The Good Trouble of Inclusion

Dear friends,

Representative John Lewis, who died on July 17th, was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement, engaging in non-violent protests that led to greater liberty and justice for all. Perhaps his most famous quote was, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year; it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

As I think about the ministry of Jesus, I can’t help but think about John Lewis’ striking phrase Good Trouble.  Jesus was a good troublemaker. He brought about change wherever he went. He disrupted business as usual in the temple. He broke the religious laws for a higher priority. He refused to make God’s grace fit the small box people always try to put it in. He associated with the “wrong” sort of people, and you know what they say: you are known by the company you keep. 

This Sunday I will begin a seven-part series of sermons entitled Jesus the Good Troublemaker. Jesus scandalized many of the people of his day. He shocked them. He surprised them. He challenged them to look at the world and to live life in a different way. He challenged religious and secular authorities. He made them angry. He upset the routines. He would not be placed in a camp. When the Sadducees thought he was one of theirs, he would say something that was scandalous to them. When the Pharisees thought he was one of them, he would shock them with his words and behavior. When the Zealots or Herodians claimed him, he would make it plain that he transcended their political concerns. He was, in a word, a troublemaker — a good troublemaker.

This Sunday we’ll begin the series at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry according to the gospel of Luke. He was in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of the book of Isaiah: 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

After he read that passage, he said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” (Luke 4:18-21)

Everything was going so well at that point. In fact, Luke says, “Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?’” (vs. 22)

Then, Jesus referred to a couple of Bible stories and got into trouble with the hometown crowd. It was good trouble, but trouble nonetheless. Here’s how Luke describes it: “everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. But he passed through the crowd and went on his way.”

What Bible stories could cause such trouble? You can read those two stories for yourself: 1 Kings 17:8-24, and 2 Kings 5:1-14. How could those stories cause such an explosive reaction?

Do Bible stories cause good trouble today? Are there some stories in the Bible that trouble you or make you uncomfortable? What happens when we take Jesus’ life and teachings seriously today?

Grace and Peace,


Dr. Tim Bruster
Senior Pastor

 

Luke 4:14-30 (Common English Bible)

14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
    to proclaim release to the prisoners
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
    to liberate the oppressed,
19     and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

20 He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him. 21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”

22 Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?”

23 Then Jesus said to them, “Undoubtedly, you will quote this saying to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we’ve heard you did in Capernaum.’” 24 He said, “I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. 25 And I can assure you that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, when it didn’t rain for three and a half years and there was a great food shortage in the land. 26 Yet Elijah was sent to none of them but only to a widow in the city of Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 There were also many persons with skin diseases in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them were cleansed. Instead, Naaman the Syrian was cleansed.”

28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. 29 They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the crowd and went on his way.

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