my miscellany

Epiphany 4, 2022 — 30 Jan 22

Epiphany 4, 2022

Tissot, James, 1836-1902. Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56774 [retrieved February 7, 2022]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brooklyn_Museum_-_Jesus_Unrolls_the_Book_in_the_Synagogue_(J%C3%A9sus_dans_la_synagogue_d%C3%A9roule_le_livre)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall.jpg.

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

The Lord says to Jeremiah, when he calls him to be his prophet, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”[1] In that synagogue in Nazareth, where Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus needs to be delivered also.

You remember how that deliverance becomes necessary. Nazareth is Jesus’ hometown, but despite the familiarity of the town with him, the people in the synagogue love him. “All spoke well of him,” the Gospel proclaims, “and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”[2]

But Jesus uses a couple of examples that enrage the people. He reminds them that during a famine the Lord sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath, outside of Israel, up near Tyre in Sidon, to supply her with food. And he reminds them that Elisha cured Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy when there were many lepers in Israel. Jesus, having read from Isaiah, uses a couple of examples from the history of Israel to show his Father’s care and concern for people who are not Israelites.

God’s care and concern for people outside the Old Covenant is a major feature of the New Covenant, according to Saint Luke, Saint Luke’s Gospel, and its sequel, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

When Jesus is presented in the temple as an infant, old Simeon takes him in his arms and says this infant is “the Savior, whom [the Lord has] prepared for all the world to see: a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of [his] people Israel.”[3]

The New Covenant, Jesus declares, belongs to all people, not just the locals. Not just the right people. Not just the people favored with intelligence, money, and status. God created everyone and wants to redeem everyone.

The locals in Nazareth are enraged, but I hope you will agree that they do not do well to be enraged. After all, all people includes them, and they have no standing to exclude anyone. They don’t want to recognize that a generous God can and may be generous with anyone he wishes.

They should see this as good news. But being human, they don’t. In time, I think they will understand more. And, perhaps, so will we. May we come also to see that more is at stake than our own comfort. May we come to see that what we do for others, we do for God and for God’s mission. May we come to see that mission continues to be important, because God’s mission is bigger than we are. Surely, we don’t want to miss out on that.

[1] Jeremiah 1:8.

[2] Saint Luke 4:22.

[3] Saint Luke 2:30-32.

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