St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-03-2019

St. Matthew’s Sermon 02-03-2019

Open Space

Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I can remember way back when I first read all four gospels through from beginning to end and after reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ ministry and going directly into Mark thinking “haven’t I just read this… word for word?” then, again, having the same reaction when I got to the Gospel of Luke. That realization might have come to me in the part of the story where Jesus teaches in his hometown synagogue; the part our Gospel reading is leading us through last Sunday and today.

We know that Mark was most likely the first of the Gospel writers. Matthew almost certainly used Mark as one of his sources for writing his account, adding some other information he had gathered; and the same goes for Luke, either using Mark and Matthew or the same sources they had used. That’s why we sometimes see the same stories told with almost exactly the same wording.

Yet, we must be attentive to even the smallest details, the seemingly incidental variations, when comparing texts to fully appreciate each writers points of emphasis, focus, and overall richness in telling the story of Jesus.

The Gospel of John is exceptional; few stories that the others give us are duplicated in John and even when they are they’re told with original language. As one of those few occasions all that John says about Jesus’ rejection in his home town is this one line; “Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country. (John 4:44)

I’ll not get into the comparison of Mark and Matthew and Luke’s accounts of the whole story of Jesus’ rejection today but I will invite you to read them for yourselves and see just how close they are.

Like John, all three make statements about the rejection in Nazareth. Matthew writes “And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.””(13:57) Mark’s account reads “And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”” (6:3b-4) And Luke writes “”Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” (4:24)

This sounds very much the same except that, in Luke, the part about the hearers being offended comes after the quote about rejection of Prophets; four verses later where we read “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage”. (4:28)

The message from Mark and Matthew is that, from the beginning, the townsfolk couldn’t believe that Jesus was anyone special. They knew him when he was a baby; he was just the son of Joseph and Mary, how could he be special.

“Who does he think he is” might be the modern day phrasing.

But with Luke the people are enthused and impressed “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?””

“Wow” would be the modern day word.

Wow, this is one of our own; a hometown boy has become a prophet! And what great news he is bringing to us; talking about how [God] has sent [him] to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor!” (4:18-19) Wow, this is great!

Wow, that is, until Jesus goes on to speak about God’s blessings also falling upon heathen and enemy foreigners as recorded in the scriptures.

What! We thought you were on our side! We assumed when you spoke of good news for all people you meant all righteous people. How dare you say that our God has sent you to bless us and those degenerates! Blasphemy!

“Rage” was the word then and rage is the modern day word.

“All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (4:22) until that grace was extended, not only beyond their community and their nation, but beyond their understanding of proper faith. In their thinking God’s grace was theirs and theirs alone.

But that is not what Jesus teaches and it is one of the parts of the Good News that Luke puts special emphasis on. The Good News is indeed for all people! Not just the Jews, not only the “properly” observant of the Law, it’s not restricted to the privileged or the chosen; it is for everyone that will hear.


Jesus went on to keep company with the outcasts of society; like tax collectors and lepers; he touched the untouchable, and allowed a woman of ill repute to touch him; he healed the dying servant of a commander of the occupying military forces, a Samaritan woman and a Samaritan leper; he fed thousands without first checking their righteousness, cleanliness, social status or worthiness.

The Good News of God’s redemption was, and isstill, all inclusive!

Yet I look around our world today and find many who will declare exclusion in the name of Christ. With words that cause such deep hurt they will exclude children of God on the grounds of sexual identity, gender identity, nationality, race, language, wealth or lack thereof, and will even exclude fellow Christians if they don’t agree with their exclusiveness or if they don’t worship the same way, use the same creed or seek a closer relationship with God on the same path they walk. It’s hard for me to understand.

Harder, still, to understand is why they exclude; what motivates them to do as they do. Is it pride; that by excluding others, pushing others down, somehow makes them feel superior? Is it insecurity; that by focusing on another’s ‘faults’ allows them to ignore their own? Is it selfishness; thinking that if God also loves someone ‘less deserving’ than themselves it takes away from God’s love for them? Is it some combination, or even all of the above? I don’t know, I don’t understand.

But I do understand that God sent Christ to all people! I understand that God’s love lifts us all up, God loves us all in spite of our faults, and I understand that there is plenty of God’s love to go around!

And I understand that, as demonstrated in the story of Christ’s rejection in Nazareth, when we exclude others we also exclude ourselves.  The townsfolk of Nazareth didn’t want to hear that others would be blessed as they would be blessed. And by rejecting that message of Christ they rejected the blessings that he would have given them. They would not hear, thus they would not receive.

When we create boundaries for God’s boundless love we wall ourselves out. When we draw lines between the blessed and the cursed we put ourselves on the wrong side of the line we drew. And when we place limits on God’s grace we ultimately limit ourselves.

So it was, so it is, and so it always be.



Jeremiah 1:4-10
1:4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
1:6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
1:7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you,
1:8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”
1:9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.
1:10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Psalm 71:1-6
71:1 In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.
71:2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me.
71:3 Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
71:4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
71:5 For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
71:6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13
13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
13:3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
13:6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
13:8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
13:9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;
13:10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13:13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30
4:21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
4:22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
4:23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'”
4:24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.
4:25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;
4:26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.
4:27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
4:28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.
4:29 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.
4:30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.