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Minnesota Episcopal
Environmental
Stewardship
Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Lectionary Reflection

Year C, Epiphany 4
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Readings
Episcopal Standard Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary

Luke 4: 21-32 [Standard] and Luke 4: 21-30 [RCL]

[Begin Both] Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers* in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. [End RCL]

He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. [End Standard]

 

Reflection on Luke 4: 21-32
by John G. Gibbs, PhD

According to Luke, Jesus' mission carries out what the expected Messiah was to do. (Matthew 11:4-5 agrees.) Jesus aligned himself with the prophetic movement when he claimed: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

Fred Craddock remarks that "in Luke's Gospel, the first public word of Jesus as an adult, apart from reading Scripture, is 'today.' …Those changes [which we observed last Sunday in Luke 4:14-20] for the poor and the wronged and the oppressed will occur today. This is the beginning of jubilee. The time of God is today…" (Craddock, Luke in the Interpretation commentary series, John Knox Press, 1990; p. 62)

Jesus' comments on the Isaiah text were at first received as "gracious words." That is, they were so received until their full import sank in. The "righteous man" in the Judaism of Jesus' day would, of course, do those things Isaiah attributed to the Spirit of the Lord's influence in human affairs. The synagogue in Nazareth had no problem with that.

However, the radical inclusion of foreigners beyond the confines of "God's People" (narrowly defined as only themselves) filled the synagogue "with rage." It's ok; in fact, it is mandated for us to take care of our own. Some even say "charity begins at home." The Elijah and Elisha tradition, on the other hand, knew the wide scope of "the Lord's favor," and acted on that certainty. Charity must not end at home.

Trajectories no doubt flow in many directions from this inclusive gospel. One of the gospel's trajectories is toward care of creation and support for those who have been damaged (some even to the point of death) by our misuse of God's gifts in the creation. The gospel of God's favor does not change when it goes through the church doors out into the world.

The gospel's integrity is at stake when Church meets world. The same inclusiveness and care for outcasts that persists within the holy community characterizes that community's life in the world among all creatures on planet earth. At stake is the persistence of God's creative and re-creative grace everywhere, especially insofar as we in church and synagogue are called to give it "actionable" expression.

Finally notice this, which Craddock pungently states: "…Jesus does not go elsewhere because he is rejected; he is rejected because he goes elsewhere" (p. 64). The Nazareth rejection foreshadows the rejection at Golgotha, and the obstacles that the Church has faced ever since. The refusal to face the facts of climate change stands in that unholy tradition of opposition to God's purpose to maintain the creation in its "goodness."

Printable version

To Reflections on other Readings for Year C, Epiphany 4

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal)
Lectionary
Revised Common
Lectionary
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Psalm
Psalm 71: 1-17
Psalm 71:1-6
New Testament Lesson
1 Corinthians 14:12b-20
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Gospel

Luke 4: 21-32
(this page)

Luke 4: 21-30
(this page)

John Gibbs, PhD. a retired theologian, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he originally wrote this reflection in 2010. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:


MEESC
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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This page last updated 2013-01-28.

 

 
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