Thursday, September 10, 2015

We don't always get the Messiah we want; Luke 4:16-30; sermon for Sept 13, 2015

Rev. George Miller
Sept 13, 2015
Luke 4:16-30

(this is a character sermon)

Sometimes we don’t get the Messiah we want; we get the Messiah we need.

Let me tell you our story- 13 years ago I was working, anywhere I could: the vineyards, the olive groves, the marketplace.

Hard work, long work, honest work.

Like nearly everyone else in our small rural town, I wasn’t too happy with how things were. Over taxed, under foreign rule.

Surrounded by pig-eating, uncircumcised, non-Jews with no respect for God or God’s Laws.

6 days I work, sweating in the sun, breaking my back in the field. But when the sun goes down Friday night…

…aaah- Sabbath. Rest, play, family, a glass of wine, a delicious meal.

Saturday morning we’d go to the synagogue to get away from it all. To praise God our Creator, hear a word of hope, and be reminded that hard times don’t last always.

One of the local boys had come back from spending time in the big city- Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter, a decent, hard-working guy just like the rest of us.

Jesus has proven himself to be smart and quick, thinks on his feet and is a powerful speaker.

It’s his day to teach and he opens up the scroll and reads a passage from Isaiah. It’s a passage written hundreds of years ago. It addresses a difficult time in our history.

A time when the foreign enemy came in, attacked us, burned our homes and businesses to the ground, and kidnapped our people, taking them far, far away.

The passage Jesus read contained a promise, a promise by God that we, the Jews, would experience:

-good news to the poor
-release from whatever holds us down
-sight to the blind
-freedom to the persecuted
-a time of great favor and restoration.

It was a passage we knew all too well; a passage we all loved because it reminded us that we had not been forgotten by God, that we were still the chosen people, God’s elected ones.

Then Jesus rolled up the scroll and boldly said “Today the scripture has been fulfilled.”

We were amazed. We whooped it up. We hollered. We cheered.

We knew what Jesus was saying- that he was the one we’d been waiting for. That he was to be our Messiah.

For far too long we had been waiting for someone to come and save us. For far too long we were waiting for someone who was going to:

-vanquish our enemies
-seek vengeance for all the wrong that we have endured
-to verily crush the bodies and souls of the Gentile terrorists.

When Jesus read the words of Isaiah and said “Today the scripture has been fulfilled” we knew our time had come.

No more threats from foreigners, no more worries about non-believers forcing their beliefs upon us, no more fools breaking all of God’s rules.

In Jesus we had our Messiah!

…and then, just like that, Kapooya! Jesus turned the tables on his.

He reminded us of the time God sent Elijah to feed a starving widow in Sidon.

He reminded us of the time God sent Elisha to heal Namaan, the Syrian soldier.

These are stories we all know, but not stories we are pleased with. In fact, some folk, like me, find them offensive.

The widow in Sidon was a foreigner and a non-believer. She was not one of us, yet God offered her healing and care.

The soldier was Syrian, our sworn enemy, a terrorist. Yet God offered him healing in the waters of the Jordan.

We did not like be reminded of the audacity of God to heal and care for the stranger and the enemy.

What Jesus was implying was in essence that he had indeed come to be the Messiah and to bring the Good News.

But he was to bring the Good News not just to us, the Jews, but to all people.

Even women. Even foreigners. Even non-believers. Even to our sworn enemies.

That angered us to no end. We rose to attack him; to throw him from the highest cliff.

To kill him, to silence his voice, to shut out his light.

But he escaped. He went from town to town. He continued to provoke. He continued to rock the boat.

He continued to cast out demons. To stand up against religious authorities. To offer healing to all.

Jesus spoke not about the current kingdom, but about God’s Kingdom, brazenly challenging the Roman rule.

Eventually, and rightfully so, they finally caught him and crucified him, in the place Jesus belonged, between two criminals- an enemy of the state.

Some Messiah!

…but 3 days later, something strange began to happen. People began to report seeing him. People claimed to have meals in which they experienced his presence.

Those who had followed him continued to behave as if Jesus was still alive. They continued to share his teachings and to do as he taught.

They continued to give alms to the poor, to greet one another as brother and sister, to carry on the healing and caring of the sick, all in his name.

That wasn’t all. His followers took his example and found their own way to stand up to injustice, to question religious authority that seemed to only silence or shame others.

They challenged the way things were. They shared meals, became less materialistic, seemed less scared and became braver.

In other words, his followers were acting as if Jesus was still alive and that the Kingdom of God had indeed broken into our world.

They were made up of Jews, Gentiles, men, women, old, young, white collar, blue collar, local born and out of state.

All coming together proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and that he was resurrected.

Funny thing is- for a group of trouble makers, they were indeed doing their part to make our part of the world a better place…

…Sometimes we don’t get the Messiah we want, we get the Messiah we need.

It has taken the Resurrection for us to understand that.

13 years has passed since Jesus spoke up so provocatively in the synagogue. He spoke of-

-good news to the poor
-release from whatever holds us down
-sight to the blind
-freedom to the persecuted
-a time of great favor and restoration.

In his message, and following the events of the Resurrection, we have indeed discovered a new freedom, a new kingdom, and a new way to be.

A way that goes beyond politics, a way that goes beyond taxes, a way that goes beyond fear and discrimination, a way that goes beyond hate and hypocrisy.

In Jesus Christ, we have discovered our new identity. In Christ, we are Christians.

Followers of Jesus, Son of God.

Followers in the way that is truly free.

Amen and amen.

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