Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The revolutionary call of Jesus to us is to act with power and authority to bring God's love to the world.

Fourth Sunday in Course 2014

The Courage to Be Astonished

When I consider the words of the Holy Gospel today, I wonder if any of us can really understand the feelings that overwhelmed the Jews who heard Jesus preaching on this day nearly two thousand years ago. It’s a bit like going to church, Sunday after Sunday, all your life, and hearing some preacher read the lessons and then tell you that Father Mike once said that we should respect the authority of the leaders. Then a new pastor comes in and reads and tells you that bishop Jim once said we should respect the authority of the leaders. Then today this new guy you’ve never heard about comes in and says that He is the one the Bible is talking about, that the religious leaders are all bogus, that you should all do as He says if you want to be close to God. Then he wraps it up by laying hands on a bunch of sick people and all of them are instantly cured.

Just imagine that. And then imagine how you would feel when this revolutionary finished his talk. Faced with the potential overthrow of all your life-long religious beliefs, maybe you’d want to join the mob at Nazareth who wanted to run Him out of town and throw Him off the top of a cliff.

We are not tempted to do that, but that’s only because by the grace of God, we, or one of our ancestors, heard what Jesus said and repented of sin and accepted the graces of baptism and confirmation and the Eucharist, and started your family on a journey of faith that brought you here today. We are the children of the revolutionary reform that Jesus began two millennia ago. We are the offspring of the Love of God for the world.

In first-century synagogues, Jewish teachers would read or listen to the Scriptures, mostly the first five books of the Old Testament, and then preach. But when they preached, they did so like good scribes, good scholars of the Law. There were various opinions about Torah. In commenting on the eighth commandment, for instance, and the question about whether one should tell an ugly bride that she looks lovely, “rabbi Shammai said it was wrong to lie, and Hillel said that all brides are beautiful on their wedding day.” With respect to divorce, rabbi “Shammai held that a man may only divorce his wife for a serious transgression, but Hillel allowed divorce for even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal.”

Then here comes rabbi Jeshuah ben Ioseph who says that in the beginning, God created man and woman and the man should cleave to his wife and the two become one flesh and so divorcing one’s wife for any reason other than invalidity is a major injustice. He doesn’t footnote some older rabbi–His reference citation is the word of God in Genesis. In fact, He never quotes Hillel or Shammai or Gamaliel, only His Father in heaven. That is revolutionary. That makes people feel terribly uncomfortable, especially the other rabbis and scribes. That got this rabbi murdered. Tortured, executed as a criminal, dead, buried, but not for good, because this rabbi was divine. This rabbi cited God because He knew God the Father as only God the Son could.

This rabbi preached with exousia, with authoritative power. His hearers knew what He said was true because His words not only stirred their hearts with love of God, they also wrought miracles–driving out demons, curing paralytics, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and even raising the dead. To many of his listeners, He was proving Himself to be the prophet predicted centuries before by Moses. To those who allowed themselves after the Resurrection to be filled with His Spirit–the Holy Spirit–He was the God- man whom they would follow and preach and imitate all the way to death.

The Gospel of Luke is the Gospel of the Holy Spirit; we’ll hear that Gospel during our next liturgical year. But Luke wrote in two parts. In the first part, He wrote about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, up to His ascension into heaven. In the second part, which we call the Acts of the Apostles, He takes the mission of Jesus to the ends of the know world. His disciples, especially Peter and Paul, do the same things Jesus did, and they preach and heal with authoritative power all over the Mediterranean. What Jesus did, and what the apostles did, is also what we must do. We are the Church in today’s world. We have been given the mission and authority to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to San Antonio and beyond. There are people out there who will never know Jesus Christ, who will never know the Father’s loving embrace, without you.

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