Year C Epiphany 4 Luke 4
Epiphany: The Tragedy of Rejection
Luke 4:21-30

In the church, most of us think of Epiphany simply as a season on the church calendar, and sometimes as a season we don't understand too well. We may recall that we are celebrating particularly the revealing of Christ to the Gentile world, via the Wise Men, but not much more. The dictionary, however, adds further dimension to the word, listen: "a sudden, intuitive perception ... into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience." That definition applies in a profound and unique way to our Lord Jesus Christ. We have good reason to write his Epiphany with a capital "E" because it is not only a special day on the calendar, but a revealing which sets the pattern for all other revealings.

True to the literary definition of the term, Jesus brought perception "into the reality or essential meaning." He stripped the superficial away from life and the artificial from religion. What we need, he told Nicodemus is a new birth: not just a reformation or higher resolves, but an utterly new start. To the woman of Samaria he prescribed water which would satisfy the deep, eternal thirst. For the rich young ruler, he commanded a whole new set of values, a change which the man, unfortunately, was unwilling to make.

But in every case, Jesus went below the surface -- down to reality. Even the physical changes said as much: the blind could now see, the deaf hear, the leper feel new flesh. To Zacchaeus he revealed, without saying a word, that his grasping publican values were meaningless; so Zacchaeus gave exuberantly to the poor and righted his economic wrongs. But when he pointed out their hypocrisies to the scribes and Pharisees, they began seeking ways to destroy him. An epiphany may be exciting, but it may also be upsetting. Such is the story in our scripture lesson of the day. It is the account which we began last week -- Jesus' visit to his home community of Nazareth, after his ministry had begun to make him a topic of conversation elsewhere. After reading the magnificent prophecy of Isaiah about One who would proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and who would set at liberty those who were oppressed, Jesus announced that the scripture was being fulfilled that day.

  1. Amazement Turns to Anger
  2. Astounded by Authority
  3. Getting Ready for Revelation

Harmony and Humor: The Ties That Bind Christianity's Many Christianities
Luke 4: 21-30

Let's begin this morning with a song. Please stand. Most of you know the song "Beneath the Cross of Jesus." If you don't, you are hearing our organist/pianist/keyboardist play it right now as I'm talking. On the PC-USA webpage, there was posted a hymn written a week ago by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. It addresses in song the Haitian disaster where, according to the most recent estimates, between 100,000 and 200,000 Haitians perished. The words are sung to the tune of "Beneath the Cross of Jesus." I invite you to sing this song with me as we begin worship.

Let us pray these words to God. And as we do, let’s join in singing these words in harmony together. Let’s get beyond everyone singing the same note and the same beat, which I call uniformity singing rather than unison singing. True unison singing is done by harmonizing our voices as we offer to God this beautiful hymn of prayer written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, "In Haiti, There is Anguish" (St. CHRISTOPHER ["Beneath the Cross of Jesus"].

1. In Haiti, there is anguish that seems too much to bear;
A land so used to sorrow now knows even more despair.
From city streets, the cries of grief rise up to hills above;
In all the sorrow, pain and death, where are you, God of love?

2. A woman sifts through rubble; a man has lost his home,
A hungry, orphaned toddler sobs, for she is now alone.
Where are you, Lord, when thousands die - the rich, the poorest poor?
Were you the very first to cry for all that is no more?

3. O God, you love your children; you hear each lifted prayer!
May all who suffer in that land know you are present there.
In moments of compassion shown, in simple acts of grace,
May those in pain find healing balm, and know your love's embrace.

4. Where are you in the anguish? Lord, may we hear anew
That anywhere your world cries out, you're there - and suffering, too.
And may we see, in others' pain, the cross we're called to bear;
Send out your church in Jesus' name to pray, to serve, to share.

Please be seated. Thank you for that unison singing, and for that beautiful harmony this morning. What a great way to begin worship and to reflect prayerfully on the images and sounds the media have brought into our homes this past week.

This morning I want to make a case for a thesis that comes with two theorems. The thesis is this: There has never been something we could call "Christianity?" There has only been, not "Christianity," but "Christianties."

What has held these many "Christianities" together are two things: harmony and humor. The harmony theorem comes from our text this morning. The humor theorem is extra-lectionary but equally biblical, and comes from other scriptural passages and stories.

First, let's look at the harmony theorem to the "Christianities" thesis. Then we'll end with the humor theorem... presents Leonard Sweet