Septuagesima

This has been one of those good and bad weeks in the life of our parish; one of those weeks with great highs and deep lows, joys and sadnesses. On the one hand we are getting ready to receive our assisting bishop, and he is getting ready to confirm twenty of our young people, that’s a whole mess of young adults who have made it through months of instruction. Two more families have joined our parish this week, one of which hopes to get married this year. On the other hand, we buried Walt Weitzel on Friday, and last weekend both Shirley Blakely and Elane Cooke passed away. For them, life has not ended but rather changed; for their families and for us, their church family, life without them will never be the same. Highs and lows, joy and sadness in the life of our parish.

St. Luke just told us about some highs and lows, some joys and sadnesses in the life of our Lord. We started the story last week with Jesus rising to read in the synagogue in His hometown, we heard the beginning of His sermon, that all the promises of Isaiah were now fulfilled, “This scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” “All spoke well of him,” St. Luke tells us, “and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” Well, it doesn’t get too much better than that, right? Jesus up in front of His old friends and neighbors, the hometown boy made good. But wait a minute. Isn’t that Joseph’s Son? Uh oh. Isn’t that the kid who I used to chase out of my courtyard, isn’t that the Jesus who I used to babysit for? Who made me that cabinet I keep the utensils in? It was that Jesus, that Son of Joseph who also happened to be the Son of the Living God, and maybe that was just a little more than the hometown crowd could take. Jesus, sensing the turn from high to low, from esteem to scorn, did what Jesus always did and what we don’t always acknowledge that He always did, which was poke them with a stick, the stick of uneasy truth. Jesus didn’t try to ease their pain or squelch their anger, instead He told them that they were right to be angry, but that they should have been angry with themselves. When they heard this, St. Luke tells us, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. Hurling someone off a cliff was like reverse stoning, quicker for the condemned and not so hard on the shoulders of the executioners.

Highs and lows, good and bad, joy and sorrow, all in one afternoon. The people in Jesus’ hometown wanted the hometown boy to make good, but not too good. They wanted Him to be special, but still be just Joseph’s son. They wanted Him to prove His worth by a sign, by a miracle, but Jesus was not part of a dog and pony show, His power wasn’t a power with which He was to entertain the great unwashed, and so they hated Him for it, and they tried to hurl Him off a cliff. St. Luke tells us that Jesus “passed through the midst of them and went on his way,” as if an entire town wasn’t trying to kill Him. Ironically, His hometown crowd had demanded a miracle, and the miracle He performed was getting away from them.

And so here we are, 2000 years later in the life of the Church, living through our own highs and lows, our own joys and sorrows. And through all of it, we must somehow be thankful, thankful to our God for even giving us this day. I will be thankful this week that three people received proper Christian burial, that 20 of our kids are being confirmed, and that no one, at least not yet, has tried to hurl me off a cliff. What will you be thankful for?

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One Response to Septuagesima

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