If Only Jesus Knew When to Stop!

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 4.21-30

In the spirit of true confessions of preachers when they hear other preachers: when I go on vacation and we go to another church and I listen to another preacher my first intention is to just be blessed by the message, to receive it. But I confess there is a little part of me, that when I listen, becomes the critic. What would I do with that text, what would I say? How… oh, he made a mistake there! Stuff like that. And if I were like that in that synagogue the day Jesus preached, my main word of advice for Jesus (and I have plenty of advice for Jesus) is: “Stop! Stop, right there! Stop, right about… oh, verse 21. That part we read last week. Stop. Jesus, you’ve got them eating right out of your hands.” All spoke well of him, it says, and were amazed at the gracious words that came out of his mouth. “Quick, Jesus! Get to the offering, quick! Whole communities are founded upon this moment, whole megachurches, with million dollar budgets are built on the moment you have just reached, on the Word you have just shared. The blessings of God, the transformative power of God, the victory of believers. Just stop right there.”

If only Jesus had learned when to stop. If he had learned when to stop, maybe he’d have made something of himself. If only had learned to stop, he made have led a popular uprising and thrown the Romans out of Israel. If he had learned to stop, perhaps he might have lived a victorious life, had a prosperous ministry, maybe he’d be rich. Maybe he’d be on TV. If only had stopped at a positive message, the non-judgmental one. If only he had gone the safe route, he might not have ended up on the cross.

But wouldn’t you know, Jesus doesn’t stop. He knows that midway through that sermon, he has not yet shared the whole word of God. The part of God’s word that was particularly on target for his hometown audience. Just as they were smiling and shaking their heads in affirmation, just as they were saying, “Amen!” Jesus provides the last little twist in his sermon, that ends up being oh so big.

The big question in this story is what exactly makes this adoring crowd so angry. What is it exactly that Jesus goes on to say that turns their appreciation into anger? How could he, within a matter of moments, turn a congregation that was so for him into a mob that wanted to lynch him? Perhaps we need to reflect on what the hometown people were expecting.

You see Jesus had shared a wonderful word with them, he brought them good news. Good news for the poor, release of the captive, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, nothing wrong with that, we need a little of that, perhaps a lot of that, Jesus! Preach it, brother!

This is good news. It is a good news that comforts us, that comforts all who are afflicted. But as the famous, well-known saying goes, Jesus came not only to comfort the afflicted, he also came to afflict the comfortable. He came to preach a sharp-edged word to those who thought that as members of the hometown crowd, they had God’s blessings coming to them. Is not this Joseph’s son? Isn’t he one of us? That means that the blessings that he just preached, all the good stuff that he’s doing, the feedings and the healings, that’s coming in our direction. He’s one of us! Come on Jesus, give us some love!

But then Jesus, who didn’t know when to stop, brought up two stories from the bible. You’ve got to be careful when you go to the bible. Jesus mentions two stories of God’s grace and love, two illustrations of the good news that he was talking about from Isaiah. The catch is that both of these manifestations of God’s grace and love involve outsiders. That widow from Sidon is not a person from Israel. She’s an enemy. She’s an outsider, the ones that everybody hated. Not from Sidon, Lord! And that Na’aman from Syria? Enemy General. The one who was in the position to threaten the nation of Israel. Outsiders. Non-believers.

If any of the hometown crowd would draw a line demarking who was inside and who was out, who deserved blessing and who didn’t? The Gentile widow and the leprous enemy general who Jesus mentions here would certainly be on the outside.

But they are not the ones drawing the lines. God is the one who draws the lines. And Jesus offers the jarring truth that God’s blessing and God’s grace were not particularly for those who expected it. Or thought they deserved it. Those on the inside, like the hometown crowd. God’s grace, love and healing, Jesus says with these stories, are not for the ones who expect it, but for the ones who live it.

Jesus came to minister to those on the edge, on the margins of his world. To challenge those at the center of his world. He came to connect with the outsiders, the sinners, the marginalized, the rejected. The ones the world judged, Jesus would dine with them. The one shunned and shoved outside the city walls is the one that Jesus would go touch, pray with. The ones the good people thought were beyond help, beyond redeeming, these Jesus lifted up and made the focus of his ministry. Jesus lived out the good news that God’s grace is oh, so much bigger than we can imagine.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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