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4 Epiphany - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30

If you want to understand a story in Luke, read the story right next to it.

Luke is a literary sommelier, pairing stories to bring out the rich flavors in each.

So Elizabeth's pregnancy is coupled with Mary's; the so-called good Samaritan is immediately followed by busy Martha and studious Mary; and you will hear more marvelous pairings throughout this year of Luke's gospel, which itself is paired with the book of Acts.

To see this synagogue episode in a fuller light, consider the story just before it.

Jesus is alone, tempted in the wilderness.

Satan tests him and then departs until an opportune time: the next story.

Now Jesus is home, tempted in the synagogue.

Years after writing The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis revived his title character to give a speech at the Tempter's Training College for young devils.

Seasoned old Screwtape shared this demonic wisdom with his hearers:

All said and done, my friends, it will be an ill day for us if what most humans mean by "religion" ever vanishes from the Earth.

It can still send us the truly delicious sins.

The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighbourhood of the Holy.

Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.

The wilderness didn't snare Jesus, so the tempter tries worship.

In the first story, there were three temptations: turn stones to bread, exchange worship for political power, throw yourself down from the temple to prove you are the Son of God.

Immediate comfort, total control, spiritual certainty: Jesus sidestepped all three.

Now, in this second story, come three new traps.

Doctor, cure yourself, or, as we often spin this lie, Charity begins at home.

One sentence into his sermon, the crowd is buzzing with supportive excitement; he has them in the palm of his hand.

He has the beginning of a following, a community ready to invest in him: he has power to write his own ticket if he keeps the truth to himself.

The tingling ears are already pulling him into their rabbit hole of entitlement: Do here in your hometown...we're your people, your posse, your friends, remember where you came from.