Sunday Week 4 Year C

It came flooding back this weekend, the memory, clear and embarrassing, of sitting in my mother’s house one Holy Week afternoon, aged twenty or so, watching Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Zeffirelli’s sweet and oh-so-sixties story of Francis of Assisi. Watching it, trying to be above its sugar and sentiment, and failing—instead being drawn in, being drawn into a helpless envy. If only I could be that wholehearted, that complete in my dedication, that free from convention, and comforts, and confusion. If only… I remember clearly and embarrassingly the little voice in my heart that spoke quietly: “Rob, why not?” I remember my immediate response: “Shields up, Mr. Sulu—evasive action.” I switched off the TV and decided foolishly I needed time alone. So I went to my room, sat on the bed, picked up my Bible, and opened by chance (ha!) to Jeremiah chapter 1: “before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.” Out of the frying pan into the fire.
It’s a shame our reading today misses out the next bit, that delicate exchange between the reluctant prophet and the persistent God.
“I’m just a child.”
Doesn’t matter.
I can’t speak.
Doesn’t matter.
I’m afraid.
Doesn’t matter.
“It doesn’t matter because I know you, I have always known you, I know what you are capable of, I exactly how much you’ll wriggle, and I’m looking forward to knowing how much we might do together.”
We are each and all called to be prophets. It is our baptismal call. A call not to believe, but to do. Believing is nothing—the devil believes. Doing is everything. As infants water is poured over us, words spoken over us, promises made for us because we haven’t the tongue to make them ourselves. And those promises are carried for us—something precious, something delicate—kept for us by family and community. Not kept in a closet somewhere but kept here, on a Sunday, in worship and kept every day in between when one of us, not only believes, but does.
Which isn’t to say that each one of us doesn’t respond to our own prophetic call with reluctance—even with resistance. We each have that moment, that succession of moments, when we put childish ways aside to answer for ourselves, to keep our own promises, to move beyond belief into action.
And I think there’s a glimpse of how hard these moments can be in the gospel this morning. You’ve got to remember the context. “Previously in Luke”: Jesus standing with all eyes upon him, in the synagogue of his hometown, reading the words of Isaiah the prophet, words he has come to hear as his own calling: to be someone sent with glad tidings for the poor, liberty for captives, sight for the blind, release for prisoners, and God’s favour for everyone. He stands there and says, “Folks: this is me, this is who I am.”
He has the words—everyone is marvelling at him, speaking favourably of him—but it seems like the actions fail him. Everything is going well until what sounds like a wave of insecurity washed over him. All eyes upon him, it seems for a moment that he has forgotten who he is. He lays into the people who are hanging on his word. Provokes them: “I know what you’re thinking, you’re going to say, ‘show us your miracles,’ you’re going to say ‘physician heal thyself’. Well let me tell you…”
It’s no wonder his kin turn against him and drive him away. The poor guy nearly gets lynched for his outburst. Not even Jesus, it seems, finds it easy to be a prophet. It takes him time and reluctance and mistakes and second chances to learn to be who he is called to be.
But like I said a few weeks ago. Luke’s Jesus is just one of us, an ordinary guy, given an extraordinary prophetic mission when he was baptized… just like we were.

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