Epiphany 3, Year C

Luke 4:14-21

January 27, 2013

When the Vestry was getting to know each other Friday evening, we were sorted into two teams.  Picking of teams can be done many ways.  There is the literal ‘picking of teams’ where inevitably someone will be the last picked – not much fun.  Names can be drawn at random.  The method used by our Senior Warden was the count off method.  One, two, one, two, one, two – pretty fair.  All the ones are on a team and all the twos were on a team.  But then someone asked how they would know who was on their team because we were all sitting around a large table.  The answer was quickly offered – shirts and skins.  That was pretty funny because in a coed crowd of middle aged people it just wasn’t going to happen.

There was another sorting process in a class in Seminary, that wasn’t so funny.  We were breaking into groups of 3-4.  First the class divided into male and female.  Then the female group decided that those under 40 would be a group.  That left about 8 of us in the female, over 40, and we were having a tough time coming up with how to break up the group – until someone said ‘those who have children’ and those who don’t.  That worked!  As we started to separate one of my classmates got really upset and began to cry.  Turns out that while not having children wasn’t a big deal to the rest of her group, it was a big deal to her.  She had always wanted to have children but was not able to.  She felt we had been cruel in even suggesting the distinction.  She did not want to be part of the “I can’t have children” club.  You can’t tell by looking at a person what clubs they belong too and which memberships are difficult to bear.  You only know after you’ve brought up the difference.

The people of Israel are returning to Jerusalem – a place of their own, the place of their ancestors.  And it is new to most of them.  They have been in exile – scattered throughout Babylonia.  By birth they are part of a club.  It’s time to return to living life according to the laws of Moses, whether they want to or not.

What we need to understand, is that it has been a long time since the people have lived in Jerusalem, and to most of them this is a way of life that they have only heard about through stories.  On this day before the festival month that today is known at Rosh Hashanah, Ezra reads from a spot where all the people, even ritually defiled persons, could be present.  “Ezra, brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding.”  Immediately, I was wondering who are the people that can’t hear with understanding.  What kind of club weren’t they part of?  I thought about people we might call developmentally challenged or maybe they were foreigners, non-Jews.  Well, the notes say that ‘those who could hear with understanding’ meant ‘older children’, teenagers in our lingo.  So those who couldn’t understand were presumably kids.  There were pauses during the reading of the law so that it could be translated and that all would be able to understand.  In that understanding, they are becoming part of the club – the club of the people of God.

Jesus has begun his ministry in Galilee and eventually gets back to Nazareth, his home town.  He stands up to read in the synagogue like he has done many times before as a young man and is handed the scroll of Isaiah.  This part is unique to Luke’s gospel – the other gospel versions of the story don’t go into this much detail.  “This Isaiah citation defines the character of Jesus’ ministry.  He will announce good news to those who are poor, blind, in captivity, and oppressed.  Luke portrays Jesus’ liberating work in terms of personal exorcisms, healings and the teaching of the people.  The radical character of this mission is specified above all by its being offered to and accepted by those who were the outcasts of the people.”  (Sacra Pagina, Luke)          How many of us are part of that club?

We come to Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth.  Last week, he was telling them about gifts of the spirit.  This morning Paul is taking that a bit further and letting us know that all gifts are important to the Church – and that they are equally important.  (You get the idea that maybe some people then were looking down at other members in the community.)  Together we make up a whole body.  Even our blemishes are parts of the body.  And though we might want to deny that we are part of the body, we can’t.  “If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.”  Through baptism we are part of this body, this family of Christ.  “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

No doubt we all belong to many different clubs.  There are no external markings to identify which clubs we have membership in, and it’s not necessary that we share with each other all of our club memberships.  Suffice it to say that we are all members of God’s creation.  We are a part of this family of Christ and our family is part of the larger family of God.  Being members of the ‘no’ kids club does not make us less (or more) than those who have children.  Being members of the club of those who suffer depression does not make us inferior (or superior) to those who suffer physical challenges.  Being members of any club just makes us human.  The thing we have in common is membership in one or more clubs.

Spend some time this week thinking about how these clubs affect the way you look at and interact with the world?  AMEN.

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1 Comment

  1. Bill Schoenleber

    This was so timely and even prophetic in how things played out in my life this week. Thanks!

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