21 He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’ they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, ‘Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself!” And you will tell me, “Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”’
24 ‘Truly I tell you,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his home town. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.’
Friends, have you ever heard the term, ‘prophetic grace’? It is here. God’s words calling Jeremiah and Jesus’ words to his hometown are ‘prophetic grace’.
‘Prophetic grace’ is grace that is grace – the undeserved and unearned favour, blessing, love and acceptance of God for you, and yet prophetic; truth-telling grace: challenging words, even disturbing words about you, us and the situation. It is grace with truth; truth not for malice or shame or harm of you, but truth always for love of you so you can be truth and love for others.
Prophetic grace is not only here in the Bible. I saw it at work last Sunday afternoon in Murray Bridge.
Last Sunday, I went down to Murray Bridge to be part of my good friend, Pastor David Kuss’ installation service at Unity College.
David spoke prophetic grace. From an obvious heart of love for the people there and those they are called to reach in their town, David spoke words of truth-telling that were challenging and a little uncomfortable.
Like those in Nazareth that day, there were some that were ‘amazed at the words of grace’ coming out of Pastor David’s mouth and others for whom these words of prophetic grace were uncomfortable and challenging.
Some would have felt threatened by the truth he spoke, and some would have warmed with joy to it.
Pastor David told the story. He had received three calls to serve in Murray Bridge
- 2010 – Call to be school pastor at unity. Declined. Not suited to the role.
- 2021 – Call to serve three separate places in one town (old model of ‘Parish’). He declined that call.
- 2022 – Call to Serve One church with three places.
I declined the call a year ago because it was a call to continue what we have been doing for the last 100 years where we have separated and disunified churches, where there is ‘3 X 3 of everything’….. three Church Councils, Elder’s groups, music teams and etc, etc….
It is a way of being church where everyone wants to get their own. Each place wants their own slice of the pie when they want it and in the way they want it.
It was a call to merely keep the show on the road out of necessity.
The parish model does not bring congregations together. It kills pastors [and any hope of outward people focus]. It is really only rearranging the chairs on the deck.
We like to think our congregations’ foundation is Christ alone. But you don’t build two church buildings facing each other out of love for Christ and his gospel where everyone knows whose steeple is highest and whose building is oldest or largest….
Our foundations in many places are actually built on spite, jealously, and one upmanship. We all have sad stories of marrying with ‘the other side” and etc.
Truth is that it is only out of necessity that we have now arrived at anything different.
Truth-telling words that everyone in the room knew were true!
And why is it like this?
We have been set up to self-cater; to look after our own. This is partly right.
- Immigrants from Europe at the beginning… We were a dispossessed immigrant community who had to look after ourselves.
- WWI victims of Aussie people crating us to be monsters – changing town names and family names.
- WWII anti-German sentiment again.
This is why we have state of the art churches in the middle nowhere – all designed to look after our own and we needed to, but not anymore.
We have all heard the call for ‘outreach’ these last 30 years, but we don’t know what it means, and we are not set up for it.
Our church buildings are beautiful to us but not to outsiders. They are often seen as asphalt brick clad unwelcoming barriers – a country club that requires the right family name and etc for entry.
Let’s continue to look after ourselves. We can do that. But let’s also break free of things that limit outreach.
Let’s be here out of love for Jesus [and the people he loves – not to keep the old show going].
He then went on to share the vision of being one congregation with one council and one financial structure and using all three church buildings for one shared purpose of reaching Murray Bridge as they look after each other.
Some were jumping for joy. Others were looking for the nearest high cliff over the Murray to throw him and the Call team off it!
Murray Bridge could be the Barossa or anywhere across the LCA. Jesus’ hometown is us, and us everywhere, us all the time – or at least it is me all the time.
Often I want God’s grace, but without God’s truth. I want great relief and inspiration and joy in God’s words, but without the truth about me and why I actually need God’s grace. I don’t want prophetic grace, I just want grace – on my terms.
- I want love and acceptance without any mention of why I need them or what the Lord calls me to be in response.
- I want church to be easy and always comforting and never challenging, never demanding anything of me – never costing me.
But God’s grace without God’s truth in it is not grace at all. Pastor Tim Keller expands …
“Love (grace) without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love (grace) is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.
God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
(Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage)
Jeremiah, and all the prophets were called to speak this grace and truth with their lives. They all did. It cost all of them because most people do not like the ‘truth’ part of grace.
Jesus is prophetic grace in every word, miracle, challenging woe and beautiful action of tender love. Most wanted the miracles of grace, but did not want to hear about the truth of themselves before God.
Jesus comes to his hometown not to condemn or judge or pay back of give up the truth and his mission, he comes to draw them all to the grace of God. A few are drawn … But most are not because Jesus’ grace speaks truth about them. Jesus raises some examples …
‘no prophet is accepted in his home town. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed – only Naaman the Syrian.’
In very hard times, Elijah was not sent home to the home-town heroes, He was sent to a gentile woman in a far-off gentile place for God’s help for the nation.
There was plenty of leprosy in Israel, but God healed an Arab soldier named Namaan! This is because;
No prophet is accepted in his hometown.
In other words, God’s saving help is more available to people not in the faith, in the church, in the synagogue! Out there they marvel and every word that comes from Jesus’ mouth more than they do in here!
Maybe there is a high enough cliff up at the quarry you could throw me off …
But Jesus simply keeps walking through our offence and anger and moves on, calling you and me into other people’s lives – insiders and outsiders, living and speaking his prophetic truth-telling grace. He will keep going, even for us obstinate unbelieving people because he obviously still loves us deeply.
How do we know? Jesus’ prophetic grace triumphed fully! Jesus rose. He was lifted up on that hill of pain and resurrected from the dark stony pit.
We are his new community of grace and truth; of prophetic grace for our town.
Today Jesus walks right on through this crowd calling us to keep going into his mission to draw us and everyone else to him.
Will you hear his grace and truth?
Will you trust that he really is for you and not against you or us, and that we cannot be good enough to win or earn or achieve this underserved love (grace) but only receive it with humility, and so, in deep thanks, gladly receive his truth about you and us even if challenging?
We can’t receive his grace without his truth because grace always tells the truth.
The people of Murray Bridge will have to decide if they will trust this new pastor who has spoken truthful words from a heart of grace for them. If they do, the kingdom might expand in their town, and lives might be healed and transformed in that place. May it be so, heavenly Father!
If they don’t, then nothing much will happen, and the Kingdom will be limited and unnoticed as everyone just goes to church for an hour and then goes to work or home or wherever in their own vision of church and life.
What do you want to be part of? I know what I want to spend my short life being part of and I know what kind of church I want to be part of – God’s kingdom community walking into other people lives with prophetic grace that might sometime cost me and us but is the truth and is all for grace.
(1st + 3rd of Month)
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