Monday, 4 February 2013

Oh, Yes You Can!—An Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany with reference to Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1 Corinthians 13 and Luke 4:21-30

(It can also be heard here.) 
Annual meeting of parishioners (AMoP) tomorrow so I’m thinking of who The Lord is calling us to be, where we’re being called to go and what we’re being called to do in 2013. 
Today’s readings remind me of two things that might prevent us from making the most of that. 
The first we find in our OT reading from Jeremiah. Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV), The Lord says to “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.” Called to prophet duties. But Jeremiah said 1:6–10 (ESV) “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” 
We are all called to duty. Ah, Lord God! No, I can’t, I don’t know how to do that. I am only a…fill in the blank. Only a guy, a woman, I don’t understand the Bible, my parents abused me, I can’t speak in tongues, people don’t get healed when I pray for them, I’m only an Anglican—the list goes on. 
And God replies: “Oh, yes, you can!” 
It’s not what we can do, it’s how we do it that matters. The how is love; with patience, kindness, rejoicing with the truth; and without envy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, insisting on my own way, being irritable or resentful, or rejoicing at wrongdoing. 
And just as God said, “Oh, yes, you can,” to Jeremiah (1:7–10 ESV) The Lord says to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’ or an Anglican, or a senior, or a spiritual lightweight for to all to whom I send you, you can go, if you’re prepared to love them, and whatever I command you, you can speak, if you’re prepared to love them. 
You may not have prophetic powers, or understand mysteries, or speak in tongues, or whatever; but you can all love. Boys, girls, women, men, young and old. So can I. You and I can all decide to grow up, give up our childish ways (v11) and love. Yes, we can. 
The second way we can miss out on making the most of what God has to offer and limit what Jesus can do, is in our gospel this morning. 
Luke 4:24 (ESV) And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.
Mark’s version of the story has some more detail: Mark 6:2–6 (ESV) And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief.
They experienced Jesus as just another guy in the town and a member of just another family with brothers and sisters like everyone else. How could Jesus be any different. How could he be “better” than us? Who does he think he is! Who is he to suggest that we’re the problem? So they said, “No, you can’t” to Jesus. 
I can slide into a similar attitude. My experience of Jesus can become a routine, domesticated, liturgical thing. Jesus can become a pretty stained glass image, a familiar character in a story. Safe. Comfortable. I no longer expect or believe that he might want to, or can, intervene in my life. Then I hear Jesus saying something that disturbs us, that might mean I have to change, I take offense, and I say, “No, you can’t,” to Jesus. So he doesn’t.
Or, in faith, I can choose not to take offense. I can choose to believe that he can and invite him to do so whenever he wants. I can say, “Yes, Jesus, you can.” So can you. And I can hope that he will. So can you. 
1 Corinthians 13:13–14:1 (ESV) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 
Paul goes on, just beyond our reading: 
1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 
The greatest of all is love. Pursue love. Without love we gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). It never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8). 
Love is God, the Father, saying, “Yes, you can” to you and me. Love invites us to say, “Yes, you can, too, Jesus, please do,” in 2013.