Archive for the ‘Rejection at Nazareth’ Tag

Devotion for October 15, 16, and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Pieter_Bruegel_d._Ä._030

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIII:  Loyalty and Identity

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2019

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2019

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 13:1-18 (October 15–Protestant Versification)

Deuteronomy 13:2-19 (October 15–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 22-23; 14:28-15:15 (October 16)

Deuteronomy 15:19-16:22 (October 17)

Psalm 123 (Morning–October 15)

Psalm 15 (Morning–October 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–October 17)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–October 15)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–October 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–October 17)

Matthew 13:1-23 (October 15)

Matthew 13:24-43 (October 16)

Matthew 13:44-58 (October 17)

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Here is a summary of the contents of Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22:

  1. Execute any false prophet or dream-diviner.  (13:1-6/2-7)
  2. Execute anyone who entices another person to commit idolatry.  (13:6-11/7-12)
  3. Execute the inhabitants of idolatrous towns, burn those towns, and destroy all spoil.  Do not rebuild at any of those sites.  (13:12-18/13-19)
  4. Avoid mourning rituals associated with pagan peoples.  (14:1-2)
  5. Eat only ritually clean foods.  (14:3-21)
  6. Pay a tenth of your crops and livestock to God.  (14:22-26)
  7. Provide for the needy and the Levites.  (14:27-29)
  8. Provide debts and free slaves every seventh year.  (15:1-18)
  9. Sacrifice all male firstlings born into your flock to God, assuming that it is a proper physical specimen.  (15:19-23)
  10. Keep a detailed festival calendar and the accompanying instructions.  (16:1-17)
  11. Appoint magistrates who will govern honestly and justly, taking no bribes.  (16:18-20)
  12. Erect no posts, as in honor to Astarte.  (16:21-22)

I have mixed feelings about that material.  On one hand, I approve of the social justice imperative parts of it.  I find even the acceptance of any form of slavery offensive and the command to execute people intolerable.  I know that one theme of the Law of Moses is absolute loyalty to God, so idolatry equaled treason, but some commands seem barbaric to me.  So far as dietary laws are concerned, I note that I have never cared about them.  Proper refrigeration negates some health concerns, as does thorough cooking.  One analysis of the forbidden list says that those animals did not fit nearly into certain categories.  Assuming that the analysis is correct, what was the problem?  Besides, I like to eat ham and intend to continue to do so.

In Matthew 13 we read a series of mostly agricultural parables:  the sower and the seed, the darnel and the mustard seed, the treasure in the field, the merchant and the pearls, and the fish of mixed quality.  And, at the end of the chapter, people in Nazareth lack faith him.  Perhaps they know too much to realize even more.

From those parables I glean certain lessons:

  1. One should remain focused on God, not allowing anything or anyone to function as a distraction.
  2. The good and the bad will grow up together and come mixed together.  God will sort everything into the correct categories at the right time.  That task does not fall to us, mere mortals.
  3. Nothing is more important than seeking, finding, and keeping the Kingdom of God.

I detect much thematic overlap between that material and Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22, with the notable absence of commands about when to execute or destroy.  Yes, Matthew is more riveting reading than Deuteronomy.

I read the Law of Moses as a Gentile, specifically an Episcopalian who grew up a United Methodist.  The Law was like a household servant who raised children, St. Paul the Apostle tells us.  Now that Christ has arrived on the scene, I have only two commandments, not over 600.  So, as long as I am growing via grace into loving God fully and my neighbor as myself, that ham sandwich should not bother my conscience.  And I refuse to execute anyone, for I serve an executed and resurrected Lord and Savior.  To him I am loyal.  In him, not a law code, do I find my identity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITIAN OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITYN OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP; AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-xiii-loyalty-and-identity/

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Week of Proper 17: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  View of Nazareth (1842), by David Roberts

The Jesus Who Offends

SEPTEMBER 3, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

As for me, brothers, when I came to you, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed.  During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ.  Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great “fear and trembling” and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the spirit.  And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

Psalm 119:97-104 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

97  Oh, how I love your law!

all the day long it is in my mind.

98  Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies,

and it is always with me.

99  I have more understanding than all my teachers,

for your decrees are my study.

100  I am wiser than the elders,

because I observe your commandments.

101  I restrain my feet from every evil way,

that I may keep your word.

102  I do not shrink from your judgments,

because you yourself have taught me.

103  How sweet are your words to my taste!

they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.

104  Through your commandments I gain understanding;

therefore I hate every lying way.

Luke 4:16-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,

for he has anointed me.

He has sent me bring the good news to the poor,

to proclaim liberty to the captives

and to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.

And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Feast of Saint James of Jerusalem, Bishop and Martyr (October 23):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-james-of-jerusalem-bishop-and-martyr-october-23/

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With this post the Canadian Anglican lectionary leaves the Gospel of Matthew behind, for, if we continue in that book, we will commence the Passion Narrative.  This is Ordinary Time, not the latter part of Lent.  So we begin readings from Luke, another commendable book.  The rejection of Jesus at Nazareth is set at the beginning of his ministry, shortly after the temptation in the wilderness.

It begins well.  Jesus enters the synagogue and reads from Isaiah 61.  Then he announces that the people assembled are witnesses of the fulfillment of that text.  So far, so good.  As verse 22 tells us,

…he won the approval of all.

Yet the approval had a short lifespan.  Some began to murmur; how could Joseph’s boy say such a thing?  Who did he think he was?  Even worse, from a certain point of view, Jesus proceeded to speak kindly of Gentiles.  As we read in verse 28,

…everyone in the synagogue was enraged.

Okay, there is probably some hyperbole here.  It is possible that not everyone approved of Jesus or then became enraged.  One or two people (at least) might have stood out from the crowd.  Yet Jesus did face rejection.

The audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile, so it is no accident that, of the three versions of this story (the others being Mathew 13:54-58 and Mark 6:1-6), this is the only one to include the Gentile element.  Its inclusion here testified to the inclusion of faithful Gentiles among God’s redeemed people, a fact which proved quite contentious in the early decades of the Jesus movement.  Our Lord’s brother, St. James of Jerusalem, who became a martyr circa 62 C.E., stirred up much controversy by insisting that Gentile converts to Christianity not have to become Jews first.  He died for this.

We read in 1 Corinthians that the Christian message is about Jesus–not any Apostle or evangelist–and that  it

should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

That power of God encompasses Jews and Gentiles, those who agree with us and those who disagree with us, those we like and those we dislike, heterosexuals and homosexuals, the native-born and the foreign-born.  If that offends us, we need to examine ourselves spiritually.

Have we, who have grown up immersed in Christianity, become so familiar with one overly simplistic, manageable understanding of Jesus that the full reality of our Lord and Savior offends some of our sensibilities?  I am convinced that the Jesus of my childhood Sunday School classes in rural southern Georgia was a domesticated fiction.  The actual Jesus was much more interesting–and even offensive.  That is my Jesus–a Messiah worth following and a character worthy of the title “Savior.”

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/the-jesus-who-offends/

Proper 9, Year B   16 comments

Above:  St. Joseph’s Church, Nazareth, Israel

Rejecting and Insulting Prophets

The Sunday Closest to July 6

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 8, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said,

Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord said to me:

O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.

And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me,

Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 6:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said,

Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them,

Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.

And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them,

Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

 The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 9, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

2 Samuel 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/week-of-3-epiphany-monday-year-2/

2 Corinthians 12:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/week-of-proper-6-saturday-year-1/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

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We read from 2 Samuel about David victorious.  His rival, Saul’s son Ishbaal dead, David became sole monarch in Israel and made Jerusalem the seat of his power.  The rebellion ended with the rebel leader leading the nation.

That, alas, is the happiest of the readings for this Sunday.  In Ezekiel 2, for example, God commissioned Ezekiel to be a prophet yet warns him that the people have a rebellious past.  But at least they will know that a prophet has been among them.  Jesus, a prophet and more than a prophet, was among the residents of his hometown when they rejected him.  They even raised questions about his paternity and Mary’s sexual history.  Later in the lesson, Jesus sent out his Apostles on a preaching mission with instructions to, among other things, simply leave places where they faced rejection.  This advice reflected what he did at Nazareth.

We read in the Gospels that Jesus moved away from Nazareth and settled in Capernaum.  Maybe one reason for this relocation was to get away such rumors in so small a place.  Jesus was, after all, fully human as well as fully divine.  We like to focus on the fully divine side, do we not?  But may we not minimize or ignore the fully human aspect.  Such rumors (certainly not recent in relation to the events of the Gospel story) and rejection had to hurt him emotionally.  Who wants to hear malicious rumors about one’s parents?  (Joseph did raise Jesus.  That, for me, makes Joseph our Lord’s father in the way which matters most.)

Paul, in his famous excerpt from 2 Corinthians, reported (evasively at first) about a mystical experience.  This is a somewhat amusing reading; I like how Paul began by writing of a man he knew then admitted that he was that man.  Whatever he saw and heard, and whatever caused it, it made quite an impression on him.  But, he wrote, he came away from it with an unidentified affliction.  “A thorn in my side” is the standard English translation from the original Greek.  J. B. Phillips (1972), however, refers to a “stabbing pain.”  Whatever it was, it prevented Paul from becoming too elated.

Yet, Paul learned, divine grace is sufficient and made perfect in weakness, or, as J. B. Phillips (1972) renders one line, “where there is weakness, [God’s] power is shown more completely.”  That power is always present, as is the grace, in some measure.  Yet we notice God’s grace more easily when we are in weakened states.  I know this fact well from experience; you, O reader, might also know it from experience.

The bottom line is this:  Independence and self-reliance, as spiritual values, are false gods and illusions.  To pursue them is to chase after empty shadows and to commit idolatry.  Everyone depends on the grace and power of God.  Prophets have walked among us.  Do we recognize them? Prophets might even have grown up among us.  Do we recognize them, or do we reject and insult them?  How we respond to God and the prophets of God informs how God responds to us.  May God show mercy, as is the divine prerogative.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/rejecting-and-insulting-prophets/

Week of Proper 17: Monday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Graveyard and Church

Image in the Public Domain

Death Has No Dominion

SEPTEMBER 2, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus:  God will bring them with him.  We can tell you this from the Lord’s own teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord’s coming will not have any advantage over those who have died.  At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to rise, then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air.  So we shall stay with the Lord for ever.  With such thoughts as these you should comfort one another.

Psalm 96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.

2 Sing to the LORD and bless his Name;

proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations

and his wonders among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

5 As for the gods of the nations, they are but idols;

but it is the LORD who made the heavens.

6 Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence!

Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

8 Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

9 Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  “The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Luke 4:16-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,

for he has anointed me.

He has sent me bring the good news to the poor,

to proclaim liberty to the captives

and to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”  And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”  And he went on, “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.  There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.”

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

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The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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The spirit of the Lord Yahweh has been given to me,

for Yahweh has anointed me.

He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,

to bind up hearts that are broken;

to proclaim liberty to captives,

freedom to those in prison;

to proclaim a year of favour from Yahweh,

a day of vengeance for our God,

to comfort all those who mourn and to give them

for ashes a garland;

for mourning robe the oil of gladness,

for despondency, praise.

–Isaiah 61:1-3a (The Jerusalem Bible)

The story of our Lord and Savior’s rejection in his hometown appears in all three synoptic gospels.  In Mark and Matthew, however, the rejection is immediate.  (Follow the links in “Some Related Posts” to read those texts.)  But Jesus finds immediate adulation in the Lukan account.  Only after he keeps talking about the extension of grace to Gentiles does he face rejection.

None of this bothers me, for I am not a Biblical literalist.  In these devotions I read the accounts in their literary context, not as a great, unified harmony of the gospels.  Minor differences exist among parallel readings, but so be it.  I have my eyes on more important matters.

With this post I follow the Canadian Anglican lectionary into the Gospel of Luke.  The story before this reading is simple:  Mary becomes pregnant.  So does her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.  Both women give birth.  Prophecies unfold.  Shepherds visit shortly after the birth of Jesus.  At age 12, Jesus astounds scholars of the Scriptures at the Jerusalem Temple.  Jesus grows up, and eighteen years pass.  John the Baptist announces the coming of the Messiah, baptizes Jesus, and speaks out against the tetrarch Herod, who sends John to prison.  Jesus then goes into the wilderness, passes the test of temptations, and begins to preach, to much acclaim.

So we come to this day’s reading from Luke.  The quote from Isaiah 61 matches one of the central concerns of the Lukan Gospel:  God’s care for the poor.  And let us remember another theme of the book:  The Jews are the chosen people, but God calls Gentiles, too.

Now, for 1 Thessalonians…

You and I, O reader, have an advantage that the Thessalonian Christians of circa 50-51 C.E. lacked.  We have the benefits of subsequent history and theological development.  Christian theology was in its infancy during the time of Paul.  A common expectation among followers of Jesus at the time was that the Lord would return very soon.  But people who had come to faith in Christ began to die.  There was some concern in the Thessalonian church that the deceased believers would be a great disadvantage upon the Second Coming.  This is where history comes in:  Those alive at the time of the writing of 1 Thessalonians died without seeing the Second Coming either.

Paul assured the members of the Thessalonian church that nobody who trusted in Jesus, whether he or she have a pulse or not, was at a disadvantage.  Death did not break the relationship of faith.  Those who have predeceased us are still alive in God.

And, as Luke reminds us, those who can come to this faith include Gentiles.  So God places no obstacles–not even death–in the way of a continued faith life.  Neither race nor ethnicity nor cultural background nor death have dominion.  Jesus came to preach a liberating message, the best news of all.  It is for you, and it is for me.  And Jesus keeps his promises.  Deo gratias!

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/death-has-no-dominion/