Luke 4:21-30

 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[d] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

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A Prophet without Honor 

The fourth chapter of Luke's Gospel tells us what happened the first time Jesus preached.   Jesus had returned home to Nazareth,  Jesus, the prophet,  the preacher, the teacher, the healer, the miracle worker, has come home to preach his first sermon to the home-town crowd.  The crowd was totally excited,  after all, this is THEIR Jesus coming home.

Have you ever watched a bunch of small children playing?  There is almost always one who attempts to lay claim on every toy in the room, labeling them all as "MINE." Spiritually speaking the people in the synagogue the day Jesus preached his first sermon, were like a bunch of selfish children, unwilling to believe that anyone other than themselves might receive God's blessings. They wanted exclusive rights to God.

The two stories Jesus shared with them, pointed out to  them, that God's love, grace, mercy and blessings extended far beyond them.  This got them all riled up.  When they heard this, they were filled with rage. They are outraged because Jesus has erased the line between outsider, and insider.  They did not like what Jesus was saying. They rebelled against Him and sought to throw  him over a cliff.

His sermon gives us a great opportunity to examine our own motivation. We can start by asking ourselves this question,  do we honestly believe that the grace of God is just as free and amazing for those on the outside as it is for the "insiders"? Jesus did not come for just us! He did not come for only the people of Nazareth, nor for just those who are already on the inside track.  Thanks be to GOD, he came for outsiders too. If He hadn't, none of us would be here.

Jesus was run out of his hometown, because the people didn't want the outsiders, Gentiles, foreigners, to receive the grace of God. Yet, Jesus made room for outsiders like us in his family...when we think of it this way, maybe we should make some room for others also. Yes, Jesus loves them, Yes, Jesus loves them, Yes, Jesus loves them.  the BIBLE tells me so! Amen

Pastor Wilma M Dobbins
Clay United Methodist Church
Clay

What a difference "Today" makes!

“Make sure your introduction causes your audience to want to stay tuned for your conclusion!” I can still hear those words coming from my preaching professor's mouth. “If you can just come up with a good opening, then the rest will follow,” were the words of another minister offering advice. Many sermons begin with stories or jokes. My professor insisted that we never tell a joke, period! Sometimes the preacher will just retell the story in the passage and lead into the sermon hoping the audience will follow along until the end. Gaining the undivided attention of the audience is critical, yet at times so difficult.

Jesus began his first sermon, according to Luke, with the words; “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21b) Jesus had the attention of everyone as Luke tells us, “the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.” (v. 20) They paid attention, and they loved this guy! They were amazed at what he had to say and how he said it. Jesus was like the brand new preacher just beginning a new appointment. All is well...but, Jesus must hold the record of shortest period of time between appointments. Jesus' problem was...he should have quit while he was ahead. He kept preaching.

Jesus said a lot in this passage. To his listeners he said too much. But, I would suggest that his opening statement alone spoke volumes. Jesus began with an important word... “Today.” I find it interesting that while Jesus' first sermon in Luke's gospel began with the word “today,” so did his last sermon. While Jesus was dying on the cross he said to the dying thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 43b) Think of the hope Jesus is bringing to “Today.” To the dying thief on the cross paradise was no longer something to dream about, it was to be a reality “today.” For Jesus' audience in the text the scriptures of old were being fulfilled “today.”

When does God act? Is God like me, often putting off until tomorrow what could be done today? I don't think so. In fact, I believe the Bible teaches us to live each day as a gift given to us, not just so we can “eat, drink, and be merry.” No! We are to approach each day as being the day in which to encounter God once again. The question, however is...how ready are we to encounter God? Jesus' hearers loved what they heard up to a point. They loved the idea of the scriptures being fulfilled, but... Today, people seemingly long for the coming of the Lord, because they are often saying to me, “The Lord is coming soon!” I wonder...why are so many eager for the Lord's return? Why can't we learn to be present with the Lord who is with us today?

I love the story of the exodus. You may recall that in that story Moses was sent to deliver the children of Israel from Pharaoh and Egypt. The story involved a series of plagues that came upon the Egyptians, including frogs. Frogs were everywhere! Pharaoh pleaded for Moses to get rid of the frogs. Moses asked Pharaoh, “When would you like for me to get rid of the frogs?” (Ex. 8:9, paraphrased) Astonishingly, Pharaoh answered, “Tomorrow.” Yes, we often want God to come to us and do for us, and...but when? Jesus said, “Today I have come to...”

Rev. Rick Swearengin
Madison UMC
Madison

The Good News

I’ve always wanted a mic drop moment...you know, the kind of moment that resonates so deeply and fully with my congregation that I can simply drop the mic and walk off the stage. In my mind Luke 4 always seems like Jesus’ mix drop moment. Jesus has the crowd transfixed and they’re ready to hear what he has to say. Jesus doesn’t elaborate on what it means but instead reminds people that he is the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy that announces good news (maybe even the best news!) and will be freely offered. 

I can only imagine that the listeners who have heard Jesus bold claim of being the fulfillment of the prophecy looking for some action to back up the words that Jesus has just spoken.  But instead of demonstrating the the power that Jesus claims to have he simply states that his power will be used in a surprising way…to include the outsiders.  The power that Jesus has to offer cannot be contained or limited to Israel alone.  The power and healing that Jesus can bring is offered freely to those who we think should be on outside.  This surprises the people so much that they start to rebel, and somehow, Jesus miraculously makes his exit.

The question that continues to come back to me then is this…how is our church living as a conduit of this very good news to the world around us?  Dr Doug Powe is the Director of the Lewis Center at Wesley Theological Seminary and he asks whether the church is a swamp, a reservoir or a canal.  A swamp church is dead and dying.  Nothing is flowing in, nothing is flowing out.  A reservoir church has fresh water but holds it mainly for itself.  A canal church has a stream of fresh water that flows forth and connects the church to the community. 

Jesus’ preaching here clearly points to a canal kind of situation where the Good News cannot be contained but instead deeply connects the outsider.  How are the churches we serve living and sharing the Good News, not simply keeping it inside our walls?

Rev. Matt Johnson
Suncrest UMC
Morgantown