Saturday, February 2, 2013

We Are: Rejected

Luke 4:21-30 “We Are: Rejected” Epiphany IV 2/3/2013

It is hard to believe that this intense conflict between Jesus and his hometown neighbors happens at the beginning of his ministry. At least it does in Luke’s gospel - and he puts it there for a reason. Let’s see if we can discover it -together. your clue for participation..

Last week we saw how the content of Jesus’ inaugural message in his hometown sets up his year-long ministry...and how his mission statement is also our own mission statement.
You recall: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring ______(good news) to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim ________(release) to the captives and recovery of _____(sight) to the bling, to let the _________(oppressed) go free, to proclaim the year of _______(jubilee or the Lord’s favor.”

Gutenberg Bible

This quote from Isaiah doesn’t upset the local listeners in itself.  Then what does? _______?

Some likely begin to wonder what he meant when he says ‘today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’. (Using a passive perfect verb that Luke often employes to indicate God is doing the action.) It’s when Jesus start telling stories, a good rabbinic way to interpret scripture, that he gets into hot water.

It may have been some time since you read or heard these stories to which he refers. So a brief Bible Study ‘pop-up’...

  • Elijah and widow of Zarephath in Sidon. (1 Kings 17:1-16) a time of drought & famine in a land of many widows, God chooses a non-believer for Elijah to gift with oil and flour, that does not run out until rain comes again. And when the woman’s sons gets sick and dies, Elijah prays and brings him back to life. 
  • Strozzi
    • Sidon is Gentile territory in the land of the Phoenicians (Modern Lebanon). Traditional enemies of the Israelites. Jesus’ hearers know this story well because it is one of Elijah’s famous miracles.

  • Jesus’ second illustration is equally provocative because Elisha, Elijah’s successor heals Naaman of leprosy, a serious skin disease. Naaman is commander of the army of the king of Aram, who has taken an Israelite girl slave for his wife in one of Aram’s raids in Israel. 
    • Naaman afterward becomes a believer, but again, this is an example of God acting miraculously among the Gentiles...when at the same time there are many needy Israelites, suffering with the same illness.
(end of Bible-study window)

It seems that Jesus is VERY intentional in his choice of stories. In fact, I think Luke is giving us a pre-view of what kind of preaching we can expect from Jesus.   (perhaps should ask the search committee that hired me, if they’d hire a preacher like this...)

Certainly we see a preview of where Jesus’ minsitry is going to get him. . . Taken to the ‘brow’ of a hill..with execution in the mind of his neighbors, his ‘friends’ from home. . . .

I began my ministry at Manassas during my last semester in seminary because I had already completed my requirments during the academic year. I organized my ordination service rather quickly because we decided it would be great to actually BE ordained before I led Annual Conference worship in Charleston, WVA. 

I asked Warren Eshback, then dean of the Bethany satellite in Elizabethtown, AND an ad junct professor at LTSG to be the preacher at my service. He choose this text! . . .He knew I was returning ‘home’ - Manassas was the congregation where we raised our children. They called and licensed me to ministry. Now they had called me to be one of their pastors. . . When Warren told me he planned to preach from Luke 4, I was not amused!

I already had some fear of what life would be like as a pastor among the people who had nurtured ME. People who had struggled alongside me to get thru potty-training, and parenting teenagers. People who had sat with me as we all struggled with issues of faith; the death-penalty, to tithing.

And I was coming out of a Lutheran seminary (even with all my Brethren classes) and the Lutherans would NEVER let you go back to your ‘home’ congregation as a pastor...

Even tho I knew it was part of our tradition to ‘call out’ our own..I wondered, 
“What was Warren thinking???”
(Can you take a guess?)

I think Warren had the same idea as Jesus’ did when he decided what storeis to tell in the synagogue. 
(No he didn’t expect Manassas to reject their hometown girl.) In his message he made the point that today’s preachers need to risk being out on a ledge, led to the ‘brow’ of a hill, RISK...being rejected and that goes for ALL God’s ministers, every baptized beleiver who is ‘ordained’ to ministry at our baptism. His message, as ironic as it seemed in that setting, was for every follower of Christ

If we are truly ‘continuing the work of Jesus’ we can expect to be dragged out to the cliff-edge, REJECTED, just like Jesus - our identity falls under this unlikely word - rejection.

So now I ask, are you brave enough to share your own stories of rejection today? _________?
. . .

Rejection today takes many forms, some are actually confrontations.
Some are quiet rejections...didn’t get the job, 
.You don’t hear back from the person you were trying to befriend,
...You aren’t included on the next invitation list.

Thursday’s Y.A. Gathering; 
Talked about rejection due to mis-understanding; someone ASSUMES you are Christian by their definition, their experience, what they have read or heard.
(What can you do when your IDENTITY is shaped by someone else’s perception of Christianity? Does’t this sometimes result in rejection?).... Or rhectorical

Jesus’ initial steps in ministry, in his home-town, are thought provoking. They not only inform our reading of the rest of Jesus’ story, they inform our living of the JESUS’ Way.

1) Jesus is REJECTED right from the start.
He is take out to the brow of a hill to be THROWN down.
The story foreshadows the Ultimate Rejection he will receive on the brow of another hill, called Calvary. . . And we who follow can expect no less, IF we are truly following in his footsteps.

2) Yet there another side to this REJECTION. 
Jesus has already been to a hilltop, even before his ministry began. It’s the pinnacle of the temple, from which the Devil, the great antagonist, challenged him to ‘THROW himself down’ because God has promised ‘angels to protect him and bear him up.’

. . And Jesus does the REJECTING. . Answering ‘NO’ to this temptation to use his status for his own glory.

Again and Again in Jesus’ ministry he will REJECT the same temptations that we face. 
He will REJECT
  • Religious status quo, 
  • He will reject, doing what all the other rabbis ‘have always done’
  • He rejects ‘righteousness’ that is defined by social status or religious status 
  • He rejects any righteousness that does not include JUSTICE for everyone.
  • And he REJECTS priorities that don’t include the poor.

This is what get’s Jesus hauled to the hilltop and almost thrown to his death. 
This is WHY he chose stories that were intentionally provocative.
Because he REJECTS identifying with a ‘domesticated’ God who is partial only to the well-off religious elite.

Because Jesus really KNOWs God’s priorities. . And HIS IDENTITY is formed by them, . . No matter how much rejection he incurs.

(Here or previous) The late Peter Gomes, Harvard professor and pastor said, 
“the people (in Jesus; hometown) take offense not so much with what Jesus claims about himself, as with the claims that he makes about a God who is more than THEIR OWN tribal deity.”

Our Identity, as followers of Christ, CHRISTians, must include our own REJECTION of anything put forth in God’s name. . That does not meet Jesus’ standards of mission.. To the poor, oppressed, capitive and blind. . .
 . .
And that is likely to get US dragged to the top of a hill. . . . .And REJECTED.. . Jesus’ name.

1 comment:

Terri said...

Powerful! As Christians we do struggle to live this truth and accept the reality that we may be rejected for it.