Epiphany 4 C. Jeremiah 1.4-10, Ps71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13, Luke 4:21-30
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Is there a divine plan in human history? What part are we to play in God’s purpose? If we believe that God’s plan includes the salvation of all, then can we consider that there is a divine purpose in history. In many instances quoted in the bible, and in our own lives it seems that not everything happens for a purpose nor that human beings are manipulated into carrying out God’s will in line with some great master plan. In many cases, as in the example in Jeremiah and in the portion of Luke’s gospel read today people act in accord with their own beliefs, desires and fears, and from within their own social and religious circles.
It could be understandable that the citizens of Nazareth are outraged against Jesus when he said that God sometimes chose to reach Gentiles rather than the Jewish people. Jesus was implying that his hearers were as unbelieving as the citizens of the northern kingdom of Israel in the days of Elijah and Elisha, a time notorious for its great wickedness. His confronting words hit home at their nationalism and sense of divine privilege.
The reasons for their actions are not provoked by God, but they make sense, although regrettable, in human and historical terms. The hostility of the jealous guardians of the Law is provoked because of Jesus’ ministry to those they would call outsiders. In a way Luke is reminding us that God is always at work, offering guidance, forgiveness, and new life which adds up to salvation for all. If we look for a wider vision, God is at work whether we see it or not, and he does not need our help.
If we are willing God can use us, and is willing to give us the benefit of his grace, freely, undeservedly and lovingly. We are invited by God to be part of his story, and the bringing of the good news is not just for God’s chosen people, Israel, the poor, the broken hearted, and the entrapped, but for everyone, Gentiles and Jews, in all conditions of life and even us here in Grafton.
The mission of all believers is to love, obey and serve God. We may not be given an idea of special calling as Jeremiah was, but in God’s eyes we are all special and when we think of Jeremiah in worldly or todays terms he was somewhat of a failure. No one listened to him, but in God’s eyes he was successful, because he consistently and obediently, faithfully did what God called him to do. God appointed Jeremiah to bring his word to nations and kingdoms, to warn not only the Children of Israel, but all the nations of the world about God’s righteousness. We are included in Jeremiah’s message of hope, and as believers we are to share God’s desire to reach the whole world with the message of love and salvation.
Jeremiah thought he was inadequate to speak for God to the world, but God promised to be with him. When we find ourselves avoiding something we know we should do, can we remember not to use lack of confidence as an excuse for doing nothing, but to act with courage? Can we know God will provide all we need to do his will? God promised to rescue Jeremiah, not to keep him out of trouble and he encountered lots of trouble. In the same way in our daily life God does not keep us from encountering life’s storms, but he will see us through them and in fact God walks through these storms with us and rescues us.
In the year AD 50 towards the end of his second missionary journey the Apostle Paul founded a church in Corinth. After his third missionary journey he settled in Ephesus for about three years and while there received disconcerting news of the behaviour of the community in Corinth. In his letter Paul tells them among other things, of the way of love, the way God loves. In morally corrupt Corinth, love had become a mixed-up term with little meaning. Today people are still confused about love. Love is the greatest of all human qualities, and it is an attribute of God himself. Love involves unselfish service to others, and to show it gives evidence that we care. When we love in the way Paul outlines in this well-known passage, we are truly living in the image and likeness of God. In love, God calls us to serve as part of his life-giving plan for the world, and this also must have been the reason for God calling Jeremiah to be a prophet, and for Jesus to commence his public ministry as we read in Luke’s gospel. We find that both obedient prophet and faithful Son encounter not good and blessing and hordes of faithful followers, but hostility and rejection. But both remained committed to preaching God’s word as they received it.
Love in these biblical terms means loyalty and commitment. It is about attitude and action that communicates God’s love in an authentic way, and it has little to do with how we feel. When we love God’s way in partnership with him we do feel inexplicable joy in knowing that he is with us. We get to know what we understand is tough love, God’s faithfulness to us, which exposes and speaks the truth about how we live our lives and how we cope with the consequences of what we do.
God’s intolerance of evil at the same time reveals God’s mercy and unconditional love. This love of God is seeking always what is the best outcome for his people. When we understand this, we find the freedom to become loyal and loving disciples and make God the centre of our lives. This love is about transformation of our whole being, which will result eventually in transformation of the world. It is about our transformation from our inner animal instincts and egocentricity into a person with the mind of Christ, filled with love and compassion; from a judgmental and dualistic view into non-dual acceptance. We hear the prophetic message of Jeremiah and of Jesus and are invited to listen carefully and we are challenged to make a decision in an act of faith. Faith is the foundation and content of God’s message.
When we accept God’s call in an act of faith, it is also an expression of hope which is the attitude and focus of God’s message. When faith and hope are in line, we are free to love completely because we then understand how God loves. We begin to understand God’s wisdom and plan for the lifegiving Kingdom of Heaven dwelling within us. God’s unconditional love brings our lives to fulfilment; it is life-giving, and we accept all that God has in store for us, knowing that in doing so, we are given God’s mercy and grace and are empowered to love others as God loves.
The Reverend Camellia Flanagan tssf