Monday, February 01, 2010

Bethany Bullet - February 2, 2010

The Chorus of Paul Simon’s song, “Slip Slidin’ Away” says the following:

Slip Slidin’ Away, Slip Slidin’ Away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

Have you ever felt that the nearer you get to where you want to be - the further you seem to be from where you want to go?

In our daily lives we struggle with the journey. We desire to reach the goals in life, but so often we come up short. There are bumps and potholes on the journey that get us off track. Perhaps you feel broken down on the side of the road of life, needing to be picked up, and towed to safety, and once again your goals seem to be slip slidin’ away.

We see some slip slidin’ away in the text from this past Sunday’s Gospel. This text is really the continuation of the story from last week’s Gospel lesson. Jesus has returned to His hometown of Nazareth in Galilee. And Jesus does what He had done most of His life. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. This day He is handed the scroll of Isaiah and reads from chapter 61:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

After He finished reading, as was the custom of the teachers, Jesus sat down to teach. Jesus says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” His words had the crowd captivated, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.”
But something changed. It seems that the boy that these people had known for so many years was slip slidin’ away. “How can the son of Joseph fulfill the words of Isaiah?” Even though Jesus’ fame had spread, the crowd is beginning to turn on a son of the congregation.

Jesus stirs the pot and says, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” And then Jesus gives two examples from the scriptures of other prophets ministering to non-Jews. The people soon catch on to what Jesus is saying. The Messiah’s message was not just for the Jews, but for all people.

It was the people’s view of the Messiah that was slip slidin’ away. They believed that the Messiah would come to bring about political freedom and release from the bondage of Rome. But Jesus came to seek and save what was lost wherever they might be and whoever they were.

The text continues… “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.” They were so upset they were ready to kill one of their own. The people are angry that Jesus would not be the Messiah that they wanted. And indeed Jesus slip slides away. “But Jesus slipped through the crowd and went on his way.” It was not yet His time to die.

Jesus does not go elsewhere because He is rejected by the people of Nazareth, rather the people reject Him because of His implied announcement that He is going elsewhere.

It is not an uncommon story. The stubborn, self-centeredness, and pride of humanity continues to resist the good news of Jesus. How often have we been upset that Jesus would dare to offer forgiveness to our enemies? How many times have we tried to force God’s hand into doing what we want or to live within the confines of our own understanding?

Like the people in the synagogue, we have been amazed at the gracious words of Jesus, only to be angry with Him a moment later when things don’t go our way. Often times, our own view of Jesus slip slides away as we try to force God’s hand.

Back to the text…How did Jesus slip through the crowd? Did He bend time, like in the movie The Matrix? Did He use His “superpowers?” Did He bind the people’s hands? None of this really matters. Jesus miraculously walked through the crowd and went on His way. And, where was Jesus going? Obviously He was going away from those who were trying to kill Him. If we follow the story along in Luke we find Jesus in the city of Capernaum but perhaps it is more than that?

Paging through the rest of the Gospel of Luke we find Jesus engaged in exactly what He said that day in the synagogue. As Jesus goes on His way the words of Isaiah 61 are indeed fulfilled. We find him:
• Preaching good news to the poor.
• Proclaiming freedom for prisoners.
• Recovering sight for the blind.
• Releasing the oppressed.
• Proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.

As Jesus slipped through the crowd and goes on His way His ultimate destination is the cross. His way is the only way. It is a way that has slipped through our hands because we have tried to force God’s hand, but the hands of Jesus are strong enough to take the nails, to hang on the cross to provide a way for you and for me. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Not only did Jesus’ way include the cross, it also included the open tomb. Jesus’ way brings us the way to eternal life for Christ has exchanged His life for ours.

And now Jesus sends us on our way. From Luke 24, “I am going to send you what my father has promised.” Jesus went on His way and now sends us on our way as He sends His spirit to bring us to faith and to guide us. In spite of our anger and hostility, Jesus still passes through our midst, but He doesn’t slip through our fingers.

Jesus passes through our midst today gathered together in this place. He passes through our midst and comes to us in water and in His gracious words. He passes through our midst in bread and wine, His very body and blood broken and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

• He is in the midst of a hand serving food to the hungry.
• He is in the midst of a hammer building a home for the homeless.
• He is in the midst of a Sunday School classroom.
• He is in the midst of rocky economic times.
• He is in the midst of the rubble in Haiti.
• He is in the midst of his people, showing us His way

He continues to be on His way through us, His people…
• Who have witnessed the ministry of Jesus,
• Who have heard the good news,
• Who have been set free from the prison of sin,
• Who were once blind, but now see,
• Who have been released from the oppression of guilt and shame,
• Who have heard the proclamation of the Lord’s favor!
Jesus passes through us as we leave this place and bring his message to others.

Even when we feel that everything is slip slidin’ away, that we will never reach our destination, we have a God who has not slipped away from us. He keeps us from sliding and has prepared for us a destination in heaven that will never slip away. From Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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