Last Sunday's sermon focused on the "Prophet in the Hometown" passage from Luke's gospel (Luke 4:21-32). Although that phrase has long been familiar in the old adage: "No one is a prophet in his or her hometown," I found new meaning in the passage upon further study and reflection. The heart of the passage, for many Christians, is the radical inclusivity and universality of God's kingdom.
Here's the story: Jesus is participating in worship at the synagogue in Nazareth, and reads the Scripture passage from Isaiah (Isaiah 61.1-2, 58.6):
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me;
he has sent me to announce good news to the poor,
to proclaim release for prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind;
to let the broken victims go free;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Jesus then tells the hometown crowd: "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." They are fine with this; they will have a hometown prophet and all the honor and healing that go along with that. They marvel at how well he speaks. But then Jesus infuriates them by saying they are going to have to share him; he will not be confining his ministry to Nazareth.
Jesus recounts to them times when prophets before him, namely Elijah and Elisha, went to people outside their own country and healed and helped them. Well, Jesus's townpeople are fit to be tied when they hear that Jesus hasn't come just for them. They get ready to run him off a cliff. But Jesus escapes their clutches and goes on to the next town, next task, wherever he is going on to. Luke says " He was going on." This passage foreshadows both crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus will end his life a prophet without honor in either his hometown or country. But God's love for all of us could not be killed, and is going on.
God refuses to turn his back on the poor, oppressed, and disenfranchised -- no matter their nationality race, gender, or other identifier. The gospel calls us to see the inclusivity of God's grace - always a stretch for our imagination. We want to pigeonhole and mete out God's grace, to have a corner on God. But Jesus came for all. In a stratified, hierarchical, divisive world this message of radical inclusivity is stunning, or ought to stun us. The truths of inclusivity and equality, for which many have fought and died, are truths our world is often loathe to hear. Some of its messengers have lost their lives in the struggle to express the enormity of God's universal love for all. Yet that love is going on.
At Reconciler we're called to embrace the universality of God's reconciling grace and express it across denominational boundaries. We're called to reach out to others in that spirit, building up the Kingdom.
Our conversation after the sermon focused mostly on inclusive language, a topic of some interest at Reconciler. Some of the questions around this topic are: if God loves, and extends grace to all, why must the language of the church be so androcentric (male-centered?) Why use exclusively male pronouns for God and Holy Spirit? Doesn't God have some female qualities within God? Or, isn't God beyond gender? Must we always say "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" to refer to the Trinity or can we say "Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer" or other formulas? What does it mean to use entirely masculine language in church, when in most churches a significant majority of the active members are female? What are the pastoral, theological, epistemological, and linguistic implications?
It was a rich discussion. Larry Kamphausen has posted some thoughts on his blog: http://priestlygoth.blogspot.com and I plan to post there are well. What are your thoughts? Let us know.
In Bible Study we have been talking about how to speak TO God, as opposed to how to speak ABOUT God. Eugene Peterson's book on praying the psalms has sparked some lively disussion. Please join us on Wednesday nights for Bible Study, or Sunday nights for worship. You are welcome!
An Epiphany blessing:
"May Christ, the Son of God, be manifest in you, that your lives may be a light to the world; and the blessing of God be among you and remain with you always." (Episcopal Book of Occasional Services)
Bible Study: On January 9th we began our new Bible study on Praying the Psalms. This Bible Study will run through the season of Epiphany and conclude during Lent. We are reading Eugene Peterson's book Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. Bible Study meets Wednesdays at 7:30 in the chapel at Immanuel. For this coming Wednesday, February 5, we are reading Chapter 5. These are short chapters and it's a little book, so it's not hard to catch up. Feel free to join in even if you have missed previous sessions. At 7:00, there is a half-hour evening prayer service in the Immanuel sanctuary that is a good complement to our Bible Study. Treat yourself to some quiet time and good conversation.
Church Council Meetings are the 2nd Monday of each month. We meet at the "Nidge" (the parsonage) at 7:30 p.m. This month's meeting will be held Monday, February 12.
Please let us know by SUNDAY if you are interested in a retreat: either a weekend retreat at Three Rivers, Michigan (a Benedictine monastery) or a day-long retreat to a Benedictine community in Chicago. Also let us know which dates are best for you. We have been discussing the weekends of February 22-23 and March 3-4, but may need to go back to the proverbial drawing board if those dates don't work for people.
MYSPACE Site: We have a new Myspace site which is accessible at www.myspace.com/christreconciler
I hope you are experiencing the light of Christ in the darkness of February! Despite the Bears game and falling temperatures, we do plan to meet for worship at our usual time, 6:00 Sunday. (Go Bears!)
May the peace of the Lord be always with you,
The Reverend Laura Gottardi-Littell
for the Pastoral Team