My grandsons have each had their imaginations sparked by all manner of superheroes over the years, the world encourages this too, super power puppies, superman, spiderman, wonder woman, 4 leaf clovers, spirit animals…the list goes on. Jeremiah reminds us that God’s power is in us, we are not in need of the world’s superpowers.
I wonder if Jesus gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit when he left this earth as a way for to tune in to that super power Jeremiah was talking about. Jesus knew we would need further teaching, slow to learn we humans are! You might feel the HS’s presence in a beautiful sunset, or in the deer that stops in the field, and turns it’s gaze to you.
Do you ever (like me) hear the voice of the Holy Spirit whispering in your ear? Things like “it might be hurtful to say that”, or “keep going you’re getting stronger every day”, or “take more time to think that thru maybe it’s time to take a different path”? In these last Pandemic Years, the HS has helped us to imagine how to continue to walk the way of love safely, in spite of danger, conflict and fear. Perhaps, for you, God, in the Holy Spirit is less subtle, sometimes she grabs me by the shoulders and shakes, hard!
In today’s Gospel story from Luke we are given part 2 of Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth. I’m thinking that the gospel editors thought this visit was important, since they made it a 2- part series, Netflix style.
Last Sunday we tuned in to Episode 1: (Luke 4; 14-21), Jesus attends his usual hometown synagogue worship and stands up to read….as was his custom. He reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah wrote that a prophet had been anointed to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Then Jesus rolls up the scroll, hands it to the attendant and, like a usual lector, sits down. The congregation stares at him, amazed, and then he adds, (I imagine him standing up again in the Synagogue), “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words…here I am.
And now for episode 2, today we hear first that they were indeed amazed and appreciative of his gracious words, but it takes only a moment for their thoughts to turn to a challenge, “if you are this expected prophet, they say, why don’t you prove yourself, here in your hometown, where you belong. His community wanted him to perform healing miracles for them. Jesus responds by explaining that prophets of the past were also faced with many human tragedies, much as we are today. Many suffered from the debilitating disease of leprosy (what is now called Hansen’s Disease), and yet the prophet Elisha healed only Naaman with a simple act, sending him to wash in the Jordan River. Naaman was angry that Elisha didn’t give him special treatment, but his servants begged him to repent and obey the prophet. Naaman set aside his pride, washed and was healed.
When a poor widow offers the prophet Elijah hospitality and her last piece of bread, he blesses her with the assurance that she will never be hungry again. God’s mercy had been extended far beyond Elijah’s hometown, to an unlikely woman (a woman of great faith), in a foreign place.
Of course Jesus was famous for many miracles also, a few were grand and huge, (all those people fed on the beach with a few crusts of bread and some fish), but most were quiet personal acts of healing and mercy: washing the disciples feet, the healing miracles: a man with leprosy, Peter’s mother in law sick with fever, and the woman who had hemorrhaged for 12 years. Jesus restored sight and speech and movement to individuals of great faith, and maybe my favorite (although I can never choose), the Samaritan woman at the well who was desperate for a satisfying life and the assurance of God’s endless grace and forgiveness. Jews did not associate with Samaritans, and as a female, she was demeaned by society. Drawing water alone, she was a social outcast in her own community. When Jesus offered her living water (the assurance of God’s endless grace) she believed, and she ran off to tell others. These individuals, (in some way or other unlikely people, considered unclean, foreign, undesirable), these individuals are forever changed by Jesus’ love for them.
The neighbors in Jesus’ hometown didn’t want to hear this message, they were so angry that they tried to hurl him off a cliff! They do not feel like sharing him. They want this miracle-maker to stay here where he belongs. They are not interested in the message that God’s healing superpower is for everyone, everywhere.
And isn’t this perhaps what Jesus was trying to teach in the synagogue that day, that God had sent him with a different plan, I think to teach that we have this superpower, the power to cleanse and heal the world ourselves, with love, sent on by the Holy Spirit whispering to us, one small, loving, ordinary gesture at a time.
There will always be the poor, the sick, the lonely. What small acts of love-power can we muster up, in places familiar and unfamiliar, to promote healing in the world? God knows us, loves us, empowers us and is with us, always.
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