4 Epiphany — C
Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 4:21-30
Think of a time when you were disappointed . . . What were the expectations you had that weren’t met? What did someone do (or not do) that you expected them to do?
Now think of a time when you disappointed someone else . . . What expectations did someone have of you that you didn’t meet? Was it that you chose not to meet those expectations, forgot them, or you simply weren’t able to?
This is what’s happening in the synagogue in Nazareth. Those gathered have expectations of Jesus. They’ve heard about the signs and miracles Jesus had been doing in Capernaum, and were expecting him to do the same here. If not more. After all, we are Jesus’ hometown. He should have loyalty to his own. We should be his priority.
Jesus disappointed the people in Nazareth. He didn’t do the signs and wonders they expected. And so they became frustrated and angry. Why those in Capernaum and not us? Why strangers and not the faithful family and friends? Why outsiders and not insiders?
And in their frustration and disappointment and anger, they want to throw him over a cliff. They try to do it, but Jesus passes right through the midst of them and goes on his way.
A related question: when have you been disappointed by Jesus? When have you been frustrated or angry with him?
We know something about God, right? Those of us who are part of the church study, pray, learn, worship, and trust God, right? With all of what we know about God, we have come to expect God to do certain things. What is it that you expect from God? Stop wars; feed starving children; prevent violent attacks on schools; establish morality; bring prayer back into schools; heal our illnesses; get us jobs; find us more money; fill our churches. What is it that you expect from God?
When those things don’t happen the way we expect, of course we are disappointed. The deeper the expectations, the deeper the frustration. We get discouraged in those situations that are beyond our control, where we’re helpless, where we need God to intervene and God doesn’t seem to be helping. Sometimes we get angry and don’t know exactly who or what to blame.
And in our anger and frustration over our unmet expectations, we look for something or someone to throw over a cliff. Someone who we can be angry at. Someone who we can pile our frustrations on. So we find scapegoats and blame them: the poor (calling them lazy). We blame the immigrants (calling them illegal). We blame the Muslims (calling them terrorists). We blame the young (calling them disrespectful). We blame the seniors (calling them out of touch). We blame gays and lesbians (calling them perverts). We blame unbelievers (calling them condemned).
And as we’re venting and blaming, holding on to our prejudices as some kind of security, Jesus passes right through our disappointment, our anger, our frustration, our fear, our unmet expectations. He does so in order to bring peace, comfort, hope, and forgiveness. To everyone. To those in Nazareth and also in Capernaum. To us. And also to the immoral, the unbelieving, the sick, the unemployed, the poor, the undocumented, the Sunday morning sleepers.
Sometimes that’s frustrating. Look at us; we took the time to come to church today! A lot of us believe in Jesus, trust that we are forgiven in him, put money in the offering plate, pray and read the Bible! Of course we expect something for all that. Shouldn’t there be some kind of special privilege for devotion, belief, discipleship? And come to find out we don’t get anything the rest of the undeserving, unbelieving world doesn’t get. Of course we get frustrated.
And it gets worse. Not only does God stand with those who don’t believe, don’t work, don’t have documentation, don’t pray, don’t deserve our help—those outsiders from Capernaum—but God calls us to stand with them too. That’s what baptism actually is, a call by God to stand where God stands, go where God goes, be part of what God is doing—whether that’s disappointing or not. Whether it meets our expectations or not.
If we’re part of the church to have our own needs and expectations met, we’re going to be disappointed. Because Jesus’ mission isn’t about our expectations. It’s about bringing good news, releasing captives, forgiving those who don’t deserve it, setting free those in bondage. He brings it to everyone. In Capernaum and in Nazareth. Gentile and Jew. Christian and Muslim. Gay and straight. Poor and rich. Devout and apathetic. English speaking and non-English speaking.
He even brings it to you.
Jesus will pass right through our unmet expectations in order to bring to all what we actually need: forgiveness, hope, a new chance, a new beginning, a new life. Jesus brings the reign of God. Whether we want it or not. Whether we expect it or not. And, to tell you the truth, that’s good news