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January 24_ 2010 Troy_ MI


									January 24, 2010                                            First Presbyterian Church, Troy,MI
3rd Sunday Ordinary Time                                    Rev. Judith McMillan Christensen
Luke 4:14-30

   Jesus Comes Home (Not a Welcome Reception)

Luke 4:14-30

14Then   Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about
him spread through all the surrounding country.    15He   began to teach in their
synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When 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, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the
scroll and found the place where it was written:   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, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And 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. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your
hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from
his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23He 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.’”           24And   he said, “Truly I
tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But 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;        26yet   Elijah was sent to
none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers
in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except
Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.

29They   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. 30But he passed through the
midst of them and went on his way.

Our children have been learning about the scriptures, how they were
first stories heard by listening to families and leaders tell and re-tell
about God and important events. Then, the stories began to be written
on scrolls and kept safely in the worshipping community. And then,
later on around 1450, when the printing press was being used, the
scriptures of the Hebrew people and the Christian community was
printed in German, and later on throughout the world in other
languages. (Gutenberg Bible)

Can you imagine before there was a computer/printer set up that could
print at the click of a button, or before there was a printing press that
could reproduce hundreds of pages of text…before all that there was
what scribes and monks did…can you imagine the work it took to hand
copy the scriptures, letter by letter, word for word, page by careful
page so others could read the bible message?

What if a scribe made a mistake on a scroll? That is a lot of work to

All over the country we print and reproduce bulletins, newsletters and
web pages daily as Christians. And sometimes we get it wrong (even
with spell check) and we make mistakes.

The anger that we read toward Jesus from his home congregation while
he read the scroll was no mistake, they didn’t understand.

We are “insiders” to church lingo, but what if we didn’t understand the
context? Sometimes simple “bulletin bloopers” make us laugh, but
might be at first confusing to others. Listen to a few of these:

*Directions were given at one church for a Christmas Eve service:

     “The pastor will light her candle from the Advent wreath. The
     ushers will light their candles from the pastor’s candle. Then, they
     will turn and light each worshipper in the first pew.”

*We love our sign out front of First Presbyterian Church, and are
thankful for Jerry, who not only communicates wonderful messages to
us, but also to the community who drives by. And this morning,
unbeknownst to me, Jerry placed on the sign “He Who Laughs, Lasts.”
Was that a divine matching with our sermon this morning or what?

On one church community sigh, a church proclaimed proudly:

     “Jesus Saves.”
But across the street at a Safeway Grocery Store, their sign proclaimed:

      “Safeway saves you more!”

*How many of you are excited about college basketball? Or, watching
your own children defend and make plays and work as a team? All that
excitement…crowds, the expectation, seeing teammates defend and
score…it’s great!

One church had a gymnasium and so advertised in their newsletter:

“Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 pm in the
recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.”

*Now, we also know the world needs the church’s prayers and careful
attention to those in disagreement. And here is one for a group dealing
with such issues:

“The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due
to a conflict.”

We try to be good and faithful, just like others before us. But, we make
mistakes. We aren’t always aware of how other our words might sound
confusing at first, or funny. And this is a healthy kind of way to see our
scriptures as well. If you read in the Bible where Abraham took his son
up the mountain because he believed God wanted him to kill and
sacrifice his son (Genesis 22:1-19), this doesn’t mean God endorses
murder, perhaps it means something else. If scripture is to help us grow
and begin a conversation with God, maybe we are to use that story to
talk to God about family violence or abuse. We can ask “Why in the
world would a dad do that?” or “God, what was Abraham thinking?” Or,
a little more humorously, “Gosh, I hope my dad never gets to that

And, if we read something else we don’t get in the Bible, like why
would God save the Israelites and then drown the Egyptians…isn’t that
killing too? Doesn’t God love everyone? Hmm…maybe this is meant for
us to begin talking about our own conflicts and why humans take sides.

In our officer training we were reminded that the Bible was never
meant to be read as an Encyclopedia, as a book for every question you
are seeking an answer for. It is the Word of God…an inspired collection
of books about God’s involvement with God’s people. A people
imperfect, prone to emotional reactions and over-reactions, and people
who changed their minds about what they believed about God along
the way.

In other words, “think for yourselves!” When you enter a church or a
synagogue, or a school, or university, don’t check your brain at the

door! Make sure to use the brain God has given you to consider asking
questions, like “when and why does God get angry?” or “When the
disciples messed up, what did Jesus teach?”

We heard earlier of Jesus’ return to his hometown, where he unrolled a
scroll and read from Isaiah. While we might envision a home
congregation setting out the cake and plates and making a banner for
our Savior, Jesus was not their Savior. He was not welcome there after
reading it. The people felt that Jesus made a mistake as he was reading
it. They got angry. They were confused. They did not appreciate that
their “hometown boy” was calling himself the Anointed One. Later on,
his followers would say he was the Christ, the Messiah, the long
awaited Savior. That he was God with them. But, for those people in his
small hometown, it felt unreasonable, untrue, like Jesus was wrong. It
was as if he had misread the scriptures and made a mistake.

We live in a pluralistic world, and we can learn a lot about Jewish
history and appreciate that not everyone believed the Messiah would
be an individual man. Some Jews believed the Messiah would be a little
more obvious, bringing peace and justice swiftly. And others believed
the Messiah might be a nation, Israel itself, becoming God’s light to all
nations. And so, what we learn is that even way back when, before the
printing press, before internet and Wikipedia gave out information with
the click of a button, people were using their minds and their feelings,
and some just didn’t believe Jesus was who he said he was. And so we
have more than one religion, more than one way of viewing who God is
and what God is doing.

How do we live then, knowing that God called not only Israel to be a
light, but also calls us, the church, to be a light for others?

Did Jesus save the world, or is Jesus still saving the world? And, what
does salvation mean for our work?

Just last week I met with two women from the Troy Interfaith Group.
We are planning the National Day of Prayer service we will host in May.
Part of that conversation led us to consider how we might weave in
prayers of different faith traditions and not just call up an individual
and have them say a prayer, but we will be more inclusive, and partner
faith with faith, prayer with prayer, Hindu with Christian, Jew with
Muslim, child with child as they represent their faith and pray as they
are taught.

I believe we do this as Christians because Jesus said “I have sheep that
are not of this fold” and “I have come that you might have life…” For
me, life means learning about all of God’s creatures and being
respectful that God isn’t in a box, but is the Creator of all. And any view
I might have of God has only been expanded when I have entered into
dialogue with people of other faith traditions.

When Jesus read from Isaiah, he was reading it with an eye toward
where God was calling him, and we know not everyone followed his
path. Living in Troy, we have a great opportunity to get out and meet
neighbors of different beliefs. If church is a sanctuary, then let it be a
sanctuary where dialogue and understanding can help us change and

One example of some confusion that is leading to what we hope is
positive change, it that there is a mega-church who stated publicly on
their web site that they had a mission to India to convert Hindus to
Christianity. That was their main purpose in going. But, after entering
into dialogue with a local Hindu woman, they have since revised that
statement. I’m not sure where dialogue will lead them, but for me, it is
interesting that changes are happening because of face to face

If we continue to focus on the needs Jesus calls us to, instead of
wanting to make people “more like us,” how much more might we be
faithful in God’s eyes?

Church is meant to be a place where we reconcile and forgive. It is not a
place to divide or promote prejudice; it is a place where your own
wounds serve in healing, and even strengthening others for their
journey through life, pain, loss and back to joy again. This is church-
work, life-giving and saving work. But it needs to be God-centered and
not “me-centered.”

I have asked our Confirmation Class to promise to THINK for themselves
and consider not only the wide range of Christian beliefs, but the wide
range of religious beliefs in the world which can help us to clarify our
own struggles with defining the “Trinity” or passages which claim Jesus
is the “Savior of the World” and not just Christians. Jesus claimed for
himself from Third Isaiah that he was the one to whom scripture points
to…and he was the one to bring good news to the poor.

I am still learning about who God is calling us to be. About who God is
calling us to serve. God is not seeking perfection, God is seeking our

I might as well repeat that one:

God is not seeking perfection from us! Nor does God want us to make
everyone like us. Jesus was content to meet a soul, heal them, bless

them and send them out on their way, not with a particular creed in
hand, but with faith!

God wants us to be devoted and faithful, placing ourselves into
community to learn and grow, especially with people who are different
from ourselves.

Jesus hometown did not want him around. They did not want diversity
or change. They wanted to wait and be at peace in their own similar

But we follow a Savior who invited into his circle diverse people who
did not agree but who were curious about God. We follow Jesus, who
interpreted Isaiah with a look toward the future, when the poor would
hear some good news for a change; when those in captivity would be
released. And who are the poor? They are everywhere, not just in Haiti
or Sudan or Guatemala. They are in Chicago and the UP and Detroit.
And who are the captives? They are not just in prison, but they are the
ones in homes where kids are depressed and self-medicate with alcohol
and drugs. Jesus continues to save the world where people are feeling
isolated; lost, broken and forgotten…the work of Jesus did not stop two
thousand years ago.

The church might not be the social networking place it was in the
1950’s, nor the place of activism in the 1960’s and 70’s…and so what
defines the church today? What motivates us to be the church, active in
the world, caring for those who Jesus came to help free?

In our “Brief Statement of Faith” we have direction:

In a broken and fearful world
 the Spirit gives us courage
  to pray without ceasing,
  to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
  to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
  to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
  and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

If we feel called to aid Haitians in recovery efforts now; if we feel called
to work with others for justice, freedom and peace, then doing so
means working alongside of those with voices from different faiths,
even as we choose to follow Christ.



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