“The Flavor of the Day”
January 23, 2022
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 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?”
When I was a student at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN I was on the Record Crew for the Concordia Choir. In those days, the legendary Paul J. Christiansen was the director and the choir toured a section of the country for 3 weeks each February. His name and his choir’s reputation for quality acapella singing drew large crowds to our concerts every night.
Before and after each concert, the Record Crew of three guys would sell LPs to concertgoers. Set on the table would be stacks of a dozen recordings of the choir’s tour program from past years. Meeting choral music enthusiasts at each venue was always a pleasure.
What we learned quickly was that post-concert sales would focus on the LP which included pieces the choir had sung that evening. The inventory for those albums decreased quickly, while many other fine recordings went unsold.
In order to manage our inventory and make it last until we returned to campus, the three of us decided each evening which album would be the “flavor of the day” depending on what cover had not been selling well. When patrons would ask for our recommendation, we would point to the flavor of the day. It worked! By the time the buses rolled on to campus after circling the west across to Seattle and back up from San Diego, we had few of any records remaining.
Flavor of the Month (or Day in my experience) regards a person or thing that enjoys a brief period of great popularity. The term originated as a marketing ploy in US ice-cream parlors in the 1940s, when a particular ice-cream flavor would be singled out for a month of promotion.
My memories of the record crew and our marketing ploy came to mind as I read the passage from Luke 4 today. It appeared to me that Jesus is the flavor of the day. Luke promotes Jesus in deliberate fashion as he returns to his hometown with enthusiastic people eager to see him.
The setting for Jesus’ first public appearance is the synagogue. This seat of religious and social life was the center of the community and what happened there was formulaic. Readings from the Law of Moses and the Prophets were followed by prayer. Any male could volunteer to read by simply by standing up. Afterwards, the reader would sit down to offer his interpretation. Vigorous discussion sometimes ensued (Acts 17:2).
In looking closer at the passage, notice how Luke lays out at all the positives before and immediately after Jesus stands up to read: “with the power of the Spirit; a report about him spread; he began to teach in their synagogues; praised by everyone; the eyes of all fixed on him.”
Jesus must have been the prearranged reader that day because Luke tells us he was handed the scroll of Isaiah. Then strategically, He chose to read portions from chapter 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and
recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then the bombshell. “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled.” Boom!
The Flavor of the Day promotion just skyrocketed. Or exploded. To be determined.
The paparazzi waiting outside were delighted. This was a great sound-bite for the midday news report. Jesus was the hot topic over every cup of coffee. Who is this man? He looks like Joseph’s eldest. What did he mean? “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled.” Was he talking about himself?
This was a high point in Jesus’ ministry. It was one of the few times when no one was complaining, arguing, or trying to shove him off a cliff. (That part comes next Sunday). Everybody loved him, everybody listened to him, everybody ‘liked’ him on Facebook.
We have all had times like this when everything goes well and we feel the world is on our side. Other times, it all goes dreadfully wrong and we cannot wait to get the day over with and go to bed.
Jesus had days like that too. There were plenty of times when people heard Jesus’ words and saw the miracles and even ate the bread and the fish, yet still walked away with their hearts stubbornly closed. People misinterpreted him, lied about him and accused him of being in league with the devil. They humiliated him, beat him up and eventually killed him.
Pretty bad days. Where was ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ then? Where was the ‘Lord’s favor’?
Well, as we know it was still there. Exactly where it had always been. No less true than it had been in the glory days.
What Jesus had in the hometown synagogue was not just the temporary “up” of having a good day. You know how that feels. Passing the test, finding the thing that was lost or winning the game. Rather, it was a much bigger, significant kind of “up.” It was the kind of up that stays up even when the scaffolding underneath is taken away.
Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, called this state “consolation.” A person dwells in a state of consolation when she or he is moving toward God’s active presence in the world. We know we are moving in this way when we sense the growth of love, faith, mercy, or hope — or any qualities we know as gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Consolation is more than just feeling good because things are going well. It is an abiding joy that goes beyond happy. It is the state of knowing that you are walking in step with God and it is not dependent on the circumstances.
Consolation is seen in other biblical figures. It was consolation and its abiding joy that enabled the Apostle Paul and Silas to sing hymns of praise while jailed in Philippi. Paul would say he did not mind whether he was in prison or not, even if he lived or not, because he was sure that he was doing what he should be doing. (see Philippians 1) He was walking in step with God and so he could stride forward confidently. If it led to huge crowds and a reckoning with Caesar, that was fine. If it led to unseen drudgery and fruitless ministry, that was fine. If it led to martyrdom, that was fine too.
That day in the synagogue of his hometown, Jesus knew that he was walking in step with God. He knew it in those glory days and later too, when the wind of opinion became a gale against him. That firm conviction stayed with him even in the most dire of circumstances. If it was going well and people loved him, that was fine. If it was not going well and people were baying for his blood, that was fine too.
What about consolation and you? Your life? I know that I do not live in that permanent certainty of walking in step with God. Sometimes I am more in step and other times I am awkwardly hobbling behind. Being in step definitely feels better. When we are walking in step with God, joining in loving others and ourselves as God loves us, allowing our hearts to beat with God’s, then we can know the deep sense of peace that passes all
understanding. (Philippians 4:7)
The phrase “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” attributed to Julian of Norwich declares that no matter what the external circumstances, all shall be well. This does not eliminate misfortune, sickness or death. It points to what the respected wise ones say about the ability to find peace, even joy in the eye of the storm — to come to trust that there is something that transcends chaos and impermanence. This is the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness depends on good things happening, and when those change, so does our mood or mindset.
Happiness requires support from circumstances. Joy, or consolation, requires no external support, it is reliant solely on God.
This is the “rejoice always” of which we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:6. In the living of these days, this does not mean we have to pretend that life is a happy place when it is not. Sometimes life can be anything but. It means living beyond the lousy times. It means knowing that there is a God who is for you, a God who has you and is always with you, so you might walk in step with God, even when that takes you through muddy places, up steep hills or through shadowy valleys.
Loving God, teach me to hear the beat of your heart, teach me to see your work and to work with you, teach me to walk in step, neither in front nor behind, but always keeping pace with you. Amen