4th Sunday after Epiphany Yr. C – Where Earth and Heaven Meet – Pt. 2

Part 2

Luke 4:21-30           NIV

21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Where we left off

Jesus has:

  • Ignored tradition,
  • Insinuated himself into the role of the local rabbi
  • Declared that he carries the authority of God as Isaiah had and has
  • The power to instigate the Jubilee Year by the authority of God and even in opposition to the people and their long held historic resistance to God in these matters

Jesus has gone from being tested to the one who tests.

And yet, the gathering had not quite understood what he was saying to them. They haven’t heard everything yet. What could possibly go wrong?

Now, everything seems to go wrong. But does it really?

 

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

‘Wow! This young man is one of ours,’ you may be able to hear the voices in the synagogue say. There is a sense of shared achievement that a community has when one of their own achieves above and beyond what is expected of local people; of the people we are all familiar with. We know their stories, their friends and family. They are just like us. In little Nazareth that meant that life was an ordinary, work-a-day affair, where life just happened. Children were born with celebration, people died and were mourned – life passed without much expectation of anything being anything but mundane; yet here is Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter. Joseph is the guy who made the front door and his kid made a manger for the barn. ‘Wow!’ This is something exciting all Nazareth shares in.

 

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

Jesus has promised the restoration of the Jubilee Year, sight for the blind and freedom for prisoners in this ‘fulfilment in their presence’, so now this little village expects a demonstration of real power, a power they might share in. The power they have heard about as Jesus moved through Galilee ‘in the power of the Spirit.’ It sounded like he was just about to do exactly that.

Till he changes tack.

 

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

 

This sounds like an exceptionally virulent attack. What’s the saying, or the song? ‘We only hurt the ones we love?’ He speaks to them as if they are Israel.

Something I understood early on, particularly because I had been victim to this treatment many times in my primary and secondary education, is don’t chastise the whole class for the actions of a few. That’s how our culture works. Address any problems with the person or persons responsible. Don’t injure the innocent on your path to disciplining others. Jewish culture at this time was different to our own experience and more akin to Japanese and other eastern cultures where the error of the individual is the error of the community. If some one goes astray, the community asks, ‘where did we go wrong?’ What did we miss?’ How could we have prevented this?’

Point of Interest: Individualism is an especially 20th and 21stC ideal for the general population and it’s particularly western in its origin and practice. Prior to our time and place, only the rich could afford to be ‘individuals’ and only they had the political power to exercise those rights. For example, the rich and educated in Israel ruled (to some degree) under the authority of the Roman invaders. In the democratic republic of ancient Rome, only the wealthy praetorian class could vote, be elected and govern; except for one small concession, one commoner was elected to the senate in order to appease the mob. As you can imagine, one senator without money and elite connections has limited power of his own – but he could stir up the mob into a rabble if the mood took him. Even then the praetorian army would soon quell an uprising.

 

So, when Jesus spoke to his friends and family, in a very real cultural sense, he was talking to Israel.

What they didn’t realise was that the fulfilment of the Isaiah prophecy was not fulfilled, in the first place, through miracles and the restoration of lands. It was fulfilled in the person of the Messiah; in Jesus, the young man sitting right in front of them.

 

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Jesus was offering Good News to his family and friends in his home town but it was received as arrogance and insult because their spiritual ears and eyes had not yet been opened.

What’s the Good News here? The long-awaited Messiah was right there. God’s promised new age of restoration had arrived. Everyone in Israel, everyone in all of creation was going to benefit.

BUT, their darkness and emotions overcame them. Their ego’s took charge and the angry darkness that sat just below the surface of their consciousness welled-up into murderous action.

These friends, these family members, these ordinary, work-a-day country folk exploded – violently, and tried to kill him.

 

To Know Them is to Know Us

What happened to them and can it happen to us? We’ve all heard of ‘mob mentality’ but that takes some ill-tempered individuals with unkind motives to whip a crowd into foolishness, so I don’t think this is the same thing. No, Jesus has accused them (read Israel) of failing to support, encourage and obey those who have come in the name of YHWH; the prophets. The prophets had to look out side Israel for support and sustenance. Israel was not living as God’s people and when it has been ingrained into you that you are absolutely God’s people and sons and daughters of Abraham and that covenant, well then, to say otherwise is not just an insult hurled at them but blasphemy against God – unless of course you are Jesus and so, God – but they didn’t know that yet.

We however do know that.

So, what to do? We are people made of the same stuff as the Nazarenes. Flesh and blood, emotion, head and heart.

Do we sit and ask Jesus to heal us? Yes! But, do we treat Jesus as the Nazarenes did and simply wait for a side-show of miracles or do we engage with our Messiah according to his will and so, find healing? Will we accept his partnership into mission – beginning with the mission to ourselves. If we are healed/loved, then we can love/heal others. As we know, when Jesus forgives he heals and forgiveness is the most powerful expression of love because it seeks unity.

 

Tools for The New Life

Holy communion is a gift from God for our healing but how does it get past our defences and into our emotional/spiritual DNA? If the baptised life is truly dying every day to our old broken self and daily rising into a new life with Christ, how do I experience that new life and how does it benefit those around me? As my old dad had said to me many times, ‘sit down, shut up and pay attention.’ We Christians or Followers of the Way, know that prayer is also known as meditation. Sitting quietly and connecting with God. But how?

The process of emotional and spiritual healing has been known to the ‘Followers of the Way’ since the very beginning. It’s called self-examination but that has taken on a moralistic flavour that has echoes of ‘right and wrong’ rather that restoration. We live out of the ‘self’ we are familiar with every moment of everyday. We are also part of the indoctrination of the ‘individual’ and so have almost lost the ability to do examine ourselves with hopeful expectation and without guilt and recriminations. We’ve almost lost the ability because we have given up the very teaching that would save us from a merely intellectual approach to life.

 

The Mandorla

There is an early meditation device called a ‘mandorla’ which many have found useful for our healing journey with Jesus. Mandorla is Italian for ‘almond’ which is the shape we get when two circles intersect. We are familiar with the three circles symbolising the Trinity, but the two circles that symbolise the meeting of heaven and earth in the person of Jesus is also an ancient contemplation device. Jesus – fully human and of earth and full God and so of heaven.

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Heaven ans Earth Jesus

 

This early icon shows Jesus inside the ‘mandorla’ lines of the intersecting circles.

 

Here is the thinking process that can lead to the healing we need, in and with Jesus.

We human beings sit in earth’s shadows but we are touched by the light of heaven. We often find ourselves caught in the spiritual and emotional cross fire. We Followers of the Way live together with Jesus the Messiah and yet, we tend to live with the same inner distress as everyone else and with the same absence of knowledge, wisdom and understanding that could change the way we see and experience everything. If Jesus’ Good News of God’s full restoration of his creation – a new Heaven and a new Earth – was indeed fulfilled in his person, then his presence in us could bring about a transformation of our being; our self, don’t you think?

The aim in quiet meditation and in the conscious presence of Jesus is find ourselves in him – in the centre not issolated off in the shadows.

How to Proceed

 

  • ‘Sit down, shut up and pay attention’ 😊
  • Take some time for yourself and find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed
  • Consciously invite Jesus to sit with you in that place he created by becoming fully human; the place between heaven and earth. Jesus is the space, the place, the person that joins the two and they meet within you because that is where his Spirit is.
  • Think about the conflicts within yourself. You may want to think of the times when you are grumpy and difficult to live with. Think of the times you have sabotaged your own joy for the sake of work, service, duty. Whatever your inner conflicts are, own them and honour both sides. It’s easy to run away from a conflict but if we own both sides, we are no longer conflicted by this over that but we are sitting between the paradox of two truths.
  • In the space between the two truths wait on God and consider the possibilities of both being true, both having value and importance in your life – even the dark stuff and especially the hidden gold.
  • The possibilities of God lay between the points of paradox. Imagine the dreams and visions that may come with the waiting on him. Imagine God’s restoration within you and then, wonderfully and amazingly, through you.

 

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