Weekend Sermon

Sermon for 1/30/16
Spring Valley, MN
Gospel Text: Luke 4:21-30
Title: Jesus and Perks

Gospel text: 

Luke 4:21-30 - Then Jesus began to say to them, “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.
We live in a time of a lot of perks! People love perks. I love perks! Perks are those special bonuses we get from companies for buying their stuff - or from employers - or from insurance companies. 

Whether you’re talking about Kohls, DressBarn, Menards, Fleet Farm, Costco, Amazon, KwikTrip or Shopko – they all have variations of perks. 

For example: $10 of cash to spend for every $50 worth of stuff you by. Use their credit card, get an additional percentage off. If you fly a lot, you get free upgrades to first class – or you can bring extra luggage without an extra charge. Buy 10 oil changes, get one free. Buy 12 coffees, get one free. Buy 5 sandwiches, get one free.

Perks are fun. They make us feel like we’ve gotten a good deal. They also feel like an achievement. And they make us feel special. 

There was a company 4 years ago that decided to get rid of perks. No more sales. No more coupons. The strategy was to simplify. Make good deals clear and accessible to everyone. There would just be one, every day low price. The company was JCPenney. And perhaps you remember: It was a flop. After implementing the new strategy, sales were down $163 million dollars in just one quarter. And people were infuriated. They felt cheated and ripped off. Like the good deals they were entitled to had suddenly disappeared. The prices didn’t change that much. The cost with a coupon or the new lower costs were about the same. It didn’t matter. People wanted perks. We like perks. 

It isn’t just that we like perks - research has shown that things like coupons and good deals literally give us a rush of a brain chemical called oxytocin. Perks make us feel special – like we matter. We don’t like it when they get taken away.  

Up to this point, we’ve been talking about economic perks....business perks. But there were also what people believed to be religious perks. In today’s Gospel text, Jesus is back in his hometown of Nazareth. The people he was preaching to had certain expectations about the religious perks they believed they deserved.  Many people had a notion that God’s grace and favor were merited by the following of particular rules. They figured since Jesus, their hometown boy was back, he’d give them special perks and privileges. Maybe extra healings. Extra miracles. 

Today’s gospel text is the story of Jesus taking a totally different approach. 

In fact, Jesus took a JCPenney-style approach to the kingdom of God – and he leveled the playing field. He made the perks accessible to everyone. He reminded his hearers that freedom from oppression, forgiveness, and favor weren’t for a select few – they were for all. No more perks for just a few - all would be invited. Abundant grace and favor were for everybody. And…he notes in today’s text…most especially for outsiders. 

As is clear from verses 28-29, the people were not happy. They were, quote, “Filled with rage” and tried to throw him off a cliff.

Their entire mood changes in just a few verses (invite people to look in their Bible at verses 4:22 and 4:28. 

In Verse 22, for example: ALL the people are amazed. 

The tides turn in the emotional intensity of the crowd. By Verse 28, ALL the people are engaged. Amazed to enraged – in only 6 verses. 

Which is pretty representative of a lot of us. We have tempers and triggers. And it doesn’t always take too long to set us off. 

Today’s reading is all part of the first recorded public speech of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. As is typical of Jesus, he is comforting at times. And also provoking at times. And this is the nature of Jesus. To comfort us – AND to push us outside out comfort zone. To challenge our assumptions. Specifically, Jesus challenges our human sense of entitlement with his bold and inclusive proclamation of grace for EVERYONE. 

You’d think God’s grace would always make us happy and smiling – but sometimes it also makes us want to boycott and throw people of cliffs. It’s hard to understand it, but most of us have felt it along the way. “What do you mean everyone is eligible for perks? THOSE ARE MY PERKS! THOSE ARE MY HAPPY CHEMICALS!”

As families of faith – it is our part of our job to lift up all these different elements of who Jesus is…and what it means to follow him! To follow Jesus means to speak words of comfort…and to allow ourselves to be comforted. To follow Jesus also means to proclaim abundant grace for everyone. 

As a family of faith – there are a multitude of ways you are doing this – ways you leaning into this (sharing a bit about each)….

*Grace Notes ministry
*Prayer shawls
*Food donations
*Helping fund the local backpack program

As a synod – as a state – as a country – as human beings sharing a planet….what does it look like to proclaim a world were everyone gets invited to experience compassion? What does it look like to build a world were forgiveness and heal are available to all?  

It’s normal if it makes us a little uncomfortable. It obviously made Jesus’ original listeners HIGHLY uncomfortable…enough that they tried to kill him. This is one of those Gospel readings that takes a lot of chewing and digesting. 

Let us make space for grace in our hearts today. To feel it and claim it for ourselves. To know that we’re loved, we’re forgiven, and we’re accepted. AND let us also make space for grace in our hearts for everyone else. 

Thanks be to God for Jesus: 1. for his ability to bring us comfort –  3. for the ways he nudges us out of our comfort zones – and 3. for all the ways he reminds us that all are welcome and invited.  

1 comment:

  1. This is really a great sermon! I always love how you tie everything together. To me, this is one of your greatest attributes. I can just see you preaching this. Thanks so much!