31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
October 17, 2021
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
What was the big deal? Why did everyone get so upset when Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah?
It wasn’t Jesus’ reading that upset his community. They had heard this passage a thousand times and each time likely thought “wouldn’t that be nice if the blind could see and the oppressed go free?”. What was upsetting was what Jesus said after – that in this time, in this place, through him, God’s vision was about to come true.
Now you would never think that the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream would be bad news; however as Tom Berlin writes in his book, Courage: Jesus and the Call to Brave Faith, “rarely does anyone expect anything this overtly scriptural and declarative to happen in worship.” (Courage, Berlin, pg 24)
The problem is that the type of transformation Isaiah described in that text is one that many admired but few hoped to undertake. It is much easier and safer to believe that Jesus’s proclamation is false. This allows us to safely proceed with our unchanged, untransformed lives in a comfortably unbothered world. This basic desire to keep things in the same motionless state of unfulfilled biblical prophecy may be the reason that everyone was disturbed when Jesus said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Courage, Berlin, pg 25)
Sadly, we humans don’t like change – even when it is good change; even when it is needed change; even when it is a change we have been waiting thousands and thousands of years for. Jesus’ words challenged their ability to “safely proceed with [their] unchanged, untransformed lives in a comfortably unbothered world.” (Courage, Berlin, pg 25)
And the people had another reason to be upset. In addition to saying that God’s dream was about to happen in this time, in this place, through him, Jesus told the people that God’s dream was for all people. All people – not just the people of Israel who had long thought of themselves as God’s chosen people.
The widow at Zarephath in Sidon, Naaman the Syrian, not Israelites and yet God had blessed both of them. God had chosen both of them to be a part of God’s plan.
The people of Nazareth did not want to hear about including others, even if it was in scripture. Nor did they want to hear about transformation. It made them, it makes us anxious, fearful, uncertain. So the people of Nazareth decided to get rid of this source of discomfort by taking Jesus out of town and throwing him off a cliff.
The problem would be solved. Comfort and status quo would be restored. They could go back to hearing the word of God without being transformed by the word of God or having it actually fulfilled in their world.
Except Jesus isn’t intimidated by them; Jesus isn’t held back by them. Jesus doesn’t give in to their anxiety or fear.
In the same bold and courageous manner with which Jesus declared his purpose in the synagogue, Jesus passes through the crowd and continues on his way, continues on his way to fulfill his purpose of bringing good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and to let the oppressed go free, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.
We know from the stories of Jesus’ life that this is exactly what he does. With boldness and courage, even in the face of great resistance, Jesus declares God’s dream – to all people, the poor, the captive, the outsider, the oppressed, those in need of healing. Jesus shares with all what God’s kingdom looks like and how God’s kingdom works: healing, inclusive, extravagantly welcoming and unconditionally loving.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus is clear about his purpose; Jesus is courageous about his calling. And not even death stops him from sharing the good news.
Over 275 years ago, a group of settlers, in an area known as New Cambridge, had a dream – God’s dream. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they were going to faithfully follow in Christ’s way and create an ecclesiastical society.
The purpose of the ecclesiastical society would be to love God and to love their neighbor by creating God’s kingdom here on earth – to care for those in physical, mental, emotional and spiritual need, to nurture people body, mind, and soul, to gather all in community as Christ’s diverse, yet united body. The purpose of the Ecclesiastical Society of New Cambridge was to create a community of welcome, nurture, and healing, embodying God’s love for all.
Like Jesus, the Ecclesiastical Society of New Cambridge was clear about their purpose, which gave them courage, despite the obstacles, to keep moving forward to fulfill this call and realize God’s dream.
As the faith descendents of the Ecclesiastical Society of New Cambridge, we continue moving forward to fulfill this purpose of welcome, nurture, and healing, as we share and embody God’s love for all.
We believe in Christ’s purpose to bring good news to the poor, healing to the sick and freedom to the oppressed. We are committed to God’s dream of an inclusive community of love for all– which is why we give our money, our time, our energy, our abilities.
We share our blessings, we engage in this ministry, we are a part of this Christian community because we believe it is possible for Isaiah’s words, Jesus’ words, to be fulfilled in our hearing, fulfilled in our world, fulfilled through us.
And this faith, that God’s dream is possible, in this time, in this place, through us, is what gives us the courage to keep sharing the good news and changing the world with Christ’s love.