Once I finished working with this week’s gospel text, I went back into my files to see how many times I’ve managed to preach on it in my seven circuits through the lectionary. I found that I’ve missed it more often than not—no surprise there, as it falls at a convenient time of year for that. And when I have preached on it, the sermon has always been on one half of the text or the other—either on the scene in the Nazareth synagogue or on the sending of the disciples. I have never written a sermon that dealt with both stories.
The GPS got us lost three times as my wife and I drove over the mountain trying to find a restaurant that our innkeepers called the best in the county. When we finally found the “town,” there was no town to speak of but only a bend in the road, a bridge, a couple of houses, a railroad trestle and an old general store.
Jerry’s phone call came as a pleasant blast from the past. He and I had attended elementary school together, but then my family moved 50 miles away and I hadn’t seen Jerry for six years. Now we were about to “split for college,” as he put it, and he proposed a party with our classmates.
The Gospel is always proclaimed by flawed mortals—otherwise it would never be proclaimed at all. The Gospel is also always heard
by flawed mortals—otherwise it would never be heard. Hence there is a
beautiful and incarnational link between the two pericopes that make up
this week's Gospel lesson.
The closest I get to the kind of religious experience the apostle Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12 is the occasional Sunday when the music and the congregation merge in worship that is unrestrained praise. I especially enjoy communion, since the Eucharist itself is designed to anticipate heaven. With our sins confessed and forgiven, peace made and prayers prayed, we experience an unusual unity with God and with each other. It’s a taste of paradise.