Tell the Cats to Turn Around
We despise people who challenge our cherished myths and kick us out of our
comfort zones. The truth is that when Jesus sets about the task of saving
us, he has to heal us of any myth or prejudice that is contrary to the
spirit of Christ. Billy Sunday was the Billy Graham of a previous
generation. He was conducting a crusade in a particular city. In one of
his sermons he said something critical of the labor conditions for workers
in that area. After the service, several prominent businessmen sent a
message to him by one of the local pastors. The message was this—Billy,
leave labor matters alone. Concentrate on getting people saved. Stay away
from political issues. You’re rubbing the fur the wrong way.” Billy Sunday
sent this message back to them: “If I’m rubbing the fur the wrong way,
tell the cats to turn around.”
Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, eSermons.com
Moving the Margins
Jesus lived on the margins and moved the margins to include all people,
and hence invited hostile crowds to want to edge him out of existence.
Today the church wants to edge Jesus out of our worship anytime the
margins are made too wide and include too many who are not like us.
Recently I was sitting at my computer, contemplating the way Jesus
offended so many people so quickly in his ministry. I asked, “Why?” The
answer was at the top of my screen. My word processing instructions at the
top read: “Drag the margin boundaries on the rulers.” That is why he upset
people so much: in his life he dragged the margin boundaries of race,
creed, and color to include all people. He dragged the margin boundaries
when he gave a common meal, which we have made a holy meal symbolic of his
inclusive love for all people. Jesus is dragged to the edge of a cliff to
be put out of the lives of his townspeople because no one wants the
margins of daily living to be inclusive of strangers.
Richard W. Wing, Deep Joy for a Shallow World, CSS Publishing Company
Preaching at Home
I want to let you in on an industry secret. Ready? Most preachers have a
difficult time preaching in the congregations where they grew up. It is
true for me. I was recently invited to preach in the church where I grew
up. My mixed feelings about the invitation were justified. Before anybody
heard a word I said, they remembered little Billy Carter, who made paper
airplanes out of worship bulletins and dropped them from the balcony when
nobody was looking. Even the newcomers who joined long after I moved away
had been indoctrinated. They knew members of my family, and that became
the filter through which they heard the content of my sermon. Before that
congregation heard me, they already knew me….
It is difficult for a preacher to go back home. Everybody knows you. That
is the problem. Of all the sayings of Jesus, one of the few things he said
that appears in all four gospels is that a prophet gets no respect in a
prophet’s hometown. To put it another way, “You become an expert only
after you move more than ten miles from home.”
William G. Carter, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing Company
Based on verse 22, it appears there was immediately a double-reaction:
some were amazed and part of their amazement at his “gracious” speech gets
expressed in the line “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” But that question seems
to cut two ways, and Jesus’ subsequent words indicate his awareness of
this. The question “Isn’t this Joseph’s son” CAN be a source of genuine
wonder and appreciation—look how far our local boy has come! But it’s not
difficult to see that the same question could be asked with a real edge to
it, with a sneer, with derision. “Joseph’s kid? Good grief. He was a
nobody back in the day and he’s a nobody from a no-account family now.
Jesus then goes on to suggest that maybe those very detractors in the
crowd that day would be asking him shortly for an authenticating sign.
Although we have not as of yet been told directly by Luke of any
particular work Jesus did in Capernaum, apparently he’s been there and
done some amazing things. But Jesus is no trained dog or dancing bear and
he makes clear he’s not going to do any such thing in Nazareth. Worse, he
inflames people still more by saying that with the attitudes some were
harboring in their hearts at that very moment, the Nazareth populace was
not worthy of a divine working. Instead, as in the feckless, sub-spiritual
days of Elijah and Elisha, God would work his wonders elsewhere, outside
Scott Hoezee, comments and observations on Luke 4:21-30.
On the Way to the Cross
When God’s light shines on the way of the cross, you and I are invited to
see both the stretch of God’s grace and the truth of our own disobedience.
Here so early in Luke’s Gospel, the Lord’s encounter with humanity’s self
righteousness and preoccupation with the hometown attitude, it is already
driving him to the cross. Before the healings and the teaching and the
miraculous catch of fish, before Mary and Martha, and the Good Samaritan
and the Prodigal Son and Zacchaeus, before the rich man who was told to
sell everything and give it to the poor and the poor widow who put in
everything she had, before all of that, Jesus was on his way to the cross.
Before Luke makes it abundantly clear that the Gospel of Jesus Christ
would reach into “all the living that you have”, Jesus was well on his
It’s that reach that causes us to squirm, or to keep a safe distance, or
to run away. The Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall remembers that Paul
Scherer, a great preacher of the past, used to point out that in the New
Testament the kingdom of heaven and the life of discipleship is so often
described as a great feast, a bounteous banquet. But then that preacher
reminds the hearers of the irony that everyone was trying stay away from
that feast. Or as Hall himself then wonders, how is it that the theology
of “megachurchianity” in our culture assumes that everyone has this strong
compulsion to “get as close to Jesus as possible?” To draw near to this
Jesus is to encounter the Gospel that confronts and convicts and
threatens. And you and I find our place somewhere in Luke’s crowd, because
if we’re honest, the Gospel of Jesus Christ hits too close to home, to the
hometown crowd. “They got up, drove him out of 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 Jesus went on his way.”
Reminding Us of What We Already Know
When I began my work as a preacher, I spent a lot of time poking around
the pages of Scripture for something unusual. My only objective was to
find something that would prompt me to say, “This will get them.” I would
find something in the book of Obadiah and preach on it, murmuring, “I’ll
bet they have never heard this before.” I was right; they had never heard
it before. As a result, it had no power. No authority. No sense of
importance or urgency.
Once in a while, I would give in and turn to a text that everybody had
heard before. At coffee hour, folks would say, “Whew! You really gave it
to us today!” Little by little, it began to dawn on me: The power of the
prophetic word does not come from roaming a far country where no one has
gone before. The real power of the gospel comes from reminding the people
of God of what they already know.
William G. Carter, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing Company
The Sanford Hotel in San Francisco reports that it never lost a single
Bible in the 15 years it placed them at the bedside as a service to the
guests. But, in one month after it started putting dictionaries in the
rooms as well, 41 dictionaries disappeared. Now, I don’t know whether you
can draw a solid conclusion from that, but on the surface, it seems
obvious that persons apparently place a greater value on human words than
they do the Word of God.
So, there are words and The Word. Of course, the Bible is the Word above
all other words. But we go even further than that in the Christian faith.
Jesus is the Word — the Word become flesh — and by the Word that He is,
we assess all other words including the Bible.
We could have spent the entire sermon talking about the message that Jesus
read from Isaiah when He took up the book in the temple.
Maxie Dunnam, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com