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THE SCANDALOUS BREADTH OF GOD'S LOVE
January 30, 2004
 
Friday's eMo is always a meditation on the lectionary texts that will be read in church on the upcoming Sunday. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

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And they rose up and put Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong.
Luke 4:30

I guess some sermons just work better than others. You never really know until you get up there.

What was it about this one that provoked such a bad review? Things started out fine, it seems: the congregation liked the sermon at first. Jesus responds to their surprise a little defensively, anticipating their complaints before they make them, and describing himself as being "without honor" while they're still complimenting him. So he may have been a little nervous to begin with about preaching in the place where he was best known as Joseph's son: fully human he was, we assert in unison every week, as well as fully divine.

But when he really got going, things went downhill fast. His offense? Suggesting that other people besides the chosen people may receive God's saving grace. Listing a few well-known examples from the Hebrew scriptures of some who did. Suggesting that his hearers' ancient assumptions about God's promise to Israel might work against them, rendering them unable to see and understand what was before them. And, as if on cue, they took him out and tried to throw him off a cliff.

Ours is a gentler age. Our folks usually just withhold their pledges.

An old theatre saying: It's not enough that I succeed; my friends must also fail. Jesus' great offense was suggesting that God's love was wide enough to include people his hearers might not want to include. We can't stand that. At the very least, God must agree to dislike the people we dislike. He must let us decide who is in and who is out. At our worst, we care more about excluding sinners from salvation than we do about being saved ourselves.

Wisely, God has not left that choice to us. God scandalizes us with the breadth of His love. We want to be the ones who set the rules for its action in the world, but God gently takes that power out of our hands every time we make a grab for it.

Be careful: you are never in more danger than when you think you know what God can and cannot do. Will and will not do. Does and does not love. There are many more things about God that we do not know than things we do. The only reasonable posture for us is complete humility, coupled with alert expectation and clear vision. God is alive, and God is good. Those two things are what make our journey an adventure.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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