Epiphany 4 C 2022 Year of the Lords Favor
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our Gospel reading this morning is a continuation of the reading we had last Sunday. As you may recall, last week we heard that Jesus had returned to His hometown and visited the synagogue as was His custom. And while He was there the hometown folks handed Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to read.
And with all eyes upon Him, Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And after pausing a moment to let the Words that He just spoke sink in, Jesus said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in you hearing.”
And the people became unsettled, because Jesus had left out the second half of the last verse which reads “and a day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus had just turned a text of judgement into a text of mercy. But maybe, they wondered, maybe they had heard Him wrong.
Maybe, the fulfillment of this passage was directed towards them. And maybe, just maybe, Jesus would perform some wonderful signs and miracles for them. So, all the hometown folks spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious Word that came from His mouth.
And they thought, surely Jesus would grant them some of that “Lord’s favor” because they were, after all, His hometown people.
But Jesus reminded them that the “Lords favor” the prophets spoke about was not about playing favorites. And that the “Lord’s favor” was not a given for the hometown crowd. Jesus even teased the hometown folks with the old proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself.”
Turning to scripture, Jesus told the hometown crowd about how, during a famine, when all of Israel could have used the Lord’s favor, God had sent Elijah outside of the fold to help a widow in Zarephath.
And Jesus reminded them about how, during the time of Elisha, when there were plenty of Hebrew lepers who could have used a cleansing, God sent Elisha to an outsider named Naaman, who was located, in all places, Syria.
And how did the hometown folks respond? They absolutely lost their minds. “You mean, God’s grace and favor and recovery and release is not just for us? You mean that we should not just look out for number one? You mean, you are not going to take care of your hometown folks before you help a bunch of outsiders?”
The hometown crowd could not believe what they were hearing. The text states that they were “filled with rage” and proceeded to drive Him to the edge of a cliff so they could hurl Him off the cliff. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went on His way.
You know, this morning our Gospel text reminds me that the “Lord’s favor” is not for me or for you to determine. The text highlights that we do not get to decide upon whom God will bestow His blessings. The grace of God is just that – it’s God grace.
It’s not for any one of us to dictate or deny. All we can do is celebrate and share it.
Sure, we can try to say who wins and who loses; we can try to dictate who gets saved and who does not get saved. We can try to limit God’s grace or draw lines in the sand or keep it for ourselves. We can even try to silence the truth by hurling God’s messengers off a cliff. But we are not God, God is God, and God can and God will bestow His favor upon whomever God wants to bestow it.
Scripture points out that God’s grace and favor is meant to be shared. And that God’s favor does indeed bring Good News to the poor, and release to the captives, and sight to the blind, and release to people held in captivity.
Yes, the “Lord’s favor” will come about whether you and I are on board. God’s ways are not our ways.
As Psalm 77:13-15 reminds us: “Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. 15 With your strong arm you have redeemed your people.”
Our call then is to be a part of God’s Redeeming Activity and not be like the people of Nazareth standing on the side of the cliff watching as Jesus passed through their midst on His way to bring Good News to the poor, sight to the blind, and release to the captives all while proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.
May we be always faithful, and not too busy, too angry, too self-absorbed, or too selfish to be a part of God’s Redeeming Activity in this world. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.