January 31, 2016
I don’t want to hear that!
Call to Worship
Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled”
And the people were filled with wonder
Jesus came for all the people
Insiders and outsiders all are acceptable
Who is this prophet?
He is our very own
Let us listen, and learn and believe.
Lord Jesus, you come into our lives and you tell us the truth about whom we are. Some truth is painful, but with out truth, there can be no genuine love. We assume that our goals are your goals, even when we love our own success and comfort more than you kingdom. We are sometimes jealous when you bless other people, instead of reserving your blessings for us. When we love ourselves more than we love you, please forgive us, gracious god and show us how to love you and others the way that we should. Amen.
Jeremiah 1: 4-10
Luke 4: 21-30
UMH # 578 – God of Grace and God of Power
UMH # 444 – O Young and Fearless Prophet, verses 1,3,5
UMH # 593 – Here I Am, Lord
Last week we saw the hometown crowd in the synagogue in Jerusalem sit in rapt attention as they listened to Jesus’ gracious words: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Then Jesus told them what that really meant and they were ready to kill him. They actually stormed him and nearly drove him off a cliff to a bloody death. Why? Because the “gracious words” Jesus had to say were the opposite of what they wanted to hear. Those who were becoming beneficiaries of his good news were actually the poor, the physically blind, actual prisoners, people facing all kinds of oppression, even enemies and people of little or no faith. It was people like a Lebanese widow or a Syrian general. This grace was for people they hate, and for people who perhaps actively hated them.
The people in the synagogue had heard of the miracles that Jesus had done in Capernaum and among the gentiles, of all people. Surely the very people of God, the children of Abraham, also deserved a display of power and miracles. Jesus declares that is not the case. Suddenly they go from being the chosen insiders to the un-chosen outsiders.
If Jesus had just read the scripture and sat down he would have continued being Nazareth’s favorite son. If he had assured them that he was there to solve all of their problems he would have been their hero, but that just isn’t who Jesus was. What Jesus was trying to tell the people in the synagogue was that his saving grace wasn’t just for them, and potentially that this grace was intended for people they didn’t like. He was here to change things.
This is not the narrative that they had expected from the “would be” Messiah. But what would you expect, he is just a local boy. Jesus was not surprised about this criticism. You can come home and be a hero if you do what people expect of you, or you can come home and be criticized if you don’t fulfill hometown expectations. Jesus was present for his people, but he needed them to understand that the message was much bigger than just for them. So they expressed their disappointment in anger and fear.
It is hard to be the bearer of news that people don’t want to hear. I have had numerous people really mean it when they say, just don’t tell me, I don’t what to know. They would rather not understand something if it is going to make them feel uncomfortable. We experienced not wanting to hear the bad news ……and we want to put our fingers in our ears and say la,la,la,la. That might work for a while but usually it is not a permanent situation.
On Tuesday I shared some difficult news. I told the Administrative Council that will be moving to a new church this July. This was a very difficult decision. It is hard to move away from you, because you are the most wonderful congregation I have ever served. I am moving because I need to be closer to my kids, colleagues, and support systems. I have requested to be within an hour of a major airport so that I can visit Matt and Kate and they can visit me. If I could just get CUMC to move closer to DIA!
We receive difficult news almost daily. Illness, accidents, marriage problems, addiction problems. These are a part of our lives, just as much as all the good news we receive. We receive, we respond.
Difficult news affects us in different ways. Some people react in anger and fear, some want to solve the issues as quickly as possible. Some people just let the news settle in and then decide how to react.
The Jewish people that Jesus was speaking to reacted with fear and anger when they realized that big changes were coming. They had hoped that Jesus was going to come to solve all political and social economic problems that they were living with. Jesus was planning to do that, but in a way that was not what they were expecting.
Jesus has told them that he has come to bring about the new kingdom but that it is going to include people that these devote Jews don’t really like. This was a hard message. Yet we know from 2000 years later, it was the most important message!
Know one purposely desires change if its not going to bring about something better. We don’t want to suffer the anxiety and difficulties of change if its not really important. Jesus came to reveal the message of a new way of living in the world, of living with God, which is still evolving today. Change tests our faith but can also push us into a deeper level of belief and practice.
Jesus was asking people to have faith in what was going to happen and he also had faith in them. His reaction was one of calm assurance. How difficult it is to have calm assurance when what we want to yell out is I don’t want to hear that. Yet that is what Jesus did, he didn’t argue, or fight he just made his way out and away. He allowed them to feel what they were feeling.
When we take the time and have the courage to really examine what we are hearing we can begin to process it in the light of what is most important, which is our faith. It is our faith that enables us to see the possibilities, the hope that might be present in even the most unpleasant news.
Jesus knew that it was going to take time for people to process what was about to happen, so he allowed that. He did not tell them that their reactions were wrong and what he was saying was right. I am sure that he knew some people would understand his reasoning and some would not.
When we react or decide too quickly we tend to create duality. We create a right or wrong mindset. Jesus is right the people in the synagogue are wrong. Quick judgment makes greater understanding difficult. Right wrong, good bad, strong, weak, designations stop our discerning process and do not allow us to see the bigger picture, or understand the greater purpose.
Richard Rohr has written entire books about this duality thinking and how harmful it is for greater spiritual growth. Greater spiritual growth opens up possibilities for us, gives us hope and broadens our conception of who God is and how we might be in relationship with God.
Richard Rohr describes non-dual thinking as “our ability to read reality in a way that is not judgmental, in a way that is not exclusionary of the part that we don’t understand. When you don’t split everything up according to what you like and what you don’t like, you leave the moment open, you let it be what it is in itself, and you let it speak to you. Reality is not totally one, but it is not totally two, either! Stay with that necessary dilemma, and it can make you wise.”That is what Jesus practiced when he challenged peoples ideas concerning who he was and how God is.
And, Jesus came to this synagogue with serious agenda, last week I called it an action plan. He did not come to simply share, he came to direct to release, and restore. However he did allow people to find their own way of responding to this agenda and to him. He wasn’t concerned with his own popularity or acceptance.
Israel’s messianic hope had always anticipated the end of oppression, injustice and exploitation. However Jesus introduces a radial element to a limited faith perspective, he is offing a broadening of horizons. This hope is no longer simple fascinating consoling and comforting but explosive. As we see in the crowds reaction. This might be another message for us to examine when we make our faith and discipleship something that is too quiet, comforting and personal.
Change is a dynamic that is most unsettling and is usually resisted in preference for the old, the familiar and the routine. We must not allow our resistance to hearing this radical message of Jesus stem from the fear of change or of a message we would prefer not to hear.
Let us approach all news, all announcements all agendas with non-dual thinking looking through our lenses of faith. We don’t really want faith that is luke warm, safe, and quiet enough for us to sleep through Sunday services do we? So let us has courage to hear the tough stuff of Jesus message as well as the tough stuff of our lives today.
Jesus had a difficult message for the people in the synagogue. From our perspective 2000 years later we realize that this difficult message changed the world forever! From 2000 years later we also realize that we still need to hear this message, because not all has come to fruition. So let us always have the courage to listen to the difficult and to have the faith to be a part of the change. Amen.