Summary: We all make promises that seem to slip by before we can keep them. This sermon touches on this subject.
Reverend Thomas F. Bracewell, OSL
We have all made promises that we fully intended to keep that for some reason either beyond our power or within our power we did not. Sometimes there is a feeling of embarrassment in this situation and sometimes there is just an internal ho-hum, but there is always some sort of reaction.
When we promise to mow the lawn and forget, there is a simple ho-hum as there might be when we promise to pick up cat food at the grocery store and forget. But when we forget that promise made to remember flowers for a wedding anniversary or birthday of someone close to us that is a different situation entirely.
How many of us here today have meant to fill up the car with gas and find out that all of a sudden the low fuel light is blinking. Many of us can remember when there was no low fuel light on the car, only a gauge that was often more wrong than right. As a young preacher on rural circuits I only had to run out of fuel one time before learning to keep a full gasoline can in the trunk. It may not have been all that safe but it sure beat walking up to a strange house in the dark of night wondering if you were about to get bitten by a dog or shot by the homeowner while trying to get some help. I promised myself not to ever let THAT happen!
I don’t know about you, but I turn the television to another channel when the current crops of Presidential candidates come on with the promises they are making. They are all calling to make changes when they are elected that any rational person knows any one politician can never make without Congress and the Senate. All the poor will be clothed and fed, all will have a roof over their heads, and all children will be educated and so on and so on. It is what people want to hear in promises because it is “good news.”
I have friends that do not like to watch local news programs or the national news because they only want to hear news that is not shocking. On the back of your bulletin today there is the example for this Third Sunday after the Epiphany that is titled “Christ’s Shocking Gospel.” That writing goes on to say that this Gospel is no less radical today. Our two Scriptures from the lectionary today give us some understanding: one from First Corinthians 12:12-27 and the other from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 4: 14-21.
You remember that in last week’s lesson Jesus told his audience, in a one sentence sermon, that he had come to fulfill the scripture from Isaiah which prophesied that the messiah would proclaim good news to the poor, release to those who were captive, sight to those who were blind and freedom to those who were oppressed. That all sounded like really good news to those gathered for worship that day. It sounded like Jesus was talking directly to them. They had been slaves in Egypt. They were now suffering under the hard hand of a foreign Roman government. They were being discriminated against for their Christian faith. Now Jesus had surely come to set them free. And they were ready.
But just as they were beginning to feel really good about this hometown boy, and his message, Jesus began to interpret a little further the message he wanted them to hear. And by the time he finished, his own people wanted to throw him over a cliff. What went wrong in such a short few moments? What turned the adoring crowd into an angry mob? The answer is simple. Jesus had worked miracles in Capernaum, a town not far from Nazareth that was looked down on by the people of his hometown. Lots of Gentiles lived there, and as a result, it was considered to be pagan territory, full of worthless foreigners. The people of Nazareth had great expectations. Surely if Jesus worked miracles among the heathen Gentiles in Capernaum, he would work even greater miracles at home among the faithful.
But it was not to be. Rather than declaring his intention of working great miracles in their midst, Jesus declared that prophets are never accepted in their home towns. Then he told them two familiar stories from scripture.
The first story was about Elijah. There had been a famine in the land as the result of a three-year drought. God sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. He found her in a pitiful state. She had a young son, and the famine had ruined them. She had only a handful of meal and a tiny bit of oil left to prepare one final meal for herself and her son. Then the cupboard would be bare. When Elijah found her, he asked for something to eat. She explained her situation to him and offered her sympathy while refusing his request. Elijah told her not to be afraid. He assured her that if she would do as he said, and have faith in God who would provide for her and her child until such time as the drought was ended. The widow did as Elijah had asked, and God’s promise came to pass.