January 30, 2022
A Safe Place
Rev. Patricia Wagner
Luke 4: 21-30
Luke 4: 21-30
Jesus has just read aloud from the scroll in the synagogue and announced his mission to bring mercy and justice and healing and to proclaim the year of the Lord.
21 Then he said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22
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?” 23 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.’”
24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But 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; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath (Zare-a-fath) in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 29 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. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
I went to the movies this week. It was the first time in two years that I felt safe to go.
It was wonderful. There were reclining seats. All 4 of us in the theatre were masked.
This song, “Somewhere”was particularly moving. For it speaks of a longing for a place
Where there is forgiveness, and peace And openness. A safe place. It is such a deep human need. One that has been hard to fulfill. These past two years physically, emotionally, politically, even spiritually. For the places we had thought we might be safe, haven’t been.
We sense that in our scriptures today:
Jesus has just read from Isaiah. Announced that he is here to fulfill the scriptures. To bring sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed. To proclaim the year acceptable to God. His hometown folks were so impressed Isn’t that Joseph’s boy, they say admiringly. That one of them would become such a prophet is such a mitzvah! Such a blessing!
A Jewish professor of mine used to say. We Jews are secretly proud of Jesus. He was a good Jewish boy who made the big time! So, the folks in Jesus’ home town Seem to be pretty proud of him, but then he decides to speak the truth. That he knew, having been raised there would be hardest for his townsfolk to hear:
He prefaces it by saying, 'Prophets are not welcome in their hometown, ' Then tells of the stories of the prophets and outsiders. Of the poor Gentile widow in Sidon who was so faithful that at Elijah’s request gave him her last bit of food. And of Naaman, the commander in the Syrian army who humbled himself and received healing through Elijah’s successor, Elisha.
Jesus was telling them that they aren’t the only favored ones. That told them that God doesn’t only love, heal, save Israelites or people who believe as they do. Indeed, there are no outsiders. The sides you’ve drawn are your own creation. And they felt betrayed. Decide to throw him off a cliff, because he wasn’t who they thought he was. They thought he was theirs; he was everyone’s. They thought God was theirs; God is everyone’s.
There’s a series called Somebody, Somewhere. Sam has come back to her hometown. She is funny, cynical, grieving her sister, her family life is a minefield, her boss at work doesn’t understand her. She is on the outside looking in and doesn’t fit in anywhere or with anyone. And she’s gotten comfortable with that, sort of.
Then a man named Joel befriends her invites her to “Choir Practice”. No, she says, I’m not a church person. It’s more “church adjacent” he says, The Presbyterian Church lets him have space for a gathering – for songs and truthful storytelling. And when Sam gets there she sees a mix of people from town. Queer folk like Joel, are leading, but there are people from work, from her own family, people she realizes also need a safe place to be themselves.
Why meet in a church? says one of the queer folks to Joel, it’s freaking me out. And Joel, a lot of people tell me that, he says, but for all the other times I have felt excluded this is still where I feel the most comfort. Joel asks Sam asked to sing with him, and you know how vulnerable it feels to sing especially in front of those who know you.
But she stands up in front of the cross and he sings to her about not giving up. And she sings about the river that keeps flowing. That river of hope, her deep authentic self, keeps flowing.
A member of this community named Jeanette, has been pondering this things deeply. And she wrote to me this week:
The only way I know to risk is to be my authentic self which I have hidden, like that light kept under the bushel basket, to keep it burning. My authentic self is full of pot holes, ditches, skid marks, and persistence. It’s full of wonder and excitement and love and disappointment. It’s full of advocating and being brave for others but not so much for myself. It’s full of doubts about myself, hiding and coming out.
This community has chosen as a core value to be a Safe Place to Question, Seek,
Grow and Demonstrate Who we are in Christ. Creating a safe space for people to be and become our authentic selves me included, and you. To ask our questions, to seek, to demonstrate Christ’s work in us. All of us, like our friend, full of pot holes, ditches, skid marks, and persistence. Full of wonder and excitement and love and disappointment, full of bravery and fear.
Of course the gospel isn’t safe, Lord, no! We might not get pushed off a cliff. But, my gosh, what Jesus asks of us: Love our enemy, forgive not seven times but seventy times seven and live understanding that the first are last And the last are first.
The boundaries between us are of our own making, Jesus says, God, the spirit of the universe has loved everything into being. Including those who have hurt us or others,
as much as God loves us. His hometown folks thought that makes us less beloved. With a smaller place in God’s heart but that shows us how Jesus words are about us. We who need to not only our neighbor and our enemy but ourselves and forgive ourselves as God forgive us for not being who we think we ought to be by now.
That sort of forgiveness, that sort of love. That sort of space where the boundaries between us. And within us are down is what we long for, what the world longs for.
In the new version of West Side Story, the people of this city, and Tony and Maria, the Romeo and Juliet of the story, are caught up in the retributive violence of their times and ours. No one is safe. The shop owner who has known all these young people, from both sides of the racial and cultural divide. She has been told that Maria has been killed and she sits at a table and sings Somewhere. It is a lament, for all that love that gets lost among us and between It is a song of longing for a place where all belong.
It is a song of hope, that we’ll find a new way of living, we’ll find a way of forgiving. Somewhere.
May it be so. Amen.
Rev.Patricia Wagner, Maple Grove UMC