Epiphany 4C

Getting too cranky. Must sermonize. To that end, the texts for this coming Sunday, the fourth week of Epiphany in the year of Luke. Some sad stuff. The birth of the prophet of the exile; the hope of safety with God; and Jesus telling the people of his hometown that the good news they just heard isn't for them. And, in the middle, Paul reminding the people of Corinth that they may do anything they want—as long as it is love. A group of texts that can only be grounded in the gospel, in spite of the circumstances.

Jeremiah 1:4-10
What, after all, is the job of a prophet, but to be nothing more than the speaking mouth and the executing hand of God?
The word of Yahweh came to me, saying, "I knew you before I shaped you in utero, and I set you apart as holy before you crowned; I made you a prophet for the nations."

And I said, "Oh, behold, Lord Yahweh: I do not know the art of speech, for I am still a young man."

But Yahweh said to me, "Do not say 'I am only a young man'—for you will go to all those to whom I send you, and you will speak all of the words that I charge you with. Do not be afraid of their regard, for I am with you to deliver you," saith Yahweh.

Then Yahweh reached out his hand and touched my mouth, and said, "Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. Observe that I have appointed you this day to oversee nations and kingdoms: to uproot, tear down, dissolve, and crush them, and to rebuild and to plant them."

Psalm 71:1-6
God's justice is exercised in delivering the people into safety from their enemies. This is always the hope for which we pray, but in all events, we trust in God.
I seek shelter in you, Yahweh.
  May I never be put to shame.
Because you are just, deliver me,
  and carry me safely away.
Descend to me and hear me,
  and show me your salvation.
Be my safety among the cliffs,
  a place I may ever retreat;
For you have commanded salvation,
  O my rock and strong defense.
From the hand of the wicked deliver me,
  From the grasp of the twisted and cruel.

You are my hope, O Lord Yahweh,
  my security since I was young,
  my support from my mother's womb.
You brought me forth,
  you cut the cord;
  my praise is ever of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-10
In this world we have little knowledge of the truth, and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It must be tempered by love. We must live in confidence and expectation in God now, but we trust and hope that in the end we shall have no need for trust and hope, but only for love, in full and mutual recognition of the truth before God and one another.
If I should speak in human and angelic languages, but do not have love, I have become roaring brass, or a sounding cymbal. And if I should have oracular skill, and know every mystery and everything that may be known, and should even have every confidence that I can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I should parcel out all that I possess, and should even hand over my body to be burned, but do not have love, I am of no use.

Love endures suffering. Love acts usefully. Love does not strive, or self-aggrandize, or act pridefully or disgracefully, or seek its own ends, or provoke, or keep account of what is wrong. Love does not rejoice over injustice, but rejoices with the truth. Love encompasses all things, has confidence in all things, expects all things, and endures all things.

At no point does love fail—but oracles will become irrelevant, languages will be silenced, and knowledge will become useless. For we know only partially, and we predict only partially—but when the perfect comes, the partial will be abolished. When I was an infant, my speech, my intentions, and my reason were infantile—but now that I have become a man, I have parted ways with the infantile. Indeed, at present we take pictures with pinhole cameras, but in the future we will see these things face to face. At present, I know only partially, but in the future I will recognize these things for myself, just as I have been recognized.

So now these three things remain: confidence, expectation, and love—but love is the greatest of these.

Luke 4:21
In which Jesus, preaching in his home town, has no good news to tell them, because the fulfillment of prophecy is not a panacea, but a sometimes painfully particular thing.
Now, he began to say to them, "Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing…" and everyone nodded their approval, and wondered at the well-formed words that proceeded from his mouth, and said, "Isn't this Joseph's boy?"

And he said to them, "You will almost certainly tell me this parable, 'Physician, heal your own! Do here at home the things that we heard happened in Capernaum!' But he said, "In all honesty I tell you that no prophet is accepted in his own home. And truthfully I say to you that there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut for three years and six months while there was a great famine over the whole land. Elijah was sent to none of them, except to a widowed woman in Sidonian Zarephath. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet. None of them were healed, except Naaman the Syrian."

Hearing these things, everyone in the synagogue was filled with grief and rage, and they rose up and threw him out of the town, and drove him out to the edge of the scarp on which their town was built, so they could cast him down from it—but he passed through the midst of them and departed from there.


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