Sunday, January 31, 2010

Are We Ready for the Good News?

Are we ready to hear the Good News? Do we want to hear what God is saying to us? I ask because in the gospel lesson from Luke the people of Nazareth were at first in awe of Jesus. But that changed after he spoke the words we heard read today. It made them very angry. They didn’t want to hear the truth.

Are we ready to hear the Good News; the Message God has for us today? Jeremiah was called by God to be his prophet and he wasn’t ready. Moses was called by God from the burning bush. He didn’t think he was ready or capable to do what God was calling him to do either. Jonah was another one God called and he didn’t like what God was asking him to do so he went the opposite direction. Now of them were ready to hear what God was saying. Are we ready to hear God’s Message?

To be honest I wasn’t ready for a long time. And to be really honest there are times when God’s Message for me isn’t what I want to hear. Sometimes the Message for us makes us uncomfortable. And sometimes the plain truth is we don’t have the love that Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 13.

That’s one of God’s calls we don’t necessarily like to hear but the other makes us even more uncomfortable. That’s when he speaks to us and we realize that we don’t like what he’s saying or we don’t want to do what he’s telling us to do. In fact if God wasn’t God and so powerful we’d want to kill him for suggesting to us that we do what we know he wants us to do.

Listen to what Jesus said in the meeting place, “Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn't it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian." Now wouldn’t that just about make you want to chew nails?

He told them that God’s grace wasn’t just for them, “the chosen,” it was for everyone, Gentiles and slaves, everyone. And they didn’t like what they heard. They’d been waiting for lifetimes for God’s Messiah to come to them and what Jesus was teaching they weren’t ready to hear.

This hits pretty close to home. At least I can relate to it. I still struggle with taking criticism or news that isn’t anything like what I expected it to be. Maybe it’s a guy thing but I think it’s more a Krueger thing.

It’s not easy to hear that you’re not the one when all along you’ve thought that someday you’d get this great reward because you were first or the best or you put your own words in the blank.

That’s what Jesus was telling his hometown people that day in the meeting place. They weren’t the only ones God was choosing to reward with his love. He was going to grant his grace to their enemies. They heard this and all they saw was red.

Have any of you ever seen a mama sow come tearing through the pasture when she hears one of her little pigs squeal. Let me tell you, you don’t want to be in her path or the one who was making her little pig squeal, because if you are or were you’re going to be shredded. That’s what the townspeople were planning for Jesus, the hometown boy. They were going to put an end to his teaching right then and there.

How would you feel if someone were to come here today and tell that this nation isn’t God’s chosen? What would you do if that same person told you God was sending his blessings to Iraq or Afghanistan or Haiti? What if the message was that we didn’t deserve it? What if the message was that some third world nation was going to receive God’s grace because we hadn’t been keeping God’s law as we should? Or maybe they were being blessed because this nation wasn’t loving God with their whole being or loving their neighbors, all the poor nations in the world, as much as they loved themselves. How would that be received? What if that was the message in the State of the Union speech the other night? Oh boy, can’t you just hear Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric or Brian Williams on the evening news? Everyone would want to throw the speaker off a cliff or something even worse.

So you can imagine why Jesus’ neighbors wanted to toss him off the cliff outside Nazareth. They didn’t want to hear the message he had for them. They were the chosen ones. The Gentiles didn’t deserve God’s blessings even is he had helped some of them before.

Are we any more ready to hear the same message? I don’t think we’re any better than they were. God is telling us to care for the poor, to free the prisoner, to grant those who owe us a jubilee, to forgive their debts. Are we ready to hear the Good News?

It’s not easy to hear that maybe we don’t deserve God’s blessing. It’s not easy to do let go of our prejudices, our paradigms about how we think things should be. In fact for some it’s nigh onto impossible to change our way of thinking.

Friends, that may be the message for us today. Have we been doing what Jesus commissioned us for? Have we been keeping the Great Commandment to love God and neighbor? How have we been doing at being lovingly kind, doing justice, and walking humbly with God? We know what we should be doing but it’s hard to let go of the things that keep us tied so tightly to this world. The world has too strong of a hold on us.

When we hear him say we have to give all or we have to die to our old ways it’s not easy. We have to allow God in so he can change us from the inside out. And that can be rather painful for us, kind of like major surgery.

God’s neighbors didn’t want to hear Jesus’ message of salvation for all people. Are we ready to hear Jesus’ message of Good News?

Friends, God is calling us to serve. He is calling us to be his church and to care for those who are struggling. God has a mission but we may have to sacrifice some of our things so that we are able to do what he’s calling us to do. Are we ready to hear and answer his call?

Friends, pray for God’s grace and compassion to enable all of us to serve him as he wills. Thanks be to God for his amazing grace. Amen.

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