so much. In the movie Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby prays a table grace to the “Dear Sweet Baby Jesus.” He uses this title so often during the prayer that his wife interrupts him to remind him that Jesus grew up into a man. “I know,” Ricky Bobby says, “but I like the Christmas Jesus best.” I hear what he is saying, even as I wonder why that is. Do we like Christmas Jesus best because he is a baby? Because he is weak and small and in danger, and we can connect with that? Do we resist the grown-up Jesus because he won’t stay inside our box, or do what we expect, or make us feel warm and comfortable?
It seems to be that way in this month’s text. Jesus comes home and reads scripture in the synagogue, his home church. He does such a “nice” job that everyone speaks well of him. This is the baby, the boy, the nice young man that they remember growing up in their town. He fits into their expectations, he’s just like he used to be. The recognize him, and are proud that he represents their town to the world.
But then he opens his mouth to interpret what he has just read. He reminds them that prophets and hometowns don’t get along, because the Word of the Lord is rarely comfortable, it is convicting. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to hear words that are difficult from someone you used to know. The mood of the crowd sours. Hearing these difficult words cause the crowd to do just as Jesus predicted, and they turn from praise to violence. And Jesus gets out of town, his hometown, in a hurry, in fear of his life.
What are some ways in which you try to keep Jesus in the manger and out of the business of your life? Who have you put in a pigeonhole and refused to let grow up because you were afraid of how your opinion of them might have to change? How is Jesus coming to you in the messiness and imperfection of your own life? As we celebrate together the season of the Epiphany and the bringing of the Word to the nations, I pray that Jesus might just complicate your life, stir you to action, and love you through the tough spots. Thanks be to God. Amen.
In Christ, Pastor Breen