Today’s gospel reading consists of two distinct parts.
In the first Jesus visits his home town of Nazareth; in the second Jesus sends out his disciples to preach, teach and heal.
In the first part an enthusiastic welcome turns into contemptuous rejection … contemptuous rejection that leaves Jesus unable to work any miracles there. In the second part the disciples worked wonders as they journeyed amongst those ready and willing to repent of their old ways.
The two parts are so different, but they do stand together … telling us something about the power of faith, and about the power of sin; telling us something about what happens when ego and pride get in the way … and what happens when hope, faith and expectation enable God to take centre stage.
Our Gospel reading opens with Jesus going home.
Initially the people of Nazareth welcomed the ‘local boy made good’ with joy and affirmation, but this soon turned into something very different: they took offence at him. Suddenly the local youngster, ‘good old Joseph’s boy’, was speaking and acting in a way that commanded respect … in a way that offended the pride and egos of those who had only just welcomed his return.
This is a good moment for us to ask ourselves a few questions:
- Are we members of the ‘home town crowd’?
- How often are we blind to God’s presence in our lives … indifferent to God’s power?
- Are we alongside those who (thinking they are closest to Jesus) are really aligned with those who honour him the least?
Sadly, the Church (that is, the whole institution) often fares badly in relation to these questions … focusing primarily on itself, rather than on the things of God’s power and truth. As the Church should be focusing on issues of mission and ministry, it too often becomes distracted by issues of finance.
If you are one of those that think that this is justifiable, I would urge you to leave the ‘home town crowd’ and engage with an important detail in the second part of our gospel reading …
Jesus sent his disciples out with the instruction that they should take nothing for the journey but the clothes on their backs … Jesus commissioned them to journey in faith! In worldly terms this sounds like folly, but it is only folly to those whose faith is weak!
In the weeks and months that lie ahead parishes up and down the country will be asked to reflect on the issues that are contained within today’s gospel reading.
- They will be called to reflect upon their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and aspirations.
- They will be challenged to set aside pride and ego and reflect upon the church communities that will be passed on to future generations.
Some of these conversations will be difficult … but only if we stop focusing on Christ’s call to mission and ministry.
Of course, there is a road map for this difficult road … and that road map is contained within our Bibles!
The Bible (Holy Scripture) should be the very foundation of our regular and ongoing conversation with God.
Of course, those 750,000 words of divinely inspired scripture are daunting … where do you start? Most people know that you do not start on page one … The Bible is not a novel; instead it is a fantastic library of 66 books … so where do you start?
I suggest the best place to start is with one of the gospels, those great narratives that take us directly into the life and ministry of Jesus himself.
Then … pray to God that he will help you learn something from every verse you read … remember there is not a single superfluous word in scripture!
By the way … a few verses read carefully and prayerfully every day is much better than a binge of speed-reading every now and then!!!!
It is very difficult for us to step away from the crowd in Nazareth, cast aside those bulky suitcases of ‘pride’ and ‘ego’, and step out in faith.
God is offering us a time of change and challenge in order that we might draw closer to him … in order that we might learn how to rely on his power alone … his power to guide us and sustain us through every moment of every day.
None of this is easy, either to hear or to do … but, there is Good News!
Jesus Christ is here with us, right now …
in our home town …
in our Church …
in our community …
in our lives.
We just have to decide whether to reject him, or to receive him.
Will we offer a bold and trusting faith in the power of God as manifested in Jesus Christ who makes all things new?
Or … will we scoff and jeer that we know better?
When you have moments of doubt and uncertainty here is a thought for you … How would you sum up the Gospel message in just seven words? What seven words could possibly help when all of that human pride and ego rises to the surface?
Try this …
I am God, and you are not!