27 Jan 2013
“… And the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at [Jesus].” (Luke 4:20) (+)
After helping make pierogi on Monday morning, I got over to the rectory just after the President began his second Inaugural Address. To me one of the most impressive aspects of the Inauguration, and it doesn’t matter who wins, and it doesn’t matter what is said in the speeches, is that there is this tried and true, peaceable transfer of power from one presidential term to another. With so many other countries resorting to weapons and murder every time they switch leaders, I am impressed by the fact that all of these powers-that-be, from the three branches of government, from the two major competing political parties, are seated there outside of the Capitol as witnesses to the legitimate transfer of power. It makes me proud of our nation.
But as I was watching television, as all of these powerful women and men were making their way back inside the Capitol building, I was surprised by how long the camera focused on the singer Beyonce and her husband – some other rapper. She sang the National Anthem beautifully. But I cannot figure out why in the world with the Supreme Court Justices, the Speaker of the House, the Vice-President, the President’s family, and so many other leaders of our country all present in one place, why the camera spent so much time focused on a singer. I know she’s beautiful and talented, but weren’t there more important images to capture at that moment? I know millions more people recognize Beyonce than the Speaker [John Boehner] or the Chief Justice [John Roberts], but wasn’t this once-in-four-years spectacle a time to focus on our country’s leaders rather than one of her pop stars?
How celebrity works is confusing. What captures our attention and our imagination is sometimes hard to comprehend. Some people are simply charismatic. They’re charming and their stories are captivating. People gravitate toward them as others disappear. This played out on the West Steps of the US Capitol with Beyonce on Monday, and surprisingly it also played out in the humble Nazareth synagogue where Jesus once worshipped as a youth. Jesus seems to have lived as an adult in the village of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. As He begins His public ministry, however, Jesus heads back to His old hometown. He attends His old synagogue. And as a local boy come home, Jesus was asked to do one of the readings. He reads well, which for that day and place was exceptional. Extremely few people in Galilee would have even have been literate so when Jesus reads, when the carpenter’s son reads, the old neighbours are impressed. Luke tells us that the people turn in their seats and follow Jesus as He goes to sit down. His presence, His literacy, His voice, something captured their attention and their imagination. With Beyonce her celebrity is her voice. With Jesus, says the Bible, it is that He “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” (Luke 4:14)
There was now something different about Jesus. His old neighbours in Nazareth may have heard rumours about this native son of theirs, but Jesus had not yet preached a word to them, had not yet performed a single miracle in their presence. And yet they sensed something different about Him. They’re captivated by Jesus and they may not even know why. With Beyonce, it’s something about celebrities in our culture, but with Jesus it was about coming home filled with “the power of the Spirit.” Jesus is obviously a unique example. That was the importance of our just completed Christmas season. He is God born incarnate. And His uniqueness will be the importance of the quickly approaching time of the cross and the resurrection. But even so, the power of the Spirit changes a person, makes them into something more than they were before. Jesus is unique, but not the power of the Spirit. It can change any of us. It should change all of us.
I know a lot of you had a rough Sunday last weekend, some of you couldn’t even fall asleep that night you were so upset about some Ravens that flew into town, but the only story I read about that play-off game concerned Ray Lewis. He was involved in the knifing death of two men a number of years ago and now he’s playing pro-ball, but now he’s also always talking about God and the power of God to change lives. I hope and pray he’s sincere. But anyone who knew the old Ray Lewis must instantly recognize the difference in the new Ray Lewis, the one hopefully, sincerely, filled with the power of the Spirit. That’s what the Spirit can do, and not only for the unique example of Jesus, but for anybody.
And that idea of anybody can be anything in the power of the Spirit is emphasized for us in today’s Lesson. Paul gives us the analogy of the body as he tries to explain the community of the church, that we all have gifts that are necessary for the healthy working of the church body. And those gifts are not our own to stash away. Those gifts, says Paul, come from the fact that we are all baptized into this one body by the one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). It is the power of the Spirit that again makes all the difference in the world. And this time it’s not the unique example of Christ; it’s the common example of all of us. But do we believe this? The change in Jesus was evident to the people of Nazareth before He said or did anything, but that was Jesus. The change in Ray Lewis is obvious, but we still pray it’s sincere. But if both cases are for real, then do we really believe that we can become different people too? Do we want to become different people, people filled with the power of the Spirit? Sometimes I’m afraid we take the easy road of faith and church. There are a bunch of people who call themselves church members but who hardly ever grace this place. There are so many who belong, but who come only on occasion. This will sap the strength of the church. Ask Doc Rivers about half-hearted commitments and what it does to a team. Remember, we’re one body where each of us has some role to play. When so many take church lightly, the whole body suffers. We have all kinds of gifts that the Spirit is just waiting to unleash, let us pray that we make ourselves available to the power of God so that we are willing to be changed by God. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo