Text Luke 4: 21-30
Title: Those who have ears, hear
I was driving in this morning and I heard a Valentines Day radio spot - callers were asked to call in with information about what their spouses used to do, but now don't do.... this was segment was called something like "Reality stinks, Love is beautiful". I guess we might call this the real world view. That is probably why we are here - in God's house - because we believe that there is more than that to the equation of life. That is what the Gospel tells us - In Jesus Christ, the order of the world is reversed.
This strange story of Jesus standing before his home synagogue, claiming to be the Messiah, and then inciting the congregation with his attack upon them is about faith and love. It is about us - we are that congregation - this passage is about our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is about wanting the most out of that relationship, but not being willing to enter into it fully. It is about having eyes to see and ears to hear.
When Jesus stood before his home congregation and preached from Isaiah, he said...
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,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (NRSV)
His claim that he was the messiah was overlooked by those who heard in favor of the fact that Joseph's son had grown into a man, and was reading in the synagogue. But it couldn't be overlooked when Jesus started to preach the sermon - Then it hit them - and the message was clear -
Jesus left out an important part of the Is. passage, which ends, "and the day of vengeance for our God." Jesus was clear in his sermon that the messiah had come for all people who could hear his message and not necessarily just to the Israelites. And unfortunately, God couldn't be there for those who wouldn't hear the message, like the hometown folks gathered there that day. No miracles could be performed because miracles required a certain level of faith - an initial expectation that miracles were possible. The crowd's initial response to Jesus pointed clearly to ears that did not hear.... all they saw was Joseph's son, grown up. The crowd's final reaction, trying to drive Jesus off of the cliff, was proof of their unwillingness to listen to Jesus the prophet, Jesus the Messiah.
How is your hearing? Is it selective? Are you willing to hear what Jesus wants you to hear? Are you willing to let Jesus tell you who you are? Both good and bad? If not, what are you afraid of? the truth?
Most of us carry around some relative understanding of the truth - and if I had to be honest I would want to say that most human truth is dependent upon the person who is reflecting the truth. But God's truth is only dependent upon us to hear. Do we have ears to hear?
Most of us only hear what we want to hear - Our selective hearing provides us with selective truth. The truth according to God is not what we are looking for - it could be really painful. I can tell you, it was for me... when one day, I just heard God's voice - in my heart and believe me - it was nothing I ever wanted to hear.... God's truth hurt! Suddenly I was acutely aware of the things that I had done in my life that had been underhanded and manipulative and hurtful. For instance, I could clearly see the pain that I had caused a young man and his family when I had been a part of a plan to encourage him, the pastor of our small Methodist church to resign - it had been done with supposed good intentions - but, yet in the end - on that day I knew exactly how God viewed my behavior.... My ulterior motives became crystal clear and I really hated what I saw. As tears of repentance filled my eyes I knew that I had to apologize - I couldn't repair the damage - but I could try to set right my relationship with God - repentance was the first step of many.
And in the process of this truth telling I realized something I hadn't expected - love. The love that God offered to me. It all went hand in hand. I believed, and with that I could hear - and God's great love wrapped around the judgment that I was inflicting upon myself - the moment was radically tempered with love beyond my wildest imagination. Love - when I thought I should receive condemnation. Love.
Maybe it isn't just coincidence that the Epistle reading for today is
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 remember?
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
In the midst of that moment filled with truth and love, I was liberated from the guilt and the haunting memories - I was set free. a freedom I had never known.
We are that congregation that heard Jesus' message.
Every day we are faced with dilemmas - and. everyday we have the opportunity to hear the truth from God - the truth about ourselves... We know what God expects from us - we do know - do we trust god enough to enter into a relationship that will yield the truth?
We are that congregation - even today - ready to drive Jesus away, afraid to hear the truth about ourselves. But we don't have to be afraid... The reality is love, not condemnation. In Jesus Christ the order of the world is reversed.
This morning we come to the Lord's table... We come to offer ourselves to God, to remember God's great love for us in the gift of Jesus Christ, and to receive all that God intends for us...
Jesus tells us in
Matthew 5:23-24 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (NRSV)
As we come to the table let us prepare to receive these tokens of God's love, the bread and the cup, by approaching God in a silent prayer of reconciliation.
No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no life is so broken that God cannot make it whole. In God's love, you are forgiven. The Reality is Love. Amen.