Monday, February 1

Sermon 4th Sunday Ordinary Time, After Epiphany

Bellow is the outline of the Sermon I preached January 31, 2010. It is not the sermon I preached, and perhaps represents as much what I was still wrestling with as I entered the pulpit. I think my sermon as preached had more or less had two foci: Moving our identifying with Jesus to identifying with the people of Nazareth, so we could hear Jesus' word's directed at us. 2) Reading Paul on Love in light of the story of Jesus at Nazareth, emphasizing in away not found in the outline that this Love that Paul talks about is God, and not something we can work up in ourselves or on our own. I think the conclusion was more or less the same, encouraging us to accept the liberation of being dispossessed, even of ourselves, by Love. This is the Gospel and liberation. LEK

Jeremiah 1:4-10 - Psalm 71:1-6 - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 - Luke 4:21-30
Dispossessed by Love
I) Introduction coming home and coming out
a) What perhaps strikes us first about this story, what strikes me is, that this story (that spans these two weeks), is a story of the difficulty of coming home and asserting one’s identity. Even the pain of coming out to family and the rejection that can follow.
b) All of us probably have stories of leaving and then coming home changed and presenting this new self. The pain and the rejection may very from story to story but it is a common story in our culture. (Fish out of Water, and coming out in the midst of religious hostility against being gay, bisexual, transgender Queer) Though what is a stake also varies depending on the degree that self is acceptable or in conjunction with family societal expectations.
c) But what if this isn’t about Jesus coming home and asserting his identity as Messiah, or at least prophet. What if we aren’t standing with Jesus in this story but with the people of Nazareth?
d) What if this story isn’t about us, but about God who comes and disrupts what we think is our own - our own identity, our ownership? Even if that identity and what is proper to us was won with a great deal of pain and struggle for liberation. What if this story dispossesses not only those people of Nazareth but we who seek to own ourselves, our beliefs our identities? What if this dispossession is the Gospel, the Good news?
II) The story in its context
a) Lets back up- From the side of the people of Nazareth isn’t Jesus being just a little harsh?
b) Crossan and patronage in the ancient world, and the phrase “Is this not Joseph’s Son?”
c) It is likely there was an expectation that Jesus should stay in Nazareth as prophet and miracle worker and messiah, to the benefit and under the control of his village and clan.
d) Jesus is then saying that they do not and cannot own him or the work of God, this is proclamation and the kingdom of God is not for their benefit.
e) The anger of those of Nazareth is that Jesus words dispossesses them of what is rightfully theirs, and thus of himself and of the Kingdom of God.
f) They were Israelites, people of God, surely they had ownership of these good things, and the messiah was one of their own, surely this should come back to them. Jesus said no, the kingdom of God dispossess all of everything.
III) Jesus says God decides where and to whom a prophet goes, no one owns a prophet of God, except God.
a) The proclamation of the Day of the Lords favor, of release to the captives, sight to the blind, is an invitation to be dispossessed by love.
b) This day of the Lord’s favor is the Jubilee, the 50th year in which the economy is in retrograde; everything reverts: If your father or grandfather bought land, that land was to return to the family who originally owned it. Captives, those who were indentured because of debt were freed and released from their debts; it assumes that systems of economy even ones more or less ordered by God, would devolve into situations of injustice. Ownership is put into question, and it asserts God is the only one who owns.
c) Jesus confronts our attempts to possess even our own identities. So that we may be open to true freedom, to the liberation that comes not from knowing who we are and owning our identities but by accepting that we are loved and being possessed by that love that will set us free from all economies of ownership, even that of our identity.
IV Love as dispossession
a) Paul, moves from gifts and the nature of the body of Christ to the essence of it all –love. Not romantic love, but a love that is in fact quite beyond us.
b) Love is patient… does not seek its own way…. If we have love what else do we have – nothing.
c) Love the Love of God, asks us to hold nothing in remainder, to save nothing, to retain nothing of our own, but to surrender all to Love.
d) We own nothing not knowledge, not our faith, all we have is Love which is impossible to possess, who of us can claim to have hold of this Love Paul says that without it we are nothing. We could have everything, but we have nothing without Love. And if we have Love there is nothing else, we have let go of everything, even our own way, what is rightfully our identity, our way of being.
e) Love dispossesses us of all we seek to hold onto so tightly. Only in this dispossession is there true freedom, actual liberation.
IV) In accepting the love that liberates we find we own nothing.
a) Nazareth thought because they were the people of God and of Jesus’ clan that they had ownership of what God was doing, and that they should retain exclusive rights to the coming Kingdom.
b) Jesus says their identity is meaningless. The kingdom of God the Day of Jubilee of the Lords favor sets free and is good news because there is nothing to own, it disrupts any sense of ownership or identity. It Breaks the bonds, heals all blindness and lameness, and enriches the poor precisely because it is the activity of Love, this self-giving of God to alls. Here is liberation and distribution of goods.
c) Not because it takes from some and gives to others, but because it dispossesses everyone, that they may be possessed by Love, by God.
d) God is this love, God is patient, kind, God does not seek God’s own way, but the freedom of all, God endures all things…
e) And God did so most visibly and clearly in Jesus Christ.
f) We are not to identify with and own Christ, but we are to be possessed by this love and be released from all those things we grasp after, all our possessions, they are released in love to God, and God sends and distributes to whom and to where God wills. This is the freedom of love.
g) If we seek to posses ourselves, or all faith and knowledge, we will find that we have nothing unless we find that we in love possesses nothing not even ourselves or our faith: Through this dispossession we find we have in Christ all things through a love that is not our own, but which has taken hold of our hearts and minds and selves, so that all we may become in the life of the Spirit is this all encompassing self-giving love, that owns nothing and yet has everything.