The storied accounts of Scripture are there to challenge us, transform us, and shock us at times. However, we have become so acquainted with Scripture that we rarely have such encounters, me included. I’m not necessarily talking about a writhing moment of crying out at the top of our lungs in repentance, though that surely might be needed at times.
But many of these biblical accounts have lost their punch.
Knowing this, I like to re-tell stories at times. I’ve done this before with the Good Samaritan, so I want to do it again.
This time, I’ll play off the words of Jesus found in Luke 4:24-29. In particular, this follows Jesus’ proclamation of the promise of Isaiah 61 – the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, he is anointed (messiah-ed) to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, liberation the oppressed, to proclaim God’s year of favor. And he’s going to see this through.
Following those words, Jesus drops a small bomb amongst the Jewish people. Upon hearing that old promise of the Hebrew Scriptures, we can be fairly certain the Jews were thinking of themselves and themselves alone. “Yes, God’s going to bless us and free us. It’s time!” But Jesus reminds them about two particular instances of God’s blessings being passed not to Israel of old, but to Gentile people, the unclean. He reminds them of the widow of Zarephath and Naaman, the Syrian.
It was a shocker! It was disturbing!
But because we aren’t so bothered by this, let’s retell this for our own setting:
“I assure you that no messenger of truth is welcome in his own home city. And I can ensure you there were many stockholders in the church of America in my days, when the stock market declined greatly for three and a half years, and there was a great depression over all the land. Yet the money forfeited was returned to none of them, but rather funds were given to a Muslim community in Los Angeles. And there were many sick in the church of America in my time, yet none of them were healed except Tomas, a gay man.” When they heard this, all the people in the church gathering were filled with rage. They got up, forced the messenger of truth up to the top of a sky scraper, and then brought him to the edge of this 20-story building so that they could throw him off.”
This hits home a little more, perhaps a lot more. Imagine the blessings of God being given not to those we expect (like us), but to those we would never expect, those we might even despise. That’s how it flows – to the poor in spirit, the mourners, the desperate. And those who already enjoy the gifts of God (like us), we are given such to share with those who have not, who are desperate. This disturbs us just a little.
Thank you God for your deep love for Muslims and gays and liberals and whoever else we, as the church, can so easily despise and push away.