Monday, September 21, 2015

It's unsettling. Seriously!

[From 8/26]

"All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth... When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage."
(Luke 4:22, 28)

Jesus, fresh off his baptism in the wilderness and subsequent temptation, starts his ministry of preaching & teaching.  He heads home to Nazareth - the place he grew up.  He's invited to read from the scroll of Isaiah.  He locates the passage he wants to read & beings: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives & recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."  Then he sat down.  "Today," he said, "this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

WOW!  Could it be the time of the LORD has finally come, they must have been wondering?  "All spoke well of him," Luke tells us.  Awesome.  A sermon received well.  Every pastor likes to hear praise.  But then Jesus goes further.  He reminds them of the adage that no prophets are accepted in their hometown.  Why?  People know them too well, maybe.  They dismiss the prophetic words.  Then Jesus recalls 2 times in scripture where God reached out to bless non-Jews.  And this, in light of the Isaiah passage Jesus read, is too much.  They begin to see Jesus' words of good news, recovery & freedom may not be meant only for them... but also for others... outsiders!  And it angers them greatly.  "All in the synagogue were filled with rage."  They even tried throwing him off a cliff!

I sure enjoy a good post-sermon compliment.  I love it when people "speak well of me," especially after preaching.  But this passage from Luke reminds me not to get too excited about the positive compliments of those who hear me preach.  We all love to hear words, teachings & messages that encourage & strengthen us.  I try to do that often.  But the word of God is also sharp as a double-edged sword!  It should convict, correct, and challenge us.  That's uncomfortable.  That doesn't always lead to "people speaking well" of me.

Wen people realize the power of the Gospel, it's often unsettling.  That's ok.  That's important.  This passage reminds me not to get too worked up over those who are "filled with rage" over my preaching, either.  Let God work in the hearts & minds of the people who encounter His word.  Stay faithful to the task of preaching.  Don't focus on the immediate response of the crowd.  And it will all fall into place.

That's a difficult lesson for preachers like me who like to be liked.  How about you?

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