A Little Synagogue in Nazareth
Lectionary readings for January 27, 2013. Psalm 19, Nehemiah 8: 1-10, 1 Cor. 12:12-31, Luke 4: 14-21.
The story in Luke 4 takes me back to "Nazareth Village" about 5 years ago. Our learning tour group was visiting the village, constructed to resemble Jesus' time, and we were sitting in a small synagogue. It was a simple rectangular building, about the size of our living room, with half a dozen stone columns holding up a thatched roof. Large stone blocks lined the outer walls, making cool (if hard) benches where we gratefully escaped the outside heat. A palestinian man, about 30 years old, stood up and recited these words. It was easy to imagine him as Jesus and the words he spoke made our hearts race. "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." When he finished, he asked us to imagine that we were the people of Jesus' town. We had seen him grow up, we had seen him play and scuffle with our own children, some of us were even his uncles and aunts. Being so close to him, how would we hear his words? Embarassingly, we could understand how his own people's initial pride could transform into a rage willing to run him out of town and even off a cliff.
It's sometimes harder to be close to change than to be the one changing things. It's very difficult for us to allow those close to us take on roles and importance that challenge us to change too. We don't give up our jealousies and defensiveness without a fight.
1 Cor. 12: 12-31 is all about needing all parts of the body to form a whole, but ultimately it is a passage about caring for each other. A good message to read following Luke 4.
In Nehemiah, the words of God spoken to the people are said to "revive the soul", "make wise the simple", "rejoice the heart", and "enlighten the eyes." A message that helps to form the kind of willingness to learn and to let God lead the way through change and new beginnings. (Tim mentioned that he thinks this scripture is a wonderful text as we celebrate the Nuer church first worship service on January 27. Having hopeful scripture proclaimed in public like Ezra did, to a people rebuilding after exile, is a powerful thing.)
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14