United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

Date: January 31, 2022

Sermon Title: Unbought and Unbossed

By: Minister Kimberly Braxton

Focus Scripture: Luke 14:20-31


Unbought, Unbossed, Unbothered

I love all scripture, but today’s passage means a lot to me because of the practicality of the message interwoven with the overarching narrative of the text. Jesus came to the people after He had been tempted in the desert in the full power and authority of the Holy Spirit to declare that God’s promise made in Isaiah 61 was fulfilled. Jesus was stepping into the position of so many of Israel’s prophets. He was proclaiming the truth of God to a people that had a choice - -They could either accept the message He brought them or they could reject it. Now Jesus wasn’t a prophet; he was and is the Son of the Living God; the Word of God wrapped in human flesh but He still had to declare the truth and be prepared for what happened next. The people would either accept the message He brought or they would not. And although we serve an all-powerful God our God wasn’t gonna force them to accept the message. He would lay out the opportunity to them and give them the option to in King James speak, to “choose ye this day whom you will serve”. The lesson in this text for us this morning is how do we handle praise and rejection.


Praise & Acceptance

It’s a wonderful feeling when you are accepted and praised for your accomplishments. However, in our text this morning we see that Jesus did not allow the initial praise he received from the people sway Him from his mission. It’s one thing to hear the praise, to acknowledge the acceptance, it’s another thing entirely when you begin to seek out the praise from the people and the environments were you live, work and serve. It’s easy to get addicted to the sound of people singing your praises in your ears. Our society now is driven by praise and motivated to look for likes and affirmation, acceptance, monetizing it. But there is something that happens to you when you sacrifice your principals and your character on the altar of being “liked and accepted”. When you start chasing “likes” and jocking for someone else’s approval you and begin to take your eyes off of what you should be doing and begin to fixate on what you can do to make people like you and accept you. It’s a terrible cycle to be in if you find yourself in that space. Because when that happens you are trapped in a position of being easily manipulated. You might not notice the strings that are pulling and controlling you. If you become fixated on having people like and accept you will begin to alter your message and adjust your plans so that everyone around you will continue to like you. And then it becomes a matter of you adjusting what you do in order to maintain the people’s approval and affection.


Let me give you an example. Dancing with the stars. When you partner the inexperienced male celebrity as the lead with an experienced female professional dancer “follower” the professor dancer can back lead. To the audience it looks like this novice dancer is dancing the chacha of their life but what is really happening is that the partner that is supposed to be following is orchestrating the steps of the routine. But when you partner an experienced lead, someone who knows not only the routine but also has the fundamentals built into their bodies from years of training and conditioning they can spot a back leading follower. They feel it in their bodies. The pulling and the tugging. And they have the tools from years of training to keep their lead clean.


It's wonderful to be accepted and receive accolades but never let it distract you or cause you to adjust how you move and perform in an attempt to get more likes. More approval. More affirmation. Eventually you will find yourself being led by someone else’s vision. Your strings being pulled and manipulated by someone else’s agenda, and you won’t even realize that you are dancing to another person’s tune completely out of step with the plan you started with.



Dealing with Rejection

The next trait Jesus demonstrated for us in the narrative was hold to handle rejection. Do you remember what it was like the first time you asked someone out on a date? What was your greatest fear? Not that they would say “yes” but the fear comes when you ask yourself the question, ‘Will I be rejected’. For some people that fear of rejection limits them, it controls their actions.  Jesus, however, was not scared of being rejected by the people that had just gotten done singing his praises. And in verse 25 through 27 Jesus delivered a cutting message to the synagogue in verses 25 to 27. “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”  Why was this so cutting to the people? They had just gotten done praising him for what he proclaimed; but, when they realized that Jesus was broadening the message to include the Gentiles they were furious. They were God’s chosen people not the Gentiles. They were the people of God; the righteous ones. However, Jesus let them know way back when their was a famine in the land for three and a ½ years, when you rejected God Elijah the prophet when to the region of Sidon, and in case you didn’t know Sidon was the place where Jezebel was from, and he fed a widow and her son and saved them from death. He didn’t go to Israel he helped them. And Naaman was a Syrian, not an Israelite that he cleansed from leprosy. See Jesus let them know that the blessings of God weren’t limited to their finite understanding of who was worthy to receive them and who was not. They had been living with this idea that they were the center of “God’s universe” the only apple of God’s eye. Jesus let them know that y’all had been faithless and rebellious in the past and the time had come

“to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. To All people. Liberation was here and everyone who accepted the message was invited and his own people rejected him for it. They drove him out of the synagogue and they tried to kill him for it. But Jesus, “said what he said” and walked through the crowed. Unbought, unbossed and unbothered.


Now briefly think about how Saul handled rejection, in I Samuel 15:23 Samuel told Saul because he had rejected the word of the Lord; the Lord had rejected him as king. Saul found himself in this position because as he said in verse 24 “I feared the people and obeyed their voice” Saul allowed his fear of being rejected by the people and his need for acceptance drive him away from doing what was right and just.


In closing I would like to share a story from the life of a Quaker named Benjamin Lay. Born in 1682 in England and standing at mere 4 feet seven inches tall he may have been a tiny man but he was a mighty champion of the abolitionist movement. What I didn’t realize that Quakers weren’t always abolitionists (Reading Is Fundamental: The more you know) and at one point they owned slaves and perpetuated the evil institution. But Benjamin was different. He was exposed to slavery’s insidious practices from his travels and was adamant in his belief that no one could call themselves a Quaker and practice slavery without being a hypocrite. Benjamin had a heart for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the outcast.  When he and his wife lived in Barbados, they opened their home on Sundays (the enslaved people’s day off) and fed the people that were being starved in their servitude. This action infuriated local slave holders but they did it anyway. He continued to move around the world and expressed his beliefs boldly. As a result he was kicked out several congregations and disowned by the Quakers over his lifetime due to his speaking up and calling out hypocrisy with his outbursts and dramatic protests. To give you an idea of how radical this man was during one of his protests he confronted a Quaker family who held a young black girl enslaved. The couple had a young son, who Benjamin convinced to come with him from their house and play. As the boy played, Benjamin just sat at the door and waited. Eventually he saw the boy’s parents coming running down the road in great distress looking for their son. He asked them what was wrong, and they told him their son had been missing all day and they were greatly afraid for his safety.  He replied:

“Your child is safe in my house, and you may now conceive of the sorrow you inflict upon the parents of the negro girl you hold in slavery, for she was torn from them by avarice.”

And no matter how many congregations he was disowned from he never stopped speaking truth to power. Finally, in 1758 the Quakers ruled that anyone that practiced slavery would be disowned. This was the first time that the Quakers recognized the immorality of slavery. It was said that when Benjamin heard of the ruling he said, “I can now die in peace” and he passed a year later. Benjamin was a fascinating individual. He was unbought, unbossed and dare I saw unbothered by the traditions of institutions he was associated with. When he saw immoral action he spoke up, took a stand and worked for change – he worked for the benefit of people that society that he lived in viewed as property.


As we move into 2022 let’s reflect on Jesus’ actions and how he handled the praise and rejection of men and women. Let it serve as an example of how we can speak truth to power boldly and proclaim the message of the gospel, as we continue to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.