Last Sunday, I preached a sermon called “A Miracle Just to Keep the Party Going!” The assigned lectionary gospel text was on Jesus’s first miracle, turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. It was a fun sermon to prepare and we had great worship from the very beginning with the opening song. Then as I was reading on Monday the assigned gospel text for this coming Sunday, I thought: “Oh, last week was a setup because this is certainly not a fun text.” As a matter of fact, when Jesus preached on it; it was “A Sermon That Almost Got Jesus Killed.”
The first part of the text finds Jesus in the temple reading from Isaiah 61 … “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Most of us have heard sermons on this passage. It is commonly believed that Jesus was “Defining the Mission” He came to do. However, immediately after reading from Isaiah 61, Jesus gives a very brief sermon as commentary on what those scriptures really mean. That’s when the trouble started. The church folk got so mad at His interpretation of those scriptures that they attacked Him and tried to throw Him off a cliff. Like I said, it was “A Sermon that Almost Got Jesus Killed!” What was it about that sermon that made them so mad?
Richard W. Wing, in Deep Joy for a Shallow World, gives us a clue. He says, “Jesus lived on the margins and moved the margins to include all people, and hence invited hostile crowds to want to edge Him out of existence. Today, the church wants to edge Jesus out of our worship anytime the margins are made too wide and include too many who are not like us. Recently, I was sitting at my computer, contemplating the way Jesus offended so many people so quickly in His ministry. I asked, “Why?” The answer was at the top of my screen. My word processing instructions at the top read: “Drag the margin boundaries on the rulers.” That is why He upset people so much: in His life. He dragged the margin boundaries of race, creed, and color to include all people. He dragged the margin boundaries when He gave a common meal, which we have made a holy meal symbolic of His inclusive love for all people. Jesus is dragged to the edge of a cliff to be put out of the lives of His townspeople because no one wants the margins of daily living to be inclusive of strangers.”
I know it “ain’t” popular in most American churches today; but God is still speaking! And “The Sermon That Almost Got Jesus Killed,” telling folks that the margins of our daily living and faithfulness to God and the mission of Jesus Christ must be inclusive of strangers, is still meant for us today, even in 2016 America!
Join us in worship at Covenant this Sunday as we further explore the scriptures of Jesus “Defining the Mission” and “The Sermon That Almost Got Jesus Killed!” The assigned gospel text is Luke 4:14-30.