January 5, 2014: That Sermon Didn’t Go Over Well!

Posted on : Jan 2nd, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

What’s an “Epiphany” and why do we need it?  Well, let’s start with the latest messenger of Biblical revelation, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson.  Phil is vying for Pat Robertson’s old slot as the screwiest interpreter of the Bible in the U.S.  He’s part of a group of fine folk who just can’t see the forest for the trees.  When I hear and see these “old boys” quoting the Bible, I’m reminded of the old sayings, “People who believe everything they read in books, shouldn’t read books.”  I would add, that includes the Bible.

Yet again, we’ve had the Bible quoted to condemn homosexuality, to support misogyny, and to justify slavery.  Yes, the Bible has about five verses which, when taken out of context, can be used to degrade gay and lesbian folk, and the entire Bible was written in a period of history and culture which was patriarchal, if not out and out misogynistic, and from Genesis to Philemon, the bible justifies slavery – except when the Israelites themselves were captured and taken as slaves by Pharaoh.  Then slavery wasn’t such a great thing!

Of course, this is not the way the Bible is intended to be read, nor is it the way the Bible is used by most thinking, caring people.  What angers me the most with folks like Brother Phil and his friends is that though they purport male heterosexuality as the highest life-form, they don’t have the testosterone to “man up” to the fact that they are just plain racist, sexist and homophobic.  I have no problem with Brother Phil just manning up and saying, “I’m homophobic.” Or, “I’m a racist.”  Or, “I’m sexist or a misogynist.”  Sadly, the only way they have the courage to do this is to “blame it on the Bible.”

In the UCC (United Church of Christ) we have two phrases that shed a little light on the Bible – and how to read the Bible.  One is our belief that “God is STILL Speaking.”  God did not go silent 2,000 years ago.  God still has a lot more to say!  Our other great insight comes from none other than comedian Gracie Allen.  It is said that before she died, Gracie wrote a letter to her husband, George Burns, which was intended for him to read after her death.  In it she wrote, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.”  It was that quip that inspired the “God is Still Speaking” campaign in the UCC.

So why do we celebrate “Epiphany” this Sunday?  Because Epiphany is the season which reminds us that God is still speaking and we still need to listen and “see the light.”  If we ever get so comfortable with the Bible that we think it supports our own bigotry or personal prejudices, then we’re either reading it wrong or not listening to what God is saying.  The Bible is the most radical, liberating story in the history of the world.  That is so clear in this Sunday’s scripture.  The good folks of Nazareth came to the synagogue on the Sabbath to hear Jesus teach.  They came expecting to be affirmed in what they already believed.

Jesus read the scripture for them (from the prophet Isaiah:)

“The Spirit of God is upon me,
Because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor,
And has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
And recovering of sight to those who are blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the acceptable year of our God.”

But as Jesus taught them, it was clear that this sermon wasn’t going over well.  As Luke so eloquently says,

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.  And they rose up and put Jesus out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down head first. But passing through the midst of them Jesus went away.

Any of us who use the Bible to put down others needs an epiphany – a moment of enlightenment.  That is what we will focus on this Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 4: 16-30

Jesus teaches in the synagogue at Nazareth.

And Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day.  And he stood up to read; and being given the book of the prophet Isaiah, Jesus opened the book and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of God is upon me,
Because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor,
And has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
And recovering of sight to those who are blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the acceptable year of our God.”

And Jesus closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Jesus, who began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  And Jesus said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.’”

And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in the prophet’s own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  And there were many people with leprosy in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.  And they rose up and put Jesus out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down head first.  But passing through the midst of them Jesus went away.

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