One minute he goes from being the beloved hometown boy where everyone is standing around in amazement because he read the scripture…the next minute, he is being run out of town by the very people who stood in amazement just minutes before.
January 30, 2022
Run Out of Town
Pastor Heather McColl
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.
Run Out of Town Luke 4:21-30
There are lots of reasons why I have never preached on this particular text. Even when it comes up in the lectionary cycle every three years, I have avoided this text. And who can blame me right? There it is all spelled out for me, for us…exactly what happens when we speak a Truth that someone, or lots of someone doesn’t like.
Sure we know Jesus made people mad with his teachings. And yes, we know all about those times when Jesus confronted the powers that be…times which eventually lead him to being brought up on false charges and crucified as a criminal. But that’s all within the context of Holy week. We know that story. We expect Jesus to make people angry. We expect him to frustrate the powers that be…Or at least that is what we tell ourselves. How else can we pretty it all up and quickly move to Easter morning?
But this…Jesus hasn’t even really started his ministry yet. We are in chapter 4 of 24. One minute he goes from being the beloved hometown boy where everyone is standing around in amazement because he read the scripture so beautifully in worship and the next minute, he is being run out of town by the very people who stood in amazement just minutes before.
What changed? What changed in the story? What changed for me to feel the need to preach on this story when I have avoided it for all these years?
For me, maybe it is because the silver lining of this pandemic is that it has stripped away all our assumptions about who we are as the Church, about who we are as people of faith and now we are ready to have real, authentic conversations about who God is calling us to, about who the world needs us to be.
Or maybe it is because I am tired…tired of trying to maintain the illusion that everything is fine when in reality it is time to say it doesn’t work anymore…to say that our institutions do not work any more, to say that our systems work too well in keeping people oppressed, to say that we are all tired of trying to maintain the status quo and we are ready for some real transformation.
Or maybe what changed in the story, what changed for me was expectations and perceived privileges as an insider when it came to the Kingdom of God. Maybe what brought about this change is just one short sentence found in verse 22, when the crowd turns to each other and says, ““This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?.
There’s a lot in that short sentence. There is a lot wrapped up in that identity and there is a lot that is missing as well.
Yes Jesus is Joseph’s son but just a few verses before this, we are told that Jesus is God’s Son in Whom God is well pleased. A few chapters before that, the angel tells Mary that she will bear a son and he will be great, that he will be called the Son of the Most High, and that the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, that he will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
Yet, all the crowd sees, all we see when we read this text is someone shaped by our perceptions, formed by our assumptions. All we see is someone who looks like us, who thinks like us, a sweet simple Jesus who will not step out of bounds, who will maintain the status quo, someone who will play by our rules. A sweet simple Jesus that reads the words from the prophet Isaiah to inspire us, to make us feel good in our souls, to give us comfort and hope. All we see when we read this text is a sweet simple Jesus who will stay in his lane and not complicate our lives by asking us to change.
So is it any wonder the crowd ran Jesus out of town when he would not be all that for them?
Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has shown us that the Kingdom of God does not play by our rules, that Jesus did not come to assimilate into the ways of the world, that we don’t get to pick and choose the words of God we will follow and which ones we will ignore. Rather, Luke tells us that Jesus came to bring about the Kingdom of God here on Earth, where the crooked is made straight, and the rough places made smooth, where the rich will be made poor and the poor made rich, where the hungry will be satisfied and the ones with plenty will be sent away empty-handed.
For us as people of faith, the harsh truth that this text brings to us is that it is much easier for us to ignore the good news of the Gospel than to listen, to actually hear and act upon the call to community which it shares with us all because “Our desire for normalcy outweighs the need for change.”
I do not miss the irony that on the Sunday when I am sharing this story about Jesus being run out of town, about Jesus being almost thrown off a cliff for his words which confronted the crowd’s expectations of him, that I have pre-recorded the sermon and am not there in person with you.
That being said, It is my hope for all of us, myself included that by hearing this story within the context of the season of Epiphany, a season which reveals to us who Jesus really is and not just what we assume him to be, that we realize Luke is inviting us to step into the long line of those who are a part of the prophetic tradition, that Luke is calling us to tell the truth about our present reality, that Luke is reminding us that as disciples of Christ, we are to point, to shine the light to where God is in our midst whether, people, or systems or institutions like it or not.
Because when we do that, when we become prophets, when we become instruments of God’s justice and grace, when we become the people God created and calls us to be, people this world needs us to be in all things, for all people and in every situation, we declare “a new world is possible”. Thanks be to God.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, January 20, 2022 – Run Out of Town Luke 4:21-30.