by Laurie Gudim
A little over a year ago a dear friend’s father died, and she asked me to preach at his memorial service. It was in the town where I went to high school. The sermon preached well, and I received many compliments.
My sophomore English teacher was there. I could tell that she was proud. All those years ago when I was in her class she had taught me the basics of good rhetoric and had encouraged me, a very bashful introvert, to stand up and speak in public. Now here I was, poised and masterful, delivering my message clearly to a room full of people. But I’m not sure she really took in what I was saying.
Then again, who knows? Preaching is always magic. When the words leave our lips they fly like wild geese, soaring, calling out to their kindred in the souls of those who are listening, inviting them, too, to fly. How can we know what will come of the words we let loose in any sermon? That’s a God thing.
Jesus must have known this. So what made him suddenly so angry with his people? Some of them, surely, despite their familiarity with him, must have been beginning to hear him. The geese in their souls must have been readying themselves for flight.
It has never really dawned on me before that, since I’m a habitual Christian, I’m like the people of Nazareth, overly familiar with Jesus. I am in danger of ignoring the call of the Christ to the yearning God-thing within me. I’m in danger of letting his message soar right past me. There are, after all, so many ways we can miss the point or minimize it. Like the hometown listeners, we might get complacent, and we might not let important words kick us free of our moorings.
For Luke Jesus’ message in that synagogue is extremely important. He wouldn’t want anything to get in our way of truly hearing it. This story shows us who Luke believes Jesus to be. It is not only worth attending to very carefully, it is truly catalyzing and transformative. It is a life-changing teaching.
So here it is again, and may it tear loose all that keeps us down. May it set us free to imagine, to speculate, and to hope. May it spark the knowledge of God’s love and invite us to be Christ’s hands and heart in the world. May it call to the geese of our souls and invite us to soar.
“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'”
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.