No Nationalities, No Boundaries, No Boarders

posted Feb 1, 2016, 10:43 AM by Saint Andrew   [ updated Feb 1, 2016, 10:59 AM ]

Epiphany IV, Luke 4.21-30, I Corinthians 13.1-13

This homily was preached extemporaneously  

Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima once said, “Love in reality is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”  All the lessons today illustrate that: Jeremiah’s prophetic call to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and the plant; Paul’s reflection on love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Our gospel story today gives us a core Christian paradigm: proclamation, crucifixion, resurrection.  Jesus proclaims the truth, the people try to kill him, Jesus passes through their rage and violence.

Today we hear the second half of this story from Luke – the harder part.

Last week we were told Jesus was in Nazareth, went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, opened the scroll of Isaiah to read, “The Spirit of the Lord in upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…”  All eyes in the Synagogue were fixed on him.  All spoke well of him.  It was a transfiguration moment.  It was as if the people thought Jesus was speaking as if they were special.  And then the shift occurs.  Far from being special, Jesus reminds them that no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  He reminds them of the prophet Elijah who could help none of his own people in the time of famine except a foreign widow from Sidon.  Jesus reminds them of the prophet Elisha who could not heal any of his own people stricken with leprosy, but only Naaman, a soldier of the enemy army.  (It would be like Jesus coming to the U.S. in the midst of a flu pandemic and the only ones receptive to his healing are Muslim immigrants.)

The reality is harsh and dreadful: prophets are called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. 

Jesus reminds the people of Nazareth that God blesses foreigners, even those they consider their enemies; that God’s love and mercy is not reserved just for them.  The people are enraged.

But you know things haven’t changed much.  When we speak up for foreigners today, when we speak on behalf of refugees or Muslims or immigrants people will call us unpatriotic, even subversive.

Humans have a tendency to draw lines, to shut others out, to shun the other.  But God doesn’t.  God’s love and mercy knows no nationalities, no boundaries, no boarders.

This is radical stuff.  It’s likely to get you killed.

Prophets speak the truth and are often on the receiving end of hatred, violence and outrage.  After 9/11 Denise Yarbrough, a UCC pastor, coauthored an op ed article with a local Muslim imam calling for peace in the middle east.  Yarbrough was shocked by the hate mail she received excoriating her for working with a Muslim, calling her stupid or deluded for thinking Muslims are human beings.  But this kind of rage is not uncommon.  The people of Nazareth were so enraged by the truth Jesus spoke that they tried to kill him.

I think this gospel story warns us that every time we ignore the other or refuse to accept people different from us or people we think unacceptable we are trying to kill the Risen Christ in our midst.

Every time we fail l to be conscientious of the needs of our neighbors, considerate of the needs of the whole human race we push Jesus dangerously near the cliff.

 Jesus calls us to be followers not admirers.

We are the Church.  We are the body of Christ in our world now.  We are called to carry on Jesus’ prophetic ministry in how we live, how we vote, how we engage with our neighbor.

When we fail this calling God doesn’t punish us, God does not reject us; he simply passes through the midst of us and go away.  God will leave us and go on to where he is heard.

God will simply leave us.

If we want to be followers of Jesus and not merely admirers we need to take an honest look at ourselves.

Jesus wants for us

faith that speaks the truth,

hope that does not disappoint,

love that bears all things.


                                                                                                            M. Phillips +