Luke 4:21-30 – My Paraphrase and a Reflection

And [Jesus] began speaking to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it read.”

And all spoke well of him and admired the words of grace that came from his mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

And he said to them, “No doubt you will tell me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard done in Capernuam, do also here in your hometown.”

And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet finds approval in his own country. Moreover I tell you of a truth: many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was shut three years and six months, so that a great famine was upon all the land. Yet unto none of them was Elijah sent, only to Zarephath of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was made clean, save Naaman the Syrian.

Then all who were in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with rage. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and led him to the precipice of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could cast him down headlong. But he, passing through their midst, went on his way.


In a paraphrase of a biblical verse, the former pastor of Riverside Church in NYC, William Sloan Coffin once said, “”You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you-uncomfortable.”  Aldous Huxley, the author of the novel “Brave New World” went even further when he said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”

This passage from Luke does both for different people.  It makes me uncomfortable when I consider how narrow-minded and parochial the church and Christians (including myself) can sometimes be.  And it made the people in the synagogue  positively furious . . . so furious, in fact, that they try to kill Jesus after only his first sermon!

I am reminded about a retreat that Barbara Brown Taylor once attended and then wrote about. The retreat leader asked participants to think of one person who best represented Christ in their lives. While many had the usual complements for those special persons who had “been there” during the “hard times,” one woman hesitated before answering. When she finally spoke she said, “I had to think hard about that question. I kept thinking, ‘Who is it who told me the truth about myself so clearly that I wanted to kill them for it?'” (Christian Century, March 18-25, 1998)

One more tidbit for thought comes from  Fred Craddock in his commentary on Luke, from the Interpretation series:

Jesus defends his ministry to outsiders by offering two Old Testament stories. Both Elijah (1 Kings 17:8-14) and Elisha (2 Kings 5:1-17), prophets in Israel, took God’s favor to non-Jews. That those two stories were in their own Scriptures and quite familiar perhaps accounts in part for the intensity of their hostility. Anger and violence are the last defense of those who are made to face the truth of their own tradition which they have long defended and embraced. Learning what we already know is often painfully difficult. All of us know what it is to be at war with ourselves, sometimes making casualties of those who are guilty of nothing but speaking the truth in love. For Luke, the tension that erupts here and will erupt again and again elsewhere is not between Jesus and Judaism or between synagogue and church; it is between Judaism and its own Scriptures. [p. 63]

A Short Book Review – Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith


My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a must read book for anyone involved in church ministry, whether lay or clergy. Taylor discusses the joys and sorrows of ministry as a parish priest in the Episcopal Church, and her astute observations of congregational life are a joy to read. A few quotes from the book readily illustrate this.

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do,” she once said, ”because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

“I know people who come to this church,” he said, “and I finally had to come see for myself how they got through a Sunday morning without assaulting each other.”

“Most of us do not live especially holy lives, after all. We spend most of our time sitting in traffic, paying bills, and being irritated with one another. Yet every week we are invited to stop all of that for one hour at least. We are invited to participate in a great drama that has been going on without us for thousands of years, and one that will go on as long as there is a single player left standing.”

“I looked around at all of those shining people with makeup running down their cheeks, with hair plastered to their heads, and I was so happy to be one of them.  If being ordained meant being set apart from them, then I did not want to be ordained anymore. I simply wanted to be human. . . .I wanted to spit food and let snot run down my chin. I wanted to confess being as lost and found as anyone else without caring that my underwear showed through my wet clothes. Bobbing in that healing pool with all those other flawed beings of light, I looked around and saw them as I had never seen them before, while some of them looked at me the same way. Why had it taken me so long to get into the pool?”

I guess part of the appeal of this book to me is that I live with many of the same tensions and questions that Taylor has/had.

Barbara Brown Taylor on Jesus’ Death and Religion

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor, from A Deadly Mix