Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
A well-known stage actor commenting on the cast jitters present on the opening night of a new Broadway show would say: “You can cut the tension with a knife.” Well, Jesus Our Lord certainly had no such problem as He took His turn at the lectern of the tiny synagogue in Nazareth. The audience at least at the beginning had to have a special enthusiasm for what this “hometown boy who had made good” would say. He read in a confident voice words from great Isaiah. Centuries later we can note that here the very Word of God in person was reading the Word of God in writing.
Luke wants us, his readers, to recognize that this was the opening Day of one very special Man’s ministry. Jesus, reverently rolled up the scroll and speaks boldly but calmly, being both resolute and self-assured. Then He drops what I might call a verbal bomb: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Our reading ends there. Unless you go to your bible when you get home to discover for yourself, you’ll have to wait until next weekend to learn what followed. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t pretty. That is because Our Lord cited the fact that Yahweh did not always hold Israel in such high esteem as to neglect other nations. He illustrated for them how good things often came from God to the so-called “lowly ones” instead of the elect.
That brings forth some ways of reacting to truth. Most of the time we find truth enlightening, attractive and beautiful. But every now and then the truth can be inconvenient, especially when it contradicts a common conviction of ours. It then quickly deteriorates into something ugly, unwelcome and enraging. The alcoholic at first denies he or she has a problem with drink. The fashion plate denies that a certain clothing ensemble is unflattering. The professor resents a student’s correction. The bishop turns vindictive at a pastor’s suggestion that a diocesan policy is flawed.
The townspeople of Nazareth resented what Jesus told them. That will happen frequently in other groups Jesus would have to chide. We well know what the power brokers of their day eventually did to silence Him.
All of us at various times can be quite uncomfortable around the truth. Under pressure we reach into our imaginary bag of euphemisms to disguise the matter, or soften its impact. Look how the cancel culture handles matters. In the end, holding back on the truth is a real disservice to others as well as ourselves. Jesus came to serve others, and not Himself.
Sometimes it’s good to have a wag around when the discussion gets too heavy-handed. His humor lowers the temperature. One such person opined thus: “The first thing you’ll notice in the glove compartment of your new car is a little booklet telling you how to lie about your gas mileage.”
God love you and give you His peace!
Reading I: Nehemiah 8: 2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Ezra’s reading of the law to the people comprises at least part of the Pentateuch. It is a stern proclamation, which in turn prompts the priests to cheer up the people and urging them to feast.
Reading II: I Corinthians 12: 12-30
Paul uses the analogy of our bodies to teach how the various bodily organs work together just as varied members of the Christian community unify to make it function as Christ would have it.
The Gospel: Luke 1: 1-4, 4: 14-21
Luke composes his “orderly account” of the event of Jesus, His life and ministry among us. Jesus as Teacher, a favorite role of His for Luke, speaks in the synagogue of His home town. There He makes a dramatic claim about Himself.