Luke’s Gospel recalls Jesus’ first time preaching in a synagogue, after his baptism. He went back to his hometown, to the people who had raised him and knew him, and preached on the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah, who, like all of the biblical prophets, had spoken truths that no one really wanted to hear – not just words of comfort to a people in search of God, but words of rebuke, and words that called the people and their leaders back into a right relationship with God.

When Jesus preached on Isaiah’s words, he was run out of town. Run out by his own people, for speaking uncomfortable truths.

Uncomfortable truths abound in our scriptures and in our faith. Often, they are couched in a comforting message: Love your neighbor as yourself… But who is our neighbor? The one you despise. The one you would never let near you. The one you think isn’t even entirely human. Love that one as yourself.

Christianity is a faith both of comfort and of discomfort. We should certainly take comfort in God’s abiding presence with us, in God’s grace that holds us up no matter how often we fall. We should take comfort in the assurance that we are beloved no matter what.

But the very fact that we need that reassurance – that we need grace – should keep at least a little bit uncomfortable. The fact that Isaiah’s words, and Jesus’ preaching, still call us back to discipleship; the fact that we continually need to be called back to discipleship, should make us uncomfortable. We are called to a love that does not come naturally to us. We are called to love beyond the barriers that human beings so often erect to exclude and dehumanize one another. We are called to love beyond race, class, sexuality, gender, nationality, mental health, employment or housing status, and religion.

And yes, that makes us uncomfortable.

Sometimes our call can be so uncomfortable that we are willing to remake God in our own image; to put our own prejudices on God and justify our fear, our unwillingness to love – to see every person we encounter as worthy, as made in God’s own image, just as they are and without changing.

Sometimes our call – to love as God loves – can be so uncomfortable that we are willing to act with malice to protect our own sense of who God is, and who God loves, and who God considers worthy. To vandalize symbols of a love that extends beyond our own, beyond the boundaries that are of our own making. To secure borders and boundaries and demonize those who would cross them; those who seek our love and our compassion.

We still need Isaiah. We still need Jesus. We still need the prophetic witness that calls us to a greater love than we feel capable of.

And then we need to respond. The call of discipleship requires us to respond. Not by running the prophet out of town, as the people of Nazareth did, but by bearing witness ourselves to the power and depth of God’s love. By becoming a prophetic witness in our own right, trusting in God’s presence and grace. By not allowing God to be made over in hateful human form. By being the persistent voices that remind the world that God’s love extends beyond all that we can possibly know, let alone understand.

Bearing prophetic witness is hard, as Jesus learned quickly. Speaking love, and grace, and peace, to a fearful world is a challenging call indeed. But the opportunity to love those neighbors who have often heard nothing but hate preached in God’s name is not one we can ignore. The opportunity to open our hearts to the injustice that so many children of God endure on a daily basis leads us all the more deeply into God’s love and presence in this world.

This world is hungry for love. For all the risk and sorrow that our prophetic witness may bring, there is so much more love and support. For all those who would run us out of town, there are so many more who will keep us safe, patch up our scrapes and bruises, and carry our prophecy and God’s love even further into the world. For all the hate in this world, there are many more who are desperate to hear our witness of enduring and abundant love.

Let us continue to bear witness, my friends. Let us continue to speak aloud God’s love, and let us not be silenced. God is still speaking! Let us do likewise.

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