Our online broadcast stream was interrupted this past Sunday (Jan. 30, 2022).

Here is Pastor Nathan’s sermon in print.

The Same Side  — Luke 4:21-30

Emily in Paris is a Netflix sitcom series about a 20 something American girl named Emily from a Chicago Advertising firm. She is sent to Paris France in order to help their subsidiary in Paris get better at appealing to a younger market – primarily through social media. And she’s very good at what she does. She is so good at it in fact that she is perceived as a threat to her boss in Paris who is a very successful middle age woman.

One of the interesting things about Emily is that she really tries her best not just to fit in with her French coworkers, but she really tries to make her boss look good. And she does a great job at it. 

Frequently she’ll say to her boss who won’t give her the credit she deserves for yet another satisfied client: we’re on the same team. We’re on the same side.

It is very common now to find ourselves on opposing sides. Sometimes it’s hard to know who’s on who’s side. Today there is a massive amount  of information available to us at any given second in our lives. Through electronic communication, phones, computers, text messaging, newspaper, radio, TV, and all kinds of online media services, any one of us has access to more information at our fingertip than anyone in all of history ever had prior to 1990. Sometimes with that information in the newspapers and other places radio TV we find ourselves agreeing with what’s being said. But other times we may find ourselves disagreeing with what’s being said. 

How do you know when you’re on the same side. How do you know when you need to take a side. And not be on the same side.

In our story today from the gospel of Luke, people choose sides. Jesus has just quoted a familiar passage from a familiar prophet in this very familiar setting to these familiar people in the synagogue scripture from the prophet Isaiah 61 verses one and two and Isaiah chapter 58 verse six. Jesus has used part of that Isiah passage but not all of it.

And in the passage I read today from Luke, Jesus really re-interprets this Isaiah passage for their present context. He reminds them that in the time of Elijah when the heaven was shut up three years and there was a severe famine over all the land Elijah was sent to none of them except a widow at Zaraphath which is in Sidon. He goes on to say that there were so many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha and none of them was cleansed except for Naman. Naman the Syrian. Neither of these two people were Israelites. They were not Jewish. When the people there with him heard this they were filled with rage and tried to throw him off the cliff. 

Clearly they were not on the same page he was on. Or the same side if we can imagine at least one of the sides Jesus was on was his own side. And they were not on that.

The reason they are not on his side about what he says regarding this scripture is they are Israelites, Jewish, and Jesus  points out God’s favoring of people who are not Jewish or Israelites. In fact, they are thought of by those in the synagogue as less than human. Yet, the Bible says God is for those not like them.

Once again the question: how do you know which side you’re on? Are there clearly times when you cannot be on the same side?

This past week singer songwriter Neil Young requested through his attorneys and agent that his music be taken off Spotify. Spotify is a music app to which artists upload their music and then listeners who have the app, which of course comes with various degrees of fees, can listen to their favorite artists. It’s what we used to know as record stores.

Spotify‘s policy is very generally to not allow misinformation that could be harmful to be disseminated through its service about Covid. For Neil Young they violated that policy when they aired an interview with someone who was a known spreader of misinformation about Covid. So as a matter of principle, a matter of ethics, and a matter of his listeners’ safety, Neil Young asked that his music be removed from Spotify. He has over 6 million monthly listeners.

What was intriguing to me was Neil‘s comments about his reason. He said many of his listeners are young and impressionable and easy to swing to the wrong side of the truth. In other words it was a matter of ethics about defending the truth about the safety of others.

I’m sure not all of Neil Young’s listeners were happy about that. Some of them I’m sure took the other side — that it was OK to spread misinformation about Covid. And they took the other side because they believed their personal freedom is more important than an other’s health, livelihood and wellbeing.

I want to say to Neil Young you’re in good company Neil. For they did the same to Jesus… For the same reason… the truth about the care of others’ wellbeing. The truth that God was for those not like them. 

Jesus listeners in the synagogue that day found themselves on the wrong side of that truth. Where do you find yourself?

And here is the interesting point to me. God was/is on the side of those not like the ones sitting in the synagogue that day. And God was/is on the side of those not like the ones sitting here in this church this day. And God is also on the side of those in the synagogue that day. And God is also on the side of you sitting here this day. 


It isn’t either/or. We are on the same side. The major difference is that throughout the bible amid all the perceptions of chosenness by God either as Jews or Christians or Muslims, amid all this claiming of religious identity and exclusive relationship with God, runs a delicate thin thread of this singular Truth: that God always favors those who are cut off, cut down, cut out and cut under, from and by those who have privilege and power. And that thread of truth calls the powerful and privileged to be generously responsible for the well-being of those who have been cut off, cut down, cut out, and cut under. Cut off from opportunity, cut off and out from access to righteous healthcare, cut out of and off from wealth, cut off and cut out of programs of assistance. The truth is God calls us to be on the same side – and that isn’t our own side, but God’s side. This is a call to care for the well-being of each other not ending with those on, at and in the bottom, but beginning with those on, at, and in the bottom. 

And if we are offended with that truth, then well we may just have to do away with the messenger, who is Jesus. And that is a cliff over which I hope no one has the hubris to jump.  Amen.

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