My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This Sunday, will complete our current sermon series on “What Child Is This.” The text for this week is a challenging one. Luke 4:14 – 30 recounts the story of Jesus launching his public ministry in his hometown synagogue. As he read from the scroll the words from Isaiah proclaiming his mission and purpose, Luke tells us that everyone was filled with wonder and awe at the authority with which he read. That is until he began to explain to them the meaning of what he had just read and they had just heard. Then their admiration turned to anger and they sought to not only silence him but also to cast him out from their very presence. Suddenly, this hometown boy was a stranger and a threat to them.
Every time I read this story I am struck by the reaction of the people. What was so offensive in Jesus’ words that they would seek to not only kick him out of the synagogue but also to run him out of town with the explicit intent of killing him? What had he said that so angered and offended them? And did Jesus know that this would be the reaction he would get when he chose to read those particular words to define the scope and intent of his ministry from that point forward? Was he intentionally trying to provoke them?
While we will never know for sure the answers to these questions, I think this story challenges us to reflect on our faith and how we are called to live it out in real ways in real situations. When our faith challenges us and moves us out of our comfort zone, what is our reaction? How do we respond when we are confronted with messages that while true may upset and offend us? Do we only want, and will we only hear, messages that comfort and soothe and reassure us? Or are we open to hearing those words that break us open and force us to see ourselves and those around us in a new light? Are we willing to be reshaped into the people God is calling us to be in this time and this place?
Really asking these questions of ourselves and of one another is not purely an academic exercise. It is daring to go deep and really wrestle with what it is that God is calling us to do and with who God is calling us to be in this time. We live in a chaotic and confusing time. There are tensions in our politics and in our denomination right now. We are being confronted with the need to decide who we are in the midst of all this and how we, as people of faith, will respond.
Sometimes the voice of God is a soothing and comforting one. Sometimes the voice of God is a challenging and provoking one. My prayer for us is that as we gather for worship this Sunday there will be moments when we will be comforted and offered shelter from the storms that rage around and within us, and that there will be times when we are challenged to rise up and put our faith into transformative action.
I invite you to join with me this Sunday as together we seek to listen to the voice of God and to understand what it is that God is calling on us to do in this moment of our shared history.
Your Partner in Ministry,