Fake News and Fake in the Pews

Luke 4:21-30

21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Two years ago in the events that led up to the election of 2016, a new term emerged known as fake news. However, this term did not die after the election as so many times things do, no the term fake news has continued to grow in our mainstream society. Everywhere you look people in media whether print, social or the screen, people are still talking about fake news. This week on social media I sent a link to a Snopes article and was immediately attacked because they said Snopes was unreliable and was fake news. I chuckled and thought to myself well it must not have reflected their views, so it became to them fake news. The funny thing is that fake news has been in the political arena since the beginning of this nation.

In 1796 John Adams was running against Thomas Jefferson for the Presidency after George Washington said that two terms were enough. The newspapers were owned by the two main political parties the Whigs and the Republicans. Adams was a Whig and Jefferson was a Republican. The funny thing is that in today’s world the Republicans would be more like the Whigs and the Democrats like the Republicans of old in their philosophies. Which would be nothing like MSNBC and FOX today right? Jefferson’s supporters let it be known that Adams wanted to be king of the United States by trying to marry off one of his sons to a daughter of English King George III, a move blocked by George Washington who intervened just in time to stop it, or so the story goes. The political conversation remained riddled with false facts, with newspapers reporting, for example, that if Jefferson were president, “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced,” that the country would be “soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.” Both stories were fake news.

The people of Jesus’ hometown got pretty upset with him and his fake news. Jesus had been in Capernaum teaching and healing before he came home to Nazareth. Word of his ability to heal came even before he did. When he shows up and declares that he is the one to bring about the jubilee, the folks gathered for church that day were pretty skeptical. Come on, they said he is Joseph’s son, the carpenter he surely can’t be the Messiah. Jesus knew them all really well and they knew him. There was an air of doubt that surrounded him that day, and Jesus knew it. So, he referenced that feeling among the congregation saying you all think “doctor cure yourself. But I tell you that no prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown”—Not that I would know anything about that.

The people wanted Jesus to do the same tricks or miracles he had done in Capernaum in his hometown of Nazareth to prove who he was. They needed to know was he truly the person he claimed to be, or had they been hearing fake news? If he couldn’t do it or wouldn’t do it then he was a liar and had made the whole town look bad. They were not going to allow Jesus to blow smoke any more. Then to top it off instead of Jesus just saying OK, bring me someone who is sick and let me heal them—he uses the Bible to prove his point. He has gone from preaching to meddling.

He uses two stories one from Elijah and one from Elisha the great prophets from old. Elijah story…Elisha story…and not only were they saved from their afflictions, but God allowed these great prophets to take care of outsiders non-Hebrews. In essence Jesus is saying you are not worthy of me. N.T. Wright wrote, “That’s like someone in Britain or France during the Second World War speaking of God’s healing and restoration of Adolf Hitler. It’s not what people wanted to hear.”

The people became angry and wanted to shove Jesus off a cliff. Yet somehow Jesus is able to slip out thought the crowd and leave them standing on the edge of the cliff. It’s funny how sometimes fake news can even create a fake that is in the pews. If all Christians got along all the time we would not have so many churches that are sparsely attended. We feel like those people whether they be Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist so on and so on have it going on over there and we need to do what they are doing. The reality, the truth is that most churches in this community are struggling. The fake in the pews is that one group is doing more than another.

We also at times struggle within our own denominations, we want things to go our way and when we don’t win the day—we claim fake news. The issues surrounding ordination were prevalent the last 100 years. Could people of color be ordained? Then it was women, now it is sexual orientation. We have fought over communion and baptism. We have fought over the words in the Bible, creation and evolution, marriage—if you can think of an issue it has caused people to become angry and the church has split again. There have been so many splinters that its really hard to recognize the church from just a generation ago. Then we try to fit in all the “things” that people seem to believe that younger people want in church its no wonder that we have a crisis in church attendance. We can continue to cry fake news or we can take heart in what Paul has to say to the people in Corinth.

Paul wrote that no matter what you do if do not do it in love it’s just noise like a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal. There are so many times that we make noise. When we criticize and fuel the flames of division we are not filled with love. This passage is often used in weddings as a way to remember that we are to love each other in all that we do. In the month of February and Valentine’s Day we see the card companies quoting these passages for religious cards. It’s funny how we have to separate cards that are religious but they never have a section entitled heathen.

Paul also says that there are times to be like a child but as we grow up we need to put away childish ways and act like an adult. We can have disagreements and we can argue for what we believe to be right, but there is a huge difference in acting like an adult or acting like a child. When we cry fake news we are acting like a child. If you look at your bulletin cover you will see a bay’s feet being cradled by an adult. We would never yell at that baby and the baby can’t yell at us—only cry when they need something. The love that is displayed in that picture is so cute. The love that we can have for each other should be the same. Paul said faith hope and love abide, these three but the greatest of these is love. What would the world be like if we truly loved instead of crying our fake news? Let us challenge ourselves to act like adults and to be critical but in a way that demonstrates love. I think we would find ourselves happier and healthier. I think we just might be finally growing up and sharing God’s love. Amen.

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