Sunday, 3 February 2013

Turn again

GospelLuke 4:21-30

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue: ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’
  But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”’ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
  ‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’
  When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

Jesus never goes back to Nazareth again, as far as we know. Perhaps no-one could blame him; after Satan had tried to persuade him to jump off a cliff here are a group of people more than willing to carry it through. A devilish influence pervades the crowd; as it often will; resentment at the sound of God's grace coming from the mouth of the boy next door.

'Why him?' many may have thought; turning quickly into 'not him'.

Or, more plainly, 'not him and not them either.'

In our own country we lay down the rules; no matter how unruly our lives we believe we are in control; the critical eye turns outward to those who are not like us. God fearing loyalty to our group, our tribe, makes us believe that we are the 'chosen' not realising that it is 'us' who have chosen to believe this.

God's affiliation goes beyond our exclusive boundaries to the unbounded world that God created; the widow who needs to eat; the leper who needs to be healed. To those whose need outweighs their prejudice.

Jesus shrugs it off at first; the sureness of the Spirit allows him to accept the unwillingness of the people. his response points out what they should already know. God has not changed his mind; they have closed theirs. 

 Jesus slips from our grasp all too often as we try to fit his message into our understanding. Hear the Gospel again; and hear it, not on our terms but on God's.

Let's imagine for just one moment that sometimes we are not the ones with the answers; that when we read in the Gospels about the poor, the widow, the leper and the disenfranchised that we are reading about ourselves. Accepting that we are poor in faith; that we are sickening for God's love; that we feel isolated and widowed from the loving relationship that we long for; that shame or fear  had made us into lepers hiding from God's gaze

Let the longing help us to slip away from the crowd. 

To be the one who has need is to be the one who has favour. 



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