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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, January 31, 2010:

First Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm: Psalm 71:1-6

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Gospel: Luke 4:21-30


In this Gospel, we see the reactions of Jesus' listeners to his proclamation that the Scripture has been fulfilled. They can't believe that this boy that they knew as a child could be the Messiah. And then they decide to throw him over a cliff.

I wish I could say that I thought this behavior was bizarre, but I don't. Unfortunately, many people, even dedicated Christians, have this reaction to the Sacred.

How many times have you seen clear evidence of God working in your life? How many times have you discounted your experiences? "It can't be God. It's just coincidence that the issues for which I prayed for help and guidance have been resolved." We should be shouting for joy, and praying prayers of thanksgiving, and instead, we chalk it up to randomness.

In some ways, this behavior is similar to the desire to throw Jesus off the cliff. We discount the power of God, and so we diminish our relationship with God. Later, in the Good Friday story, we scoff at Simon Peter's denial of Jesus, but we often deny God on a daily basis. Many of us are committed to a scientific, rational view of the universe that leaves no room for a divine power. We throw God over the cliff.

Or worse, we're committed to a view of the universe as dark, chaotic, and threatening. We discount the power of light and good to overcome the powers of darkness. Again, we throw God over the cliff. God commands us to be children of the light, committed to love. Many of us prefer to wallow in our feelings of fear and despair. Ah, despair, the sin that medievalists would remind us is the deadliest of the deadly sins--for it is despair that keeps us from believing that life can be different, that God is really in control. And if we can avoid believing that, then we can avoid our responsibilities towards this world that God created.

One of the most insidious ways that we continue to throw Jesus over the cliff is in our daily behavior, especially if those around us know that we are Christians. So often, our behavior undercuts our Christian stance. What will the rest of the world think of our triune God when they see us behave in ways that they know are distinctly not Christian? How do we lead people away from Jesus by our unflattering behavior? It's time to remember that we are to be an example of the kind of world that Jesus came to help us create.

The new year, which is quickly moving towards becoming the old year, is a good time for reflection, a good time to turn inward and to become aware of areas where we could still use improvement. Sure, God loves us the way that we are (a gift of grace to be sure). But God always calls us to be better. It's time to work on our attitudes and beliefs and actions that throw Jesus off the cliff, attitudes and beliefs and actions that make others think that God is indeed dead.

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