Monday, January 25, 2010

Epiphany 3, Year C, Sunday Jan. 24, 2010

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Psalm 19, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:14-21

The Preacher (Preached By Fr. Peter Courtney)

If you ask any school child what Jesus did he or she will tell you several things.

He helped people.

He preached.

That’s about it. That’s what folks know. Oh, sometimes they go off on some theological expedition about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins or something like that. But you know this is a sidebar, a kind of “right answer” from the margins. Someone told them this in a firm voice, but you can tell it is one of those truths which have little or no real claim on them. You can see the clouds of uncertainty float across their eyes as they hope against hope no one asks them “what did Jesus preach about?”

The children are right. Jesus did do a lot of healing. And the man we call Luke reports that Jesus preached. Jesus preached here; he preached there. People heard about him preaching somewhere else and went off to hear him. Some of them never came back. Jesus was the black hole preacher; once you heard him, sucked in, gone forever.

This is surely what happened in the countryside around Galilee where Jesus preached in the synagogues. We can be forgiven for assuming that this was some kind of special event; a stem-winding, gut-thrilling, vein-extending, eye-bulging, pheromone-induding phenomenon. It must have been something. I mean something! After all people remembered Jesus did it. But it doesn’t seem like they remember much about it except for the text from Isaiah. If they remembered anything else, no one wrote it down except for the punch line: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Preaching is as preaching does. I suppose.

So what did Jesus preach? Well, for one thing he preached: “The time is fulfilled.” The time is fulfilled. Today it would sound like: Gong, time’s up! The clock has run out. No overtime, no nothing. Things are what they are from now on. As the Psalmist puts it in Psalms 31:15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Or as the prisoner says: “Time, time is all I’ve got.” But Jesus says: “the time is up.” What’s more the prophecy is come true: The prisoner is set free! He has no more time. The Gospel is that God takes all time in God’s hand and when God says, “Time’s up” you are in free!

Jesus went on: “The kingdom of God has come near. Time’s up. God’s plan is now complete.

Jesus said to his disciples: “My time is not yet come. Your time is always here.” My time, your time. There is never time in the world for the kind of time that Jesus has: his time is betrayal and death. The world has no time for that.

Just as we do Jesus’ brothers live in the world of the tax cut rhetoric. They like us live in the Land of Oz with lots of heat and virtually no light. The truth of course is that there is no such thing as a tax cut. There is tax deferral – borrow now, pay later. There is tax shifting, moving the burden from one group of tax payers to another. The spending has never gotten less, ever, so someone has to pay more, always. The poor are too poor to shift it to, so it gets shifted to the next group up which is most of us. It just isn’t our time, is it?

And so Jesus preached “Repent.” Repent, turn around, look the opposite way so that there is some possibility we can see our way out of the rhetoric, out of the time that is always here into the time that Jesus announces, a time fresh and full of the possibility that God’s people will live into the freedom promised them in the Gospel.

And so Jesus preaches: “Believe in the Good News.” The Good news is that we are not in Kansas anymore, we never were. We are invited into the world God made for people to be free, to be honest about what really is and is not. Yes, there are people behind the curtains pulling the strings and mouthing the words, but they are in a time that is always here. We yearn for the time Jesus preached, the time of the Good News when the poor hear Good news, not just the rich, when the prisoner’s term is up and she is set free.

Whatever our poverty, whatever our imprisonment, Jesus is here healing the sick, preaching good news and telling us the time is up! We are now Peter, James, Andrew, Mary, Joanna, the other Mary and still another Mary. If we have been restored from poverty or illness, we can claim the presence of God in those miracles. If we continue in poverty and illness, we can still claim the presence of God in those pains. It is harder and it can be done. Time’s up.
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