Saturday, 2 February 2013

Compelled to serve

Luke 4:21-30
Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 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?” 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. ’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 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; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 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. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

1Corinthians 13
The Gift of Love
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

One of the most refreshing things I discovered about being called to minister in Ayr, was the move to a different Presbytery. After 21 years service in the area in which I'd grown up, done my training and taken my first two charges, it was refreshing to serve where folk didn't know my family, hadn't seen me grow up, hadnt "kent my faither" as they say.
It was good to no longer be constantly compared with my brothers or sister, to be told - You're so like your dad, or - your gran would be so proud of you.

Today, our gospel reading follows on from last weeks, where Jesus set out his manifesto - using the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus made it clear that he had come to preach good news, to bring healing and release and proclaimed: today you see this scripture coming true in your midst.
Although his words were challenging, they were also exciting and reassuring. And, it seems, they were received perhaps with some nodding of heads, with some indulgent smiles - for here was a local boy made good.
So why did it all turn ugly. Why did Jesus then have to escape from a crowd wanting to lynch him?
What went wrong was that Jesus wasn't seeking their approval or their indulgence.
Jesus wanted to challenge them to understand the meaning of his words and the mission he was about.
That wasn't a mission that would affirm and encourage them in their ways as they imagined.
It was a mission that would make them question everything they did, their motives and their actions - and turn everything on its head.
Jesus wanted them to see that it wasn't enough to nod their approval or encouragement.
What was also important was that they listened to his words - words not of comfort but of challenge.
Words that were meant to be taken seriously.
Words that would change a way of life.
Jesus was like any preacher in any church after Sunday worship who is told, after preaching: nice sermon.
Sermons are not meant to be nice.
They are meant to confront and challenge, to get folk thinking, to encourage change.
Gods word does not simply encourage us in our walk but stirs us up to act differently.
The folk in the synagogue that day were there to hear Joseph's boy confirm that they were the chosen ones on whom Gods favour rested.
Jesus was there to challenge that perception and to blow it out of the water.
You think you are the chosen ones?
Well, let me tell you...
Jesus wasn't interested in their approval of him as a local boy "done good".
He was concerned that their indulgence of him as one of their own closed their ears to the real message that he was trying to preach.
Familiarity breeds contempt.
That was what was going on.
And Jesus wasn't slow to name it.
And that's why he made himself unpopular.
So,Jesus was one of them - that didn't mean that they were exempt from the demands of the gospel.
We in the church, week by week, often think of ourselves as "the good folk".
There is the notion that the minister is "preaching to the converted".
And we bemoan the fact that there are not more folk here who really need to hear the gospel, those who really need to change their ways.
It is from us that Jesus walks away in disgust today.
We who have become immune to the challenge and the demands of the gospel.
We who think we have made it.
That we are the chosen ones.
We are chosen, but perhaps not in the way we imagine.
We are chosen to upset those surrounding us today by proclaiming and living out the gospel that Jesus preached and lived.
God calls us to serve in a whole new way in our world today.
God calls us to be changed and to bring change.

So let's imagine for a moment this morning what might compel us to change?
What might convince us that Jesus challenge is for us?
That we haven't got it all right.
That there is room and the will for change.
How would we do that?
Where would we begin?
How can we follow that radical manifesto of Jesus?
How can we bring good news to the poor, proclaim release for captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed? How can we proclaim the year of the Lords favour?
Having heard that good news, how can we live out that good news?
Last week, each of us took away a part of that manifesto - as a reminder of our call to be involved in Gods mission.
How do we live out those gospel imperatives?
Jesus tells us as he told the people in his local synagogue - "today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing"
Not because we have it all together.
Not because we are the chosen ones.
But because we know the love of God for us.
And that love compels us to share with others.
Because we know ourselves loved, warts and all, we are motivated to spread that love around.
Here in this place are people known to God, inside out.
Here in this place are people loved by God, inside out.
Here in this place, the year of the Lords favour continues to be proclaimed.
Here in this place are people living out Jesus manifesto in their everyday lives.
Experiencing and sharing the amazing love of God.
Touched by Gods grace and love, we cannot help but ensure that others are touched too by that amazing grace and love.

The apostle Paul, who wrote that wonderful love poem that is 1 Corinthians 13, once persecuted Christians.
He travelled long distances to round up and bring to trial those who had been convicted by Jesus teaching.
Then, on those travels, he himself encountered the love of God - and found himself turned upside down.
When Gods love touched him, he could do no other than serve the living, loving God he had encountered.
We've become quite familiar with this reading, this love poem from 1 Corinthians.
It's used often at weddings and at funerals.
But, today, we want to place it back in its context.
It was written as part of Paul's teaching of what life could be like when we live together as a Christian community.
It comes hard on the heels of Paul's encouragement that we act as one body,using all the different gifts that we have been given, cemented together by love.
Back to that knowing ourselves loved, we cannot help but live in love.
That means that we take ourselves out of here to serve others.
It means that we risk the rejection of those around us.
Because we can do no other.
We are claimed by the love of God.
And compelled to respond in love.
Today this scripture is being fulfilled.
Thanks be to God.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Terri said...

i love this Liz, thanks for sharing it!