Rev. Carol A. Prochaska (ret.)

February 3, 2013

Title: People of The Table

 

           Scripture: Luke 4: 1-30

The return of Jesus to his hometown and his hometown synagogue starts out as a happy event. He is a known and familiar person. He is Joseph's son. Without exception these hometown folks have been speaking well of Jesus. Without exception they are amazed at the gracious words that come from his mouth. These are words of favor and blessing and hope - words underlined in love from God

But ALAS! The warm fuzzes fade away because something unforeseen takes place. The Jesus they think they know so well begins speaking to them as a prophet. This is not what they had anticipated. They are not interested in this Jesus. In unfamiliar territory they close off. Like the prophets before him Jesus speaks truth. Truth that can set his listeners free to see a bigger God and a bigger world if they will listen. But on this day they cannot or will not.

When they hear what the prophet Jesus is saying to them — this is the Jesus they don't know — they are filled with rage! They are so done with this Jesus, this unfamiliar Jesus, that they drive him out of town and try to heave him over a cliff.

Sadly and unfortunately what they know about Jesus is just enough to trick them into thinking they know all they need to know. If only they would have stayed with this unfamiliar Jesus just long enough to see what God was doing, to see what God might be revealing to them. It seems to me that their circumstances are not unlike settling for what we learned about Jesus in Sunday School. If, as an adult, all we have is our Sunday School Jesus then we are stuck with a limited and a childlike knowledge . The Apostle Paul has written: "When I was child, I thought as a child, I reasoned as a child. When I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways."

If we have grown up in the church and grown up with Jesus and the Jesus stories, we are at risk. It can be a challenging for us to learn from the Jesus we've never known. Some of you will have read the Marcus Borg, theologian, professor and author. Two of his books get at the idea of the familiar and the unfamiliar: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and The God We Never Knew. In this latter book he takes the reader of a journey from the distant, authoritative of God of our children to an adult understanding of God.

Some of you will have seen the world map in the January issue of the United Church Observer. The article that goes with this map is entitled: "A World of Difference." Only two pages in length, a full page and half is taken up by a colored map of the world known as Peter's Map. Peter's Map is not new; it came out in 1974. When it came out there was controversy. After all what was wrong with the old map of the world? Why not keep the familiar one we grew up? That well-known familiar map had been around a very long time! According to the Observer article it was created in 1569! Arno Peters, the creator of the Peter's Map, came to the realization that prevailing biases were based not just on skewed history but also on flawed geography. So using a formula he set about to provide a fairer picture of the world. The Observer article says: "the Peters map plays no favorites. It treats every nation honestly, realistically and fairly."

This morning we gathered around this Table. We remember that throughout Jesus' ministry he ate at table with anybody and everybody and the so-called nobodies. Jesus treated everyone honestly, realistically, and fairly. At this Table we remember Jesus at table was living and teaching God's in-breaking to reveal a new and different world.

Here we eat and drink with those who know what it is to unhook from the familiar and who know what it is to look for and to see the unforeseen. At this Table we are reminded, and we celebrate, that we are among the recipients of God's incredible goodness. So we can, and we will, go beyond the familiar into the unfamiliar where our God awaits us.