The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany; Year C (1/31/2010)

Hearing the Voice of God

Lessons: Jeremiah 1:4-10 Psalm 71:1-6 (6) 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 St. Luke 4:21-30

Prayer of the Day: Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love; and that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

4:21 Then he [Jesus] began to say 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.’ “ 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 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; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath 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 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 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.

St. Luke 4:21-30 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

In 1928 Alexander Flem­ming was doing research on culture-plates, at­tempting to learn about infections. During these examinations, the plates were set aside on the laboratory bench and examined from time to time. Consequently, they were ex­posed to air, and they eventually became contaminat­ed with various microorganisms. Flemming was disappointed when this happened. The plates were ruined — he would have to begin the process all over again. What once served as a critical component of his research was now worthless, as far as the origi­nal intention was concerned.

As he observed the contamination, however, he noticed something strange. Around the edges of the contamination was a transparent area. Further experiments conducted on those areas produced a substance that proved to inhibit the growth of bacteria. It was determined that this sub­stance had no toxic side effects on humans. That substance, known today as penicil­lin, be­came one of the most important of all modern medi­cines. What was first identified as a worthless contam­i­nation of a research project proved to be one of the more critical scien­tific discoveries of the century.

It isn’t unusual for the miraculous or the incredible to be lying just under our noses — and we sometimes don’t even see it because we are so intent on looking for something else. That might have been the case at first in 1928, but many lives have been saved because Dr. Flemming was able to see otherwise.

That surely is the case in Nazareth when Jesus preaches there. He returns to his hometown, but is quickly rejected by those people who had watched him grow up in their midst. Perhaps he is just too familiar for them to appreciate. Perhaps they see in him nothing more than an ordinary boy, who had grown up in their ordinary town. In Jesus, God is seeking to appear to them, and transform their lives. They simply can’t see it.

I wonder in what ways God is seeking to appear to you and me today. Could it be in the small voice of a child who cries out to us for love? Could it be in the despairing cry from Haiti of someone who has lost a loved one? Could it be in the frustrating cry of a neighbor who has been out of work for far too long? Could it be in the confused behavior of a broth­er or sister who is addicted? Could it be in the vacant look of the homeless person we bump into on our way to the office one morning?

These may seem like unlikely places for God to be calling out to us. But perhaps, just for that reason, they are among the most important places for us to be looking for our God. Years ago, God was present when the humble son of a Nazareth Carpenter gathered in the Synagogue with his friends and neighbors, and sought to touch them with God’s grace. Perhaps today, contacts with those who struggle with the pain of living in this world are still the most likely places for us to en­coun­ter our God in a meaningful way. As we respond to the voices of those who cry out for our help, perhaps we are responding to the voice of God that others are too busy, or too uninterest­ed, or too hurried to hear.

In the days and weeks and months to come, may God grant that you and I be ever on the alert for the simple, even the mundane ways that God is calling to each of us, asking us to love, to share, to believe.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What did Jesus say that disturbed the people of his hometown?
  2. Why did they react so angrily, and try to do away with him?
  3. How were the people of Capernaum (who experienced his power) different from the people of Nazareth (who didn’t)?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I sensed the presence and power of Jesus in my world?
  2. What situations have I hurried by or overlooked, where God might have been present?
  3. How might I discipline myself to look for those surprising ways in which God comes to our world?