We're a little over two months into the church's year of grace. Every year, Advent opens with a splash of apocalyptic – uncovering and revealing things previously hidden, concealed – signaling the end of the world as we've known it.
so far: the lectionary has taken us into Advent as OT prophets and John the baptist help us prepare for God in our midst. Then to the feast of the nativity, where Luke and shepherds show us God's favor for the marginalized, those who aren't exactly movers and shakers. Matthew brings us three magi from afar, demonstrating God's cultural, religious, and ethnic inclusiveness. We move from Jesus' baptism/mikvah (remember, not the same as our trinitarian baptism) to gospel writers John's and Luke's accounts of the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.
We find hints and foretastes of Jesus' fulfillment of the OT: a new creation without violence (no day of vengeance for God; Satan, the prosecuting attorney falling from heaven like lightning); a new exodus where we pass through the waters of baptism and feast on a new passover meal; a peaceable, non-violent, inclusive kingdom.
The lectionary compilers shuffle things around a bit, since on Lent 1 (no Sunday church that day because of the marathon) we'll have Jesus' temptation in the wilderness that actually happened before the start of his public ministry.
4Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." 6Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." 7But the Lord said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord." 9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched [strike, jolt, shock: not gentle] my mouth; and the Lord said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
Jeremiah's call echoes Moses' call in Exodus 3. God's call to Jeremiah also goes along with Luke's version of the first event of Jesus' public ministry in his hometown Nazareth, and also has parallels later in the book of Jeremiah—the townspeople wanting to kill Jesus that we read about in today's gospel account.
"to pull up and pull down; to destroy and overthrow; to build and to plant"
Organic, natural images of uprooting, demolishing, destroying, overthrowing; planting and building, too. We can apply this in many different areas, large and small, local and global.
How about us? How about me? How about you?
21Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph’s son?" 23He 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 in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They 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. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Last week: Jesus proclaims God's call to him to ministry beyond the borders of the hometown; salvation available to all! The whole entire world, maybe especially the least of these, most vulnerable and marginalized. Today on Epiphany 4 and the account continues, Jesus refers to the prophet Elijah who helped a Sidonian woman, a non-Israelite foreigner of another religion; the prophet Elisha helping a Syrian man ― another outsider of another religion.
What? Jesus says God loves "those people – Sidonians and Syrians" – just as much as us, the historically and confidently chosen ones?! In last week's gospel reading Jesus announced good news of physical healing and economic justice to the working-class / underclass in his home town, to people Roman occupation had exploited in every imaginable way. Is this good news universal, for all people, rather than exclusive to members of our religion and ethnicity only?
Remember from the book of Acts how the gospel started in Jerusalem, then expanded to the "entire known world," a world that now has expanded beyond those boundaries.
Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, us: calling / vocation—same word from different origins. How does God call us?