Burning prayer candles in the Chapel of All Saints at Trinity Church

Five Ways Into Sunday’s Scripture: God Is Doing Something Unexpected

LUKE 4:21–30 

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you; no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

This Sunday’s Gospel continues the story of Jesus at his home synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus has just finished reading from the scroll the liberating words of the prophet Isaiah. He announces he has been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free and declare the “year of the Lord,” when all debts are forgiven. That sounds good to the synagogue crowd and they are amazed. But then things get tense. There is an expectation the hometown guy will offer these things to his fellow Nazoreans. Jesus does not fulfill this expectation. In fact, he flips the script by pointing to the revered prophets Elijah and Elisha and how they chose to save those outside of the Jewish community — the widow at Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. His message of liberation is for everyone, not just insiders. This passage reminds us of God’s all-inclusive love. It tells us, regardless of how well we know a story or the “way it is supposed to be,” God is likely doing something unexpected. Can we see it? 

—Ruth Frey

Pat Bennett’s reflection on this passage asks us to contemplate how our assumptions affect our responses to what is happening in a divided world. 

In this sermon, Mark K. Marshall invites us to consider, “What border do you need to cross to go with Jesus on his way?” 

Jesus is pushed out of Nazareth.

We recently lost the great Buddhist teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh. His meditation on the end of suffering resonates with the healing and wholeness Jesus promises to all.  

Let God Lead” by Jon Batiste and Stay Human describes the power of love (and is a great connection to the Sunday’s Epistle from Paul to the Corinthians). Here are the lyrics to the song.  

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Coming Up

Join Discovery this Sunday for the second in a two-week discussion with Dr. Lisa Bowens, Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, about her book, African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance and Transformation. (Please note: Through February, Discovery will meet online only.)

The Discovery subcommittee of the Congregational Council invites all parishioners and Sunday Discovery attendees to join the second planning meeting to help shape the Discovery adult education programs for next year (September 2022–June 2023). Come help us think about enriching program ideas and speakers on Thursday, January 27, from 6:30–8pm. RSVP to ChristianFormation@trinitywallstreet.org

On February 3, Join Dr. Catherine Meeks and the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers in conversation about the meaning of reconciliation and Canon Spellers’ book The Church Cracked Open: Disruption, Decline, and New Hope for Beloved Community.