RCL Year C Epiphany 4
Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Saint Luke 4:21-30

Last Sunday the Gospel presented us with Jesus reading from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of his hometown. You recall that Jesus identifies himself and his ministry with a prophecy of raising and releasing the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. He tells the people assembled that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”[1] This prophecy, raising and releasing the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed, is one of the themes of Saint Luke’s Gospel. When Jesus identifies his ministry with this theme, the people become restless.

Today’s Gospel picks up precisely where last Sunday’s leaves off, and Jesus isn’t finished. In fact, he pours it on. Last week they stared at Jesus, and this week those stares give way to violence.

The problem is this: the people in the synagogue of today’s Gospel do not accept God’s sovereignty.  A near riot develops when Jesus reminds them that God is under no obligation to work miracles among them.  Were not there many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah?  Yet God sent no prophet to them.  Were not there many lepers in Israel in the days of Elisha?  Yet God cured Naaman the Syrian and none in Israel.[2]  The people listening to Jesus couldn’t bear to hear this.  They had domesticated God.  They had drawn in their little minds a little map, roughly the map of Israel, and they decided that God cares for the people they consider in bounds.  They couldn’t face the fact that God is in charge.  They couldn’t face the fact that his life and grace blow where they will.

As Isaiah prophesies, God’s ministry with which Jesus identifies fully is raising and releasing the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed wherever they are. They do not have to be members of the synagogue. They do not have to be living in Israel. They only have to be God’s.

I know I am preaching to the already-converted.  I know that you know that we all are made in the image of God.  I know that our doors are open to all of God’s people.

God in Christ came to stretch our horizons.  If we expect God to do narrow, parochial things, those only are the things we shall see. But if we expect God to change the world, if we expect God to raise and to release the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed, we are much more likely to see it when it happens.


[1] Saint Luke 14:21.

[2] Saint Luke 4:25-27.