THE REALLY BAD NEWS

Luke 4:21-30 — The Message

He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”
All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke. But they also said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?” He answered, “I suppose you’re going to quote the proverb, ‘Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.’ Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn’t it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian.” That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way.

When You See No Need to Escape

When You See No Need to Escape

The Really Bad News

According to this reading
Jesus did not come for us first
with the Good News —
he came for those who have nothing.
We already have what we need,
which is enough.
Maybe not everything we want,
but what we need.
I actually think that this is OK
because I do believe that the many
who have always been last,
who live at the bottom,
who seem to find themselves on the outside
of our social and
economic and
spiritual circles,
who,
because of their skin color,
nationality,
gender,
sexual orientation,
mental health,
intelligence,
their economic status,
or homelessness,
live in fear ̶
these are the ones to whom Jesus is referring in this text.
So let’s stop for just a bit
and check in with ourselves.
How do you feel
about hearing Jesus’
words and intentions?
How would you feel sitting in that synagogue
hearing Jesus make these statements of exclusion?
Think about it for a minute or two.
In Jesus’ time the expectations for the Messiah were generally political:
it was hoped he would be the one who would deliver
the occupied Jews out from under the thumb of the Roman Empire.
But then he goes off about not giving them the deliverance
they were expecting for themselves but
offering it to the down-and-outers,
the hopelessly helpless,
the very ones who
were not sitting in synagogue ̶
I can sort of understand those Jews
wanting to shove him off a cliff.
And yet in our own time
don’t we with access
and entitlement
get twisted up trying to co-opt
the pain of others?
In America
there is a ruling class,
and it is basically
white, male or male identified,
and rich,
wanting what it perceives
as its white pain
to be equal
to the pain of the blacks.
And yes,
for those who consider
their entitlement
and their
perceived success
as their right to
being first in line for
a front row ticket
to God’s kingdom,
this is indeed the really bad news.
Privileged men
don’t understand why women want
job opportunities and
pay equal to their own,
and are angered by
the concept that all
humans are humans
and all deserve
the promises Jesus makes here.
And we do deserve them,
and we will receive them,
but after the least of the least
have their needs met.
What I see as a truth
in this text
is that
when we truly
have a need
and pray for help
God answers us,
not because it is our right,
but because in
our asking
we become as the least
of the least.
If we never see ourselves as
least,
or as needing help
or salvation
neither
will be there for us.

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