God never cooperates
Things were fine in Nazareth until Jesus opened his mouth and all hell broke lose. And this was only his first sermon! One might have thought that Jesus would have used a more effective rhetorical strategy, would have saved inflammatory speech until he had taken the time to build trust, to win people’s affection, to contextualize his message—as we are urged to do in homiletics classes.Preaching grace nearly got Jesus killed that day in Nazareth and did get him later killed in Jerusalem. Preaching God's love for people different from himself got that preacher punished in South Carolina. We want to control who God can love and how. But God never cooperates by hating who we want Him to hate.
No, instead he threw the book at them, hit them right between the eyes with Isaiah, and jabbed them with First Kings, right to the jaw, left hook. Beaten, but not bowed, the congregation struggled to its feet, regrouped and attempted to throw the preacher off a cliff. And Jesus "went on his way."
And what a way to go. In just a few weeks, this sermon will end, not in Nazareth but at Golgotha. For now, Jesus has given us the slip. Having preached the sovereign grace of God—grace for a Syrian army officer or a poor pagan woman at Zarephath—Jesus demonstrates that he is free even from the community that professes to be people of the Book. The Book and its preachers are the hope of the community of faith, not its pets or possessions....
In a seminar for preachers that I led with Stanley Hauerwas, one pastor said, in a plaintive voice, "The bishop sent me to a little town in South Carolina. I preached one Sunday on the challenge of racial justice. In two months my people were so angry that the bishop moved me. At the next church, I was determined for things to go better. Didn’t preach about race. But we had an incident in town, and I felt forced to speak.
"The board met that week and voted unanimously for us to be moved. My wife was insulted at the supermarket. My children were beaten upon the school ground."
My pastoral heart went out to this dear, suffering brother. Hauerwas replied, "And your point is what? We work for the living God, not a false, dead god! Did somebody tell you it would be easy?"
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor