Friday, January 26, 2007

4th Sunday After Epiphany (RCL) sermon blocking

[Luke 4:21-30]

Blocking for sermon

Block 1: "Been There, Done That..."

Have you ever been watching a rerun of a show you're a big fan of, and recognized which episode you're watching as it's just beginning? Me, I'm a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation-- I spent way too many hours watching it as a kid. To this day, I can pop in a dvd of Star Trek, and within about a minute identify which one it is: "Oh, right, I remember this one! This is the one where Captain Picard gets captured by the Borg..."

Now think of a passage of scripture that you've heard many, many times. It might be one that every gospel includes a version of, like Jesus' feeding of the multitudes just a few loaves of bread; or one that is told and retold in American culture, like the nativity story. It doesn't matter which one, but we're talking one you've heard (or read) enough that you know it like the back of your hand. One that you've heard so many times that when you hear the beginning of it, have that little moment of recognition, like a familiar sitcom rerun, and you say to yourself, "Oh yeah, this one. This is the one where Abraham talks to so-and-so, and such-and-such happens..."

While I was at seminary, we had three services every schoolday-- Morning Prayer, Eucharist, and Evening Prayer. This made for three sets of readings a day. Adding this to our study of scripture in OT and NT classes, and our own reading of the Bible, this meant that we covered a lot of ground in the Bible. Often during worship I would hear a reading that I'd just been reading in class or for a paper; I'd think, "Oh yeah, I know this one. I've just been studying this..." Next thing you know, I wouldn't be really hearing the reading at all; I'd be hearing my own ideas about the reading. After all, I already knew it: I knew what genre of Biblical literature it belonged to, I knew the historical-political context in which it was written, I knew what Biblical scholars said about it... If I couldn't exactly recite it word-for-word, well, I still knew what it meant.

The woman I sat next to in chapel was Jane, one of my classmates. The funny thing about Jane is that oftentimes during the readings, her lips would be moving. One day I asked her what she was doing: turns out she had a better memory than mine-- she actually could recite the readings word-for-word!

Knowing a particular Bible passage well can be a double-edged sword; in fact, this can be true even of scripture we don't know all that well but sounds "Bible-y", the way we think scripture "ought" to sound. We feel on familiar ground, we're on home territory; we know what the landmarks mean and can find our way around. We've been there, done that: bought the t-shirt. It's old hat. But what if there's more to the story? What if we're missing something because think we already know all there is to know?

Block 2: "What a nice sermon, Rabbi Jesus ben Joseph..."

In today's Gospel, the locals of Jesus' hometown have gathered at the synagogue to hear Jesus read and preach the Word of God. They knew the young rabbi had been preaching in Capernaum to stand-room-only crowds, and now the local-boy-made-good had returned to his home town. When Jesus read the reading we heard last week, some in the crowd must have nodded their heads in recognition.

All agreed the young man had read very clearly and eloquently.

Today's Gospel is calling us out of familiar territory. It is calling us out of our familiar interpretations, our comfortable ideas, our parochial

Thank God, the Word means more than we think it does. When we come across a reading and find ourselves thinking "been there, done that, bought the t-shirt," chances are that Jesus, the Word made flesh, has already slipped by unseen from our midst. We can stand confused on our cliffsides, or we can look with the eyes of faith.
Look, Jesus has moved on the next city.
Look-- We never imagined the Word might mean that.
We never imagined the Word go there.

Are we coming?

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