4 Epiphany, Year C: The World

SUNDAY’S READINGS | January 30, 2022

Jer. 1:4-10
Ps. 71:1-6
1 Cor. 1:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

In the life, teaching, and wondrous miracles of Jesus Christ, and preeminently in his death, resurrection, ascension, and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, we have been released from bondage to evil and death. We have received new sight, new eyes, with which to behold the Lord in all his redeeming work. We have been released from oppression and sent forth into the world as ambassadors of freedom and peace. Jesus promised all this in his short sermon given in his hometown of Nazareth, and what he promised he accomplished.

And yet we are not simply talking about the past. In the Church, we never are. The reading of Scripture and the celebration of the liturgy invoke a kind of time travel in which distant events leap into the present, not only with the force of their first occurrence but with the added weight of successive generations who have lived and entered all the mysteries of Christ. Simply put, Christ is truly and effectively present to us now.

Our salvation in Christ is universal in scope. As stated in the Great Thanksgiving of Rite I, “All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption; who made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the whole world” (BCP, p. 334). In other eucharistic prayers, we hear of “a perfect sacrifice for the whole world,” a “Savior and Redeemer of the world” who “gave himself up to death; and rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new” (BCP, pp. 362, 368, 374). Salvation is for everyone or it is for no one. If he did not assume it, he did not save it.

But we find this hard to believe — that he would assume and transform our fallen condition. And if we do manage to accept it for ourselves, we draw back from its application to all sorts and conditions of men. He came to save sinners, but did he come to save those sinners?

Preaching in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus received a mixed reception. “They were bearing witness to him, and they were astonished at the words of grace that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22; my translation). “And they were saying, ‘Is not this one a son of Joseph?’” (Luke 4:22). Not “the son of Joseph,” but rather “a son,” as the article is missing in Greek. Most of the verbs put in the imperfect tense suggest a reflection in the past. “They were being astonished; they were saying.” In a sense, this is a considered appreciation of Jesus and sustained suspicion about him. We know his father and his siblings. How special can he be? And, will he do among us (probably not) the works reportedly done in Capernaum?

Jesus tells them that in a time of great famine, “Elijah was sent to none of them except to a woman, a widow, in Zarephath of Sidon” (Luke 4:26). He tells them that there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha, “and not one of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:27). Jesus, standing before a home crowd, reminds them that the blessing upon Abraham and his descendants would be a blessing over all humanity, like the waters that cover the sea. A widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, both Gentiles and yet included in the saving action of God.

Did not a star appear in the east to pagan astrologers, who, having found the child, prostrated themselves before him in adoration?

Look It Up: John 12:32

Think About It: Everyone and everything.


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