Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 4:14-21

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 4:15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 4:16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." 4:20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 4:21 Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

The Gospel of the Lord . . . Praise to you O Christ.


A Simple Carpenter's Son

As I have been studying this text what has continued to impress me is the Crystal Clear Clarity that Jesus recognizes in his own specific Calling.

There is no questioning for Jesus as he identifies himself as the Messiah of God. Jesus is the one who is sent " to proclaim the Year of the Lord's favor--to bring The Good News to the poor."

What we did not hear in this lesson, is the final response of the people who listened to Jesus on this particular Sabbath Day and then violently rejected his introduction.

Why would the people reject Jesus? What was it about his pronouncement of fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy that troubled them so much that they are ready to hurl him over the cliff at the edge of the city??

To be sure, at first the people are listening to Jesus . . . .

They were impressed with his teaching style, they liked the way he read the Holy Scriptures and then could open the lesson up for their enlightenment and understanding. But when he proclaimed his Messianic Fulfillment it was more than they could take in. From a brief moment of understanding and being pleased that this son of their community had risen to be a leader in the Synagogue, to rushing him headlong out of town to cast him down the Hill of the Tell, Something had changed the mood of the people that day. What was it . . . ?

Perhaps it was too much for the people to consider that a simple Carpenter's Son from their village--could be the Person of whom Isaiah Spoke. Or maybe it just couldn't fit the people's expectations that Jesus, the boy who had played with other boys and girls in the neighborhood, would grow in wisdom and stature and make such a claim that God Chose Him (From the Foundation of the World) to become the Savior of All?!!

Or maybe it struck a nerve with the People that if Jesus of Nazareth was who he claimed to be, then everything that presently was set in place – The Temple, the required Sacrificial System, the Priests, the Levites the Scribes and Ruling Class in Israel . . . . Everything the people strived for (which, ironically, was essentially a system that kept them bound and subdued) would be de-legitimized! This was not acceptable!

Imagine if you will: You grow up in a culture where every act you perform is intended to please someone else–but this gives your life purpose, albeit a kind of forced servanthood. Every thought you are trained to think from childhood is meant to concur with the expectations of the Dominant Society of which you are a part. You are essentially programmed by the culture where you live. It's religious, political and cultural systems provide the governing control . . . .

Every motivation for advancement is done within a framework intended to keep the rules as they have always been and uphold the Authority of Rulers who maintain their power by threats –the ultimate being: the punishment of death. ------------

Whatever the established order of a society is . . . members of that society are expected to uphold and maintain the system that is makes up the society. This is what Jesus was essentially challenging as he told the people he was fulfilling the Word of Isaiah. Jesus essentially placed himself in opposition with every part of the establishment of the day. He placed Himself as being the New Way. . . the Messiah.

By way of his introduction – Jesus claims to be the fulfilling agent of all the law and the prophets, his claim of authority will supercede (or come before) every man (all men) who typically claim title to rule and control of social order. In Jesus god was challenging every form of human power, which keeps certain people down and maintains others as dominators. No wonder the people rejected Christ!!

At first, any one of us might think, yea Jesus!! But then we fall back into the training ingrained within us. No!! we cannot allow one man to take down the age-old system. Even though the very nature of living in the system is a kind of bondage . . . we would prefer to remain their (despite our good sense) because it's all we've ever known . . . . and we do not wish to know or experience any other way!

From listening admiringly to Jesus--to casting him out as a threat to the Order of the Community and Religious Practice . . . the crowds conclude that he Jesus Messianic revelation is a threat.

Now I would like to ask you to Freeze that image of Jesus, with the amazed people (this same crowd is going to react violently to Jesus' proclamation about himself). Hold those thoughts.

Now, Fast Forward in Biblical time approximately 53 years. It is the age of the fledgling church. It is a time when the Missionary Journeys of Paul and Jesus Disciples are bearing remarkable fruit for God. In fact, so many people are coming into the church from so many different places and walks of life, and the church is growing very quickly that a degree of chaos becomes the norm and as we here in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, not everything is going perfectly smooth as so many different groups of people converge together in the Christian faith.

It was with regard to the challenges of Diversity in the church that Paul finds himself having to write to the Corinthians and help them deal with their growth and diversity. We need to realize, that after the Jesus movement got going, after his resurrection, then living under the teachings of Christ became acceptable. And so the new challenge for the early Christians became incorporating Christ's leadership and teachings into their daily lives. This entailed a new awakening to living in the new order Jesus established . . . the Blessed Community of equals.

And so Paul, the Apostle of the Lord, carries on a dialogue in the form of letters to help the early church with many questions and situations. For now we'll just speak a little more about what was happening in the Corinthian Church.

Apparently in the Corinthian Church, there were various groups developing in the congregation. In fact, we could say that there were little churches or schools of thought, within the Corinthian church, much as we may have in the midst of our own congregation here at Elias.

For example, we know that Elias was historically made up of families in the community – even as we read last Sunday in our Historical Tidbits(!!) regarding our original name. The "Tomes Creek 100." We were named for the gathering of some 100 families in the area, that eventually constituted our congregation . . . . Our congregation can also be defined as geographically grouped:

We have folks who live in the Thurmont area, we have families that have Fairfield addresses, or Carroll Valley, we have the ladies we know affectionately as the "Motter Station Bells!" Then there are some of our newest neighbors we know as the "Pembrookians" and then there's folks who live in Taneytown or who have Frederick addresses ("The Fredriconians!")

We identify ourselves in various groupings.

For the church at Corinth, the groupings in their church were made up of similar differences -- some geographic, some cultural and some differing in craft or vocation. But Paul encouraged the people, as a whole, to identify themselves in terms of their Christian FAITH. In CHRIST there was no distinction about who anyone was. No outsiders, no superiors . . . . Just one body and one spirit. One lord of all.

1 Corinthians 12:12 "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 12:13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free men, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 12:14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many."

Paul points out to the Corinthians that the Word of the Savior and the Word about the Savior was what centered the people!! In Christ they could find unity and fulfillment. In Christ every person could be reconciled to the other, thus, we begin to see the difference from Jesus revealing himself to the Synagogue at Nazareth, and the people who had now accepted living in the Way of Christ in Corinth. The struggle had transitioned from one of outright unacceptance to one of acceptance, but need of full understanding about meaning and acceptance of new members.

Because The Fulfillment of Jesus Teaching did not uphold the old System of Dominance the New Testament church had to learn to live with the new order of Jesus reign. But the Fulfillment of Jesus as Messiah Birthed a New Order, and New Institution, and New Way of Being that we Call the Church!!

Paul teaches us that Every part of the Body of Christ is Equally important to the others! Instead of Judging people groups in order of their worthiness, i.e., to receive the goods of the system (Food, Shelter, Protection). The Church stands on its own to provide for the needs of its members. If Goods are needed by one part of the body or another, then those goods can be supplied by another part of the party that has excess.

So we begin to see that Paul's Teaching re-introduces Jesus Messianic Promise, The poor will receive the Good News, The Oppressed will be made Free, The people living in the shadow of darkness and death will no longer fear–because in the Church every member lives to support and uphold the other!

This was all part of the Jesus New Order. It was communal in nature. It was not dominating, but cooperative. It was not ranking in order of importance , but promoting the dignity of all and the equality of all within the Body.

From Luke's story of Jesus proclaiming his Messianic Status and the subsequent rejection of Jesus by those who knew him from a young age . . . to Paul's letter to the Followers of Jesus working through their own prior prejudices and valuation system . . . We witness the kind of Spiritual Progression that God intends. God desires that we value and respect and honor the gifts that each one has and brings into the New Economy of God's Community – The Church. This is really what Jesus is emphasizing about his fulfillment of the Isaiah Prophecy. In Jesus coming, The Year of Jubilee is being fulfilled: In Christ appearing, The poor would be presented with good News, The Captives Set Free!!

Those who were formerly Oppressed due to un-attainable Status in a dominating society would now be Released from their Bondage to an unattainable higher class, because In the Body of Christ every member would be respected and valued!

None of us has every Spiritual Gift, but each of us has at least one gift. And a Gift is meant to be given away. A special function must be exercised if the Whole Body is going to benefit. No matter which part of the body you are we will all benefit if you share your gift for the good of the whole. In Christ: we can all laugh when one is joyous, and in Christ, we can all cry when one of us is sad.

This is the fulfillment of what Jesus prophesied at the Synagogue that day.

And you and I are his Body. May we go forth to serve and to Share with one another. In Jesus' name we pray.

Amen

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