Scripture: Mark 6 1-13 Jan Savory
Jesus returns home and is rejected
Today we met Jesus returning to his home town. We might assume that here things would go well. That those who knew Jesus well would receive him with joy and affirmation. And initially this happened. The people of Nazareth, those who had known Jesus as a boy and young man were surprised–astonished–by his wisdom and power. But quickly their surprise turned to offense. “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son? And they took offense at him.”
What happened to cause this about face?
Until recently, he had been one of them. Just yesterday, it seemed, they had looked down upon him initially as a boy, and them as a carpenter, A carpenter, in the social pecking order, was somewhere below a tenant farmer but above the undesirables. And now, he’s back as a Rabbi and preacher. And not just a any Rabbi. Luke, in telling this story gives us the detail that he preached from Isaiah. And Jesus proclaimed that he was the one to accomplish the Israelite’s mission to bring justice to the downtrodden, healing and freedom to the oppressed. Who does he think he is?
We, the church, are now Jesus’ hometown crowd
Who do we think he is? We, the church, are now Jesus’ hometown crowd. Are we any better than the Nazareth crowd at accepting Jesus? Is Jesus rejected then and now?
Sadly, the history of the church would show that we too have, sometimes, rejected Jesus’ and his teaching of justice and love. I think of the many times the church (or since the church had split, parts of the church) has engaged in violence and hostility towards those whom we have considered outsiders. Think of holy wars, from the crusades to the troubles in Northern Ireland; the Inquisition; the ways the Bible has been used to legitimize slavery, apartheid, colonialism, even genocide.
Nigel preached a few weeks ago about how the Great Commission was used to justify the Doctrine of Discovery. As well as allowing the Colonizers to steal land from the indigenous peoples, this edict from the church required the colonizing nations to “civilize” these existing populations in the new world and force Christianity on them. These actions were hardly the actions of an organization which accepted Jesus and his message of inclusive love.
Do we accept Jesus
Have we leaned since then? Are we better at accepting our hometown Jesus now? I hope we have learned, but I still see evidence of intolerance in many parts of the church. There is still discrimination against the LGBTQ2S community, rejection of refugees, indifference to the plight of the homeless, the hungry, even the working poor. But I also see areas where the light of Christ shines through, as it always has throughout the ages.
The church, now Jesus’ hometown community, is composed of individuals, people at different levels of Spiritual and emotional development. We may not individually be able to change the church as a whole, but if we accept Jesus into our lives, we can make a difference in our communities.
By saying “accept Jesus into our lives”, I’m not issuing an altar call – come forward and say the sinner’s prayer and you will be saved. This commitment to personal faith has too often led to judging others. To a binary us-and-them mentality, who’s in and who’s out, which is so different from Jesus’s way of inclusivity, of justice for all. The “Us and Them” attitude is what has fostered so much of the hostility towards those whom we have considered outsiders.
Dualist and Non-dualistic thinking
This pattern of dualistic thinking can get us only so far. All religions at the more mature levels have discovered another way, the non-dualistic way of processing the really big questions. Questions like death, love, infinity, suffering, and God. As sensitive, caring, loving followers of Jesus, we are called to this non-dualistic way of life. Called to see and accept Jesus in everyone, not just those like us. Jesus calls us to an active love of our neighbours.
Active love is not a matter of merely “sending thoughts and Prayers”. It’s not even writing a cheque and thinking we are finished. Although prayers and donations are certainly valuable parts of our response. It is the way of Love, of deep compassion. Do we have compassion for the first nations who are finding the unmarked graves of their missing children? For the homeless, the refugees, for people of another race or culture? Is Jesus rejected, then and now?
In her homily on the bishop’s online service for Indigenous Peoples Day, Archdeacon Val Kerr suggested a way to respond to the crisis our first nations are dealing with. She said:
“If you don’t know, or think you don’t know an indigenous person, seek an indigenous person out, get to know them find out what they believe and how they feel … What you will learn is that we are not so different after all”
I invite us all to apply this to anyone we think of as the Other – people of different race, colour, creed, sexual orientation, even age or occupation. When we reject the Other, we are, like the people of Nazareth, rejecting Jesus. But when we know them, we find they are not ”other” after all and we, by welcoming them, we welcome Jesus. Amen