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January 13

Luke 4, 25-30

Something to read

But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.
There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, 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. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
New Revised Standard Version

Something to think about

Nazareth becomes the second instance of an attempt to kill Jesus. King Herod had already tried to do so by killing Bethlehem’s baby boys when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:13-18). We often miss, perhaps, just how much Jesus’ life unfolded beneath the threat of violence and death.

No wonder his disciples will often be afraid for him and for themselves. Jesus is walking into a risky and dangerous world in which there are those who will try to destroy him. His is not a secure ministry in a restful time.

His crime here seems to be virtually inciting a mob by stressing that God has a tendency, when times are hard, to save those outside the holy nation. There is no end of need within Israel, but God acts with aliens and foreigners to bring salvation to outsiders.

Of course God also acts for and within Israel. The whole nation, after all, exists because God heard slaves crying out in Egypt (Exodus 3:7-10). But these snippets that Jesus homes in on are unsettling if God is meant to be predictably nationalistic.

Jesus is making a bigger space for God. He is beginning his mission by drawing upon Isaiah’s vision which, itself, draws deeply upon the hope of Jubilee. But he signals that this transformation of reality will be bigger than expected.

It will not just save the people of God but embrace people who are outsiders. Or rather, the notion of who makes up the people of God is redrawn here; enlarged. In Jesus, God is shifting the notion of insider and outsider, loved and unloved. God’s family is expanding.

Something to do

Who, for you, are unlikely people for God to love? What do you notice about your own prejudices here? Discover a bit more, from the internet perhaps, about such people. Get behind the hype and caricature to discover something of the reality of their lives. Try to find them speaking about their own lives and stories.

Something to pray

You unnerve us, God, with your wandering grace.
You will not be contained or constrained.
With you, salvation’s mercy and reformation is unbounded.
Help us to catch up with your dance across creation and into the lives of the least likely.
Free us from the blinkers that limit our capacity to love as you would have us love.

Today's contributor is the Rev Neil Thorogood, Director of Pastoral Studies at Westminster College, Cambridge

 

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