I Bet You Think This Sermon’s About You. Don’t you.
Before reading any further, talk a look at this brief video. You’ve probably already seen it…
Virtual Reality Church -John Crist
The last line of this John Crist’s satire is beautiful! “How can I make Sunday morning even more about me‽”
This morning I woke up to a text message from a colleague at another church sharing his frustrations. One of his parishioners emailed him after church that he needs to step down from running the presentation because he doesn’t like the music. From here on out he will be arriving at the church after the music begins. The kicker? The church just recently hired a new music leader.
Isn’t this the most typical way we make church about us? The music? The glaringly obvious examples are like my friend; people threaten to leave because of music. But we’ve also made Sunday mornings about us in regards to music when different worship times have different music styles.
What about this great line: “I’m just not being fed…” We make Sunday mornings about me and my consumption. Now, I get it. We want strong teaching and application. That’s not wrong. But more often than not “not being fed” is a copout for something else. Usually relational.
As we look at the Gospel section for this Sunday we see that things take a turn for the worst; and quickly!
Last week we had Jesus preach an incredibly short sermon about how Isaiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled. This week we hear the response of the congregation. First they were amazed, asking, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
Then things go downhill. Jesus tells them that he knows what they’re doing. He quotes from 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 5. In the first reference Elijah is cared for by a widow from Sidon, not Israel. Her son becomes ill and “there was no breath left in him.” (1 Kings 17:17) Elijah cries out to God and the son is revived.
In the second reference Naaman is the commander of the army of Aram. It is recorded that the Lord had given victory to Aram. The problem? That victory was over Israel!
The two stories Jesus references tell of God’s favor and provision over those outside of the covenant; even Israel’s enemies! In these stories Israel has forsaken her covenant, is living unfaithfully. The care was given not to Israel, but to the outsider, the foreigner.
The question is, why do things escalate so much? Why does the congregation get so riled up? Why do they try to kill Jesus after he tells them these stories?
D. Mark Davis argues that it all hinges on their question to Jesus about his identity. “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Davis argues that this wasn’t merely a general inquiry, but was a form of control. They were trying to domesticate Jesus. The argument goes like this, “If this is Joseph’s son, what is he going to do here for us? We hear stories of things he’s done elsewhere, but now that he’s home we will be the recipients of his great work!”
The assembly believes that Jesus was given for their own privilege, for their own comfort. Jesus tells them that he comes in the manner of Elijah and Elisha, not with privilege for Israel or Nazareth. Israel is to be a light to the nations. God is on the side of the marginalized, and for Israel to live up to her election she, too, must be on the side of the marginalized! Hence Jesus’ reading from Isaiah.
The Nazarenes wanted it to be about them. Jesus says that they should be about others. The Nazarenes were stuck in a binary “us or them” frame of mind. Jesus tells them it’s not “us or them” it is “us for them.”
So, preacher, are you willing to be thrown out? Because I’m guessing many of us lead congregations that would much rather have Jesus affirm their comfortable lives. Can you preach the message of Christ; that he came not for our own privilege but that we might reflect his light to those we might overlook? You know, the poor, the captive, the disabled, the abused, and those the system keeps in perpetual economic turmoil?
What if this whole thing isn’t about our comfort, but our sharing the light of Christ with them? After all, it is Epiphany.  http://leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-rough-and-tumble-reception.html#comment-form.