Epiphany 4, Feb. 3, 2019

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Title:Epiphany 4, Feb. 3, 2019

 Epiphany 4, Feb. 3, 2019 (full size gallery)

This week is not only Epiphany 4 but “Souper Bowl Sunday”. We were collecting for the Village Harvest which averages about $140 a month. Last year we collected $175 and we hope to do better this year. 149 million will tune into the Super Bowl game but there are 50 million facing hungry. In our own county 12 people out of 100 are food insecure, without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

It was a Super Sunday wishing our oldest parishioner Millie a happy 95th birthday this week.

It was a Super Sunday enjoying a rare bald eagle in the tree across the street. So majestic!

We had 44 in the service under clearing skies by service time and much warmer temperatures.

We have to remember them at the time of our Potluck Sunday Social which was held this month at the Heimbach’s home. It was a time to recognize all the February birthdays- 14 of them – Helmut Linne von Berg, Katie Davis, Millie Muhly, Dorian Huffman, Elizabeth Heimbach, Clarence Kuntsmann, McKenna Long, Howard Muhly, Marie Duke, Gibby Fannon, Edgar Harper, Virginia Fall, Barbara Wiscome, Mary Ann Betchy.

The luncheon featured Elizabeth’s crab dip, chicken wings, sandwiches, a pea dish , salad, fruit and of course birthday cake at the end. Everyone appreciated the Heimbach’s hospitality.

The lectionary this week reveals the power given us through God’s love and presence.

Catherine’s sermon focused on God’s love

Today’s lessons are all about God’s powerful, amazing, and unbelievable love, and that’s something worth hearing about! God’s love is so powerful that God loves us into being. God knows us even before we are conceived. God consecrates us as beloved children. God lays out our paths through this life—all before we are even born. This love is so amazing that we can’t believe it, much less imagine ourselves living into that close, loving communication with God.

However there is contention in the process – an upset Jeremiah in the Old Testament, a discordant Corinthians community in Paul and finally Nazarenes that didn’t like Jesus message and were ready to cast him off to his death.

Jeremiah protests his call to prophesy, but God commands him to speak boldly. Paul teaches a quarreling community that, while all the spiritual gifts have value, respect and love for each other deeply empower us. Jesus proclaims that the power of his ministry will not be confined to his hometown or even to his faith community.

The Old Testament is Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet according to the typical pattern of the Old Testament: call, hesitation and divine affirmation. Like Moses, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Jeremiah pleads his incapacity to serve as God’s prophet. He claims that he is too young but is overruled. The Lord will put the words of God in Jeremiah’s mouth.

Jeremiah’s job is to stand firm, not to tremble before the hostility of his audience but to speak clearly the judgments of God. God makes no promises about the ease of his mission; in fact, Jeremiah is guaranteed a battle. Nevertheless God’s presence is with Jeremiah, undergirding his obedience with divine strength.

The sermon commented on Jeremiah. “Jeremiah didn’t believe it when God said, “I love you and I’m appointing you to be a prophet to the nations.” “Now hold on,” Jeremiah says. “I’m just a boy.” But God reassures him—“Look, Jeremiah, the fact that you’re a child is no problem, because I will go with you, even through your deepest fears, for I am with you to deliver you. That’s how much I love you. I’ll never, ever leave you!” We matter to God just as much as Jeremiah did. ”

The Epistle from Corinthians sets Paul’s praise of love within the context of the meaning of spiritual gifts. The Corinthians struggled with the value and exercise of spiritual gifts within the community. Greater honor was given to those who possessed the more extraordinary gifts (v. 27).

Paul insists that no spiritual gift, no matter how powerful, is a true measure of a person’s spiritual maturity. Without love, the gifts are worthless. Instead, God’s unmerited love to us and from us to others (in Greek, agape), is the essential gift of divine life and is the necessary context that gives all the spiritual gifts value.

Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth from Luke and the public’s reaction to it foreshadow the meaning of his ministry, its rejection by Israel and the mission to the Gentile world.

The people apparently want Jesus to do for his hometown what he has done elsewhere, perhaps to validate Jesus’ own claim (4:21). He reminds them of other occasions when God directed ministry outside the nation.

As the sermon reminded us, “The people in the synagogue who heard Jesus preach spoke well of him. They thought they would get a special reward from Jesus, being from his hometown. But when Jesus told them that his love was for everyone, even for those who weren’t Jewish, they became enraged and tried to kill him. Their arrogant sense of entitlement got the best of them. ”

Both Elijah and Elisha ministered to pagans when there were plenty of Israelites they could have helped. And Jesus plans to follow in their footsteps! Like the prophets, Jesus speaks to those who will listen, ministers to those who will accept his touch and heals those who believe. He will not allow his mission to be limited by any religious or geographical boundaries.

What is true for Jesus is also true for his followers—there’s the rub. He blasts the walls of our comfortable social circles and denies us the cozy hearths of self-indulgence. He insists on coming to us at the most inopportune times and in the most distressing disguises.

Gospel Commentary by Michael Zarling, Lutheran minister

Jesus’ return to his home synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus is standing up to read from the scroll of Isaiah. The scroll is ornate, with elaborate silver ornaments.

Jesus returned to his home town. The Nazarenes are in awe of Jesus. They have heard about the great miracles Jesus had performed in the surrounding country, and that He preached with authority.

They filled up the synagogue on the Sabbath. During the Divine Service, the hometown boy read from Isaiah 61, a big-time Messianic prophecy! It’s where God promises to send a Savior.

He would be the anointed Messianic preacher of the gospel for the spiritually oppressed, freedom for those under spiritual captivity and spiritual sight for the spiritually blind.

The people were impressed. They liked what Jesus had to say.

But then Jesus preached some specific, brutal, attention-getting Law.

He talked about how they and their ancestors had always been stubborn in their unbelief, deafness and blindness.

Jesus knew they would quote this proverb back to him: “Physician, heal yourself!”

Prove it.

Jesus should prove he is the great Physician of body and soul by healing people at home. In Nazareth – the town he grew up in with his parents and brothers and sisters.

Jesus doesn’t perform a miracle on command at home. Instead, he says,

“Amen I tell you: No prophet is accepted in his hometown. But truly I tell you: There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut for three years and six months, while a great famine came over all the land. Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian.

You would think that Israel would have the inside track on miracles, but that was not the case- these were outsiders, enemies of Israel even.

All those hungry widows and only an outsider gets a miracle. All those lepers and diseased Israelites, and only the enemy gets healed.

Everything went downhill fast after Jesus said this in the synagogue. In fact, that’s what the crowd wanted to do – throw Jesus down a hill, fast. Instead of allowing God’s Word to work, they wanted to kill their Physician.

In The Brow of the Hill Near Nazareth, the painter Tissot portrays the action and outrage of the Nazarenes toward Jesus. Luke records it this way:

All those who were in the synagogue were filled with rage when they heard these things. They got up and drove him out of the town. They led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.

Because Tissot always depicted Jesus in white, we might mistakenly conclude that the man in the middle of the painting is Jesus. But he’s not. Tissot uses this man’s flailing as a contrast to Jesus. This man is waving his arms at a mystified crowd.

Jesus had disappeared from their midst.

St. Luke reports Jesus disappearance very calmly, “But he passed through the middle of them and went on his way” (Luke 4:30).