As we continue our Epiphany focus on “Baptism and Rebirth,” we consider Jesus’ teaching that follows on his inaugural sermon in Nazareth. He draws attention to two stories from the Hebrew Bible – the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the leper. Both stories tell of obedience and courage in the midst of trying circumstances. Both stories expand the boundaries of the community within which God is present and active. Both stories reveal God’s generous provision even when it appears all is lost. Notably, it’s this teaching that lands Jesus in hot water and incites the crowd to violence! How do these words make us feel and how might these words inform our understanding of baptism, rebirth, and the boundary lines that define the people of God?
- Jeremiah 1:4-10
- Psalm 71:1-6
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
- Luke 4:21-30
Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.” ’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They 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. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.