21Then [Jesus] began to say to [all in the synagogue in Nazareth,] “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’ ” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (NRSV)
|Nazareth by seetheholyland.net. Creative Commons image on flickr|
1 Corinthians 13 has long been the “go-to” scripture text for weddings. It’s almost as ubiquitous as the Wedding March more popularly known as “Here Comes the Bride…”
But just this past week, one of my fellow pastors suggested that this passage is far better suited for when the marriage appears to be going over a cliff…
You see, love is easy on the wedding day… It’s easy when everyone is happy and nothing is going wrong… But real life has a way of bringing out peoples’ true colors—true colors that do not always include patience or kindness; and often do include jealousy, boasting, arrogance, or rudeness. Real people are stubborn; irritable; suspicious; resentful, and angry.
One thing we can say for sure is that in today’s Gospel, Jesus showed his true colors—and the people of his home synagogue did to …
You’d think that Jesus would be the hometown hero—after all, the good word’s starting to get around about him. And at first, you’d be right. They’re proud of the man that “Joseph’s son” has become.
But Jesus knew these people well enough to know that they’re holding him to some very lofty expectations… —and that he wouldn’t have their favor for much longer.
As their hometown boy, Jesus was expected to honor his own kin above all others. He would do this by performing all the miraculous signs and wonders he’d been doing everywhere else. Not only that, he was expected to put Nazareth in the spotlight of his mission.
But Jesus plainly tells them that his mission will be to both Jews and Gentiles; kinfolk and strangers; insiders and outsiders… It’s not that Nazareth is unimportant; it’s just that they’re not his sole focus.
This leads to Jesus’ second major offense: the synagogue wanted Jesus to be someone who would eradicate the Roman Occupation of the Holy Land. Jesus says nothing about hating the Romans—and everything about loving the people who were not of their own kin.
It’s hard to imagine how these people could be so offended as to drag Jesus to the top of a cliff to hurl him over… But that’s what happens when God’s grace meets human pride, arrogance, and stubbornness…
We see this all the time in human relationships. Something happens: one person offends the other; or some misfortunate befalls both parties.
So we point fingers—and go on the attack. We blame others; we blame ourselves; we blame God… We bear grudges.
What’s worse, is that we attack the healers and the healing gifts God gives—because we don’t want to heal someone else’s way. It doesn’t make sense to us. So we dig in our heels; we shut everyone out; we go our own way—if for no other reason than that it’s my way.
Greed will show its ugly head, too. It is what fuels the flames of prejudice and fear. Greed puts as at war with everyone and everything that threatens our ability to attain and secure our needs and wants.
I believe that this is the #1 reason why things are the way they are in this country. The presidential candidates demonstrate this better than anyone. They all agree that the country is unraveling—but the guilt always lies on their political opposition and their champions in government and industry. The same thing happens in families; workplaces; churches… Like-minded persons band together towards getting their own way and eliminating their opposition—as opposed to working towards shared solutions for shared problems.
Healing isn’t about winning. It isn’t about having it your way without ever backing down; being right while everyone else is wrong.
Seldom will Jesus heal us on our own terms. He forces us to confront the fact that some of our heaviest burdens are the hatred and grudges we hold; the pains and weaknesses we deny; the truths we refuse to believe; the challenges we avoid; the changes and compromises we refuse to make.
In the end, you can’t walk the healing journey with all this baggage.
If we trust in Jesus to be our healer, we must give him all this baggage. We must hurl all that over the cliff instead of Jesus (or other people)! This is, in fact, one of Jesus’ first gifts of healing: that we are liberated from the bondage of our own making. Once that happens, we can live more fully in God’s love. Our ears can be open as God speaks; our eyes can behold God’s works.
We can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things; endure all things.
God’s love heals the animosities and divisions that create so much needless suffering in pain. By God’s love, we can live together—in patience, humility, and forgiveness..
God’s love goes out from us to those we regard as outsiders—so that we can begin to actually do something positive about poverty and hunger; crime and violence; fear and isolation.
For when the pains of life surround us, God’s love will often be a mystery. There may or may not be a cure for the pain or a solution to the problem. Sometimes, all we’ll have to hold onto is a promise. But God’s love is still very real.
God’s healing begins as something we know only in part; seeing in a mirror dimly. But where faith, hope, and love abide—there is always healing.