Friday, January 29, 2016

The Rest of the Story

I have wondered, on occasion, about why those-who-organized- lectionary chose to divide the gospel story of Jesus' sermon in Nazareth into two parts, to be read and heard on two separate Sundays.

After all, when a similar story comes up in another lectionary year (in the summer, I believe), we hear the whole thing in one fell swoop.  Jesus goes back to his hometown, preaches a sermon to a crowd who is anticipating Great Things, and it doesn't go well.  We call it "Jesus' Rejection at Nazareth."

But during Epiphany, in Luke's year, we hear the first part of the story, the part where Jesus speaks gracious words, and then, we wait a whole week for the crowd to turn on him.

I have thought, on occasion, that this was clever.  Perhaps it was meant to be sort of suspenseful.  At the end of the gospel reading, Jesus sits down and says, "Today this reading has been fulfilled in your presence."

And?  And?  I mean, it just begs us to answer the question, "What happens next?"

And, like one of those Saturday morning serial dramas, you have to tune in next week, for the whole thing to be resolved, or, more likely, for the plot to thicken even more.

I have thought it clever, what those lectionary-arrangers did, but I wonder if we really feel the anticipation, if we really go through the week wondering, wondering what it means that Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 61, how much more it means than we can imagine.  Isaiah 61 is not about Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior (and I mean no disrespect to those of you who believe that he is)  Isaiah 61 is about a more cosmic savior than that, one who is not just setting you right with God, but is setting the world right.  The whole world.  Jesus is canceling debt, giving sight to the blind, abundance to the poor.

Starting with us.  That's what the people of Nazareth were thinking.  The Year of the Lord's Favor -- starting with us.  We have a week to nurture that anticipation as well.  And then Jesus tells them that he is starting from the outside and the underside.

But it happens in a moment, an eye blink of time.  There is not a whole week between Jesus' gracious words and that moment when they want to throw him off a cliff.  There is just a moment, a moment to get used to Jesus, who is suddenly telling you that he loves your enemy, too, and he means to give her comfort, all the things you long for.

I am not sure any more that it is so clever, waiting a week to hear the rest of the story.  Let it happen in an eye blink, let our anger rise, let us also want to throw him over a cliff.  Let us reject him.

He will walk away, through the crowds.

But know this, in an eye blink, in a moment:  he will walk away, loving us still.  He will walk away to heal, to put bread in empty hands, to tell riddles, to raise the dead.  He will walk away to die and be raised, loving us, loving us still.

The rest of the story.

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