Text, scripture, and audio from weekly sermons.
Click "Read More..." to access the audio and listen to the sermon.
Flannery O'Conner's amazing short story, "Revelation," begins with the main character, Rudy Turpin, walking into a crowded doctor's waiting room. She's there with her husband Claud, who has been kicked by a cow on their farm and has an abscess on his leg. She notices a blond six year old boy whose shirt was dirty and was too rude to move for her, wonders why his mother hadn't wiped his nose. She shoves Claud towards a vacant chair. It doesn't take long to figure out what she's doing, going around the room, sizing up every person there: Mary Grace, the overweight girl of eighteen or nineteen, the acne on her face, scowling into a thick blue book. The young mother and her daughter who she is sure are "white trashy," an older woman, another younger woman, not "white trashy, but common," Rudy decides.
Standing there, knee deep, coated with mud and pig waste and who knows what, he waited. Gosh, he was hungry. He picked up one of the pods he was feeding the pigs, looked to either side, stuck it in his mouth. That's when it hit him. What had he done? WHAT HAD HE DONE?
What would a great banquet, a great feast, look like to you? Perhaps it would be like a grand buffet in a fine hotel, with a someone in a chef's hat carving roast beef, with choices of meats and vegetables and fruits and all the side dishes one could want presented on a long table. The tables might be covered with fine linens, and the wait staff would be standing nearby to fill any empty glasses and to serve in any way needed. Or maybe it would be at someone's house, still with excellent food and lots of wine and drink available. You would know many of those present, and you would meet the other fine folks invited as you mingled over appetizers before dinner. Only the finest foods would be served, and everyone would be dressed nicely and behaving genteelly. For, really, only the well-to-do throw dinner big parties. Poorer people simply cannot afford to throw a dinner party. And they certainly would not be invited alongside the rich folk. That would just be uncomfortable for everyone.
For the last time in Luke's gospel, Jesus enters the synagogue.1 A couple of weeks ago, back in Luke 4, Jesus walks in JUST as his ministry began. He goes to the front of the temple and reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that the spirit of the Lord was upon him to bring good news to the poor - to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor! THEN the folks in Nazareth, his hometown, who had watched him grow up, tried to throw him off a cliff. When Jesus walks into the synagogue it isn't a place of warm feelings. Conflict is coming.
It begins when he's hungry. Not "I skipped lunch because I was too busy," or "I'd love to lose a few pounds" hungry. Not even, scouts, "I've been on a campout and I didn't plan as well as I should have," hungry. Forty days. Can you even begin to imagine the gnawings in one's stomach, even more in one's spirit? As chapter 4 begins Jesus is led - the Spirit leads him to be tempted - into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tested by the devil, diabolos in Greek, the slanderer, the accuser. It's translated from the Hebrew ha-satan, from which our word Satan comes, not as the proper name of the devil but meaning the tempter, the adversary. We don't need a red guy with horns and a pitchfork- that's too easy, and gives us someone to blame. The church has always struggled with a way to articulate the sin which is within us, our failings and misplaced motivations, and the evil we feel in the world, in anger and violence and mistrust, which is much bigger than us. Much of the bible envisions the world as the battleground between the forces of good and the forces of evil, humanity caught in this cosmic struggle.