3/3/19 – Well, that sermon didn’t go over so well.

Posted on : Feb 28th, 2019 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Many years ago, I heard a young, spirit-filled, fiery, Latin preacher give one of the best sermons that I have ever heard on white privilege and Christian compassion for immigrants.  This was back in the days when immigration was a really, really hot topic in Southern California!   Ruben was the pastor of a small, immigrant, Spanish-language congregation here in Hollywood.  The ministry was the brainchild of a very prestigious, white, “establishment” Church here in Hollywood.  Most of his congregants were probably undocumented, something the host church was probably not aware of.  In telling his people’s story, he was slain in the spirit, which is the polite way of saying he was “telling it like it is.”  I was loving it, but I could feel the tension rising in the Sanctuary.  His passion and compassion were not being received in the way that I am sure he intended or had hoped.  As he reached the end of his sermon, I was afraid all hell was about to break lose.  He was preaching to mostly white, establishment, pastors and lay leaders.  In the most authentic, loving way he could, Ruben simply concluded his sermon with these words: “I don’t want to hurt any one’s feelings, but this is the Word of our God.  Amen.”

I’ve often thought that’s how every preacher should end their sermon! I don’t want to hurt any one’s feelings, but….This is the Word of our God!

Jesus had one of those moment when it would have been smart to end his sermon with those words.  Clearly, his sermon didn’t go over so well.

The last six weeks we’ve looked at six self-affirmations that Jesus proclaimed after reading from the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit of God is upon me,
     Because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
     God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
     To bind up the brokenhearted
     To bring recovery of sight to the blind,

     To let the oppressed go free,

To proclaim the year of God’s favor.”

At the conclusion of this rabbinical teaching, Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Everyone was amazed at his brilliance and spiritual insight.  They felt God was close to them.  But then Jesus continued.  He pushed them a little harder about their lack of faith and assumed place of privilege in the commonwealth of God.  The worshippers turned on him.  They got up, drove Jesus 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 Jesus passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Well, that sermon didn’t go over so well!  It happens to the best of us, including yours truly!  But, even Jesus?  Believe it or not, that’s reassuring to all of us preacher types!  My professor of preaching at Princeton Seminary used to say, “If you have a choice between preaching heresy or orthodoxy, always choose heresy.  You’ll be much closer to the truth.”  That advice has worked pretty well for me!  But if I ever get in that space where I feel I’m about to be run out of town on a rail, I think I’ll try Ruben’s proclamation:  “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but this is the word of our God!”

Blessings,

Dan

Luke 4: 16-30

When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of God is upon me,
    because God has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of God’s favor.”

And Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 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 hometown 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 hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up 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 Jesus 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.

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