Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 27, 2019
Ezra got on his soapbox and proclaimed from scriptures, interpreting them as he went for four, five, six hours straight. I thought I’d give that a try today. (NOT!)
But that day was a very special day. That day the people were about to enter the city of Jerusalem, a city from which they had been exiled for two generations. Most, if not all, had never before heard those words read aloud. They may have heard bits and pieces, parts that some of the elders had committed to memory, but to hear them proclaimed like this was amazing! These were the words of God that formed them, gave them identity, words that declared to them that they were the chosen people, loved by God. They belonged to God! They knew, now, they were not forgotten; they were not a remnant; they were beloved. They cried. Ezra told them they should celebrate and party. I like Ezra’s thinking.
Four hundred years later another scroll was opened. This time it was in a small synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus read aloud, a passage that was much shorter: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” That’s it. Not six hours, but six lines. And the homily even shorter: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
In those few words Jesus announced his mission –he would proclaim that no one was beyond the reach of God; no one would remain outside the joy and freedom and vision of God’s love; no one was beyond his mercy. Jesus’ mission was to make sure no one was forgotten or overlooked. He was sent to declare a message of love for everyone. There was no crying and no party, as far as we know. They just sat there and stared at him, as if to say: “Wow! Who is this young rabbi?!”
A generation passed. The new community of faith was forming in the city of Corinth; they were like teenagers trying to find their way. Paul, great teacher that he was, wrote a letter to that church and gave them and us an image that still echoes in our churches across the Christian world today, the image of the church as a body. Everyone, everyone, the letter read, is a part of this mystical Body of Christ.
Everyone serves a purpose; everyone is here to strengthen us and make us better and make us whole and holier. Everyone is needed, the able bodied and the disabled, the saintly and the sinner, the man and the woman, the dancers and the stumblers, the artists and the engineers, the inmates and the free, the bold and timid, the straight and the gay, the old and the young, the native and the immigrant, people of every color and every tongue. The presence of every person and the experience of every culture and the voice of every language has something essential to offer to this mystical Body of Christ of which we are a part.
Every spirituality and every way of life, in some way, and often without our awareness, makes us more whole, more Christ-like. God placed us here, all of us, for a reason. So if one part suffers all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored all the parts share its joy. Paul might get a little wordy sometimes, but he was brilliant. He got it. He knew. He understood.
Ezra stood on the wooden platform and read from the scroll so that everyone knew that they were not forgotten. Jesus read from the scriptures in the synagogue so that no could misunderstand his mission: to bring freedom and vision and joy to each and every person. Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians so that the truth of inclusivity was never in doubt; every person shares in the gift and the responsibility of being a part of the Body of Christ. Of this, there is no question.
But there are two questions that do remain: First: do we believe it? Because if we do, it must impact every decision we make, every vote we cast, every song we sing. And if we do, indeed, believe it we have to ask ourselves: What are we doing to make it happen?