The town, Nazareth, has let Jesus go but has not let Jesus grow. Ultimately, God’s life-changing, love radiating, spirit will come for us all.
A prophet has no honor in his hometown.
These words have meant much to me as I have, on occasion, gone back to my home parish of St. Paul’s Harlan to preach.
It’s a tough place to preach. I have not envied Beth as she has made her way from the pew to the pulpit.
Preaching to those who “knew you when” is daunting.
So, this admonition has made sense to me for a long time.
But before they meant anything to me as a preacher, they resonated with me as a maturing person.
I think about those college students who go off and come back for Thanksgiving.
Sometimes they come back with a bad haircut and an even worse beard.
Perhaps with a new set of political opinions.
Maybe they come back with purple hair.
How ever they return, they are usually don’t come back the same person who left.
People change. And if you are not changing with them, sometimes its hard.
If we do not see the subtle, steady changes but the dramatic transformation, we are left wondering how and why this change happened.
In today’s Gospel Jesus has changed.
The young man who left Nazareth changed since visiting his cousin John’s baptizing ministry.
The greenhorn preacher has changed since spreading the good news to thousands.
The new healer has changed since bringing the dead back to life.
Jesus has changed.
Jesus is becoming something new.
But his family has not seen him for a while.
They were expecting the young man who left town, not the Messiah who has returned.
His family does not accept the change and they don’t know what to do with this new guy.
Neither does the town.
Finally, Jesus has come back to Nazareth.
And although he has done great things and made a name for himself, he still has the name he left with: Joseph’s kid, Mary’s boy, the son of that carpenter.
The town, Nazareth, has let Jesus gobut has not let Jesus grow.
And here in Mark, where Jesus shows the most human side of himself, we are told, “he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.”
Weird. Very weird.
Mark puts this odd, slightly depressing story immediately before a scene of sending and mission.
One might expect a more hopeful and triumphant story to set up the Apostles first venture out on their own.
Walking on water would have been great.
More of that resurrecting folks from the dead, that would have been awesome.
But right as the Apostles are ready to go forth in to the world, they see their master fizzle.
Not only does Mark pair these stories up but the people who put this lectionary pair them up too.
We are left to wonder why.
As the Apostles are sent out like lambs into the midst of wolves, I think they were supposed to remember:
If it could happen to Jesus, it could happen to them.
And essential part of being a disciple means changing.
Anytime we change, our relationships with folks we know and love will be strained.
People are used to us the way we are.
But if we are baptized into the very life of Christ, if we have been drawn near to the spirt of the living God, can we expect anything butchange?
Spending time with God is like holy radiation.
You might think you look the same, but you are glowing.
God changes people. Can you think of a character in all of scripture who stays the same after encountering God?
When God is working in and on your life people will notice, even if you don’t.
Sometimes people, even those closest to us, don’t know how to handle such a change.
And sometimes weare those people.
Whether we are the changing or their witnesses this Gospel summons something from us.
Ultimately the Gospel will summon grace.
We need to be mindful of the changing people in our life.
We need to encourage them even if we don’t understand.
We need to empower them even if we have our doubts.
That’s a grace we are welcomed into as Christians.
The grace to change.
And for those who struggle with change, the Gospel has words as well.
I don’t think it’s quite as harsh as we might read it.
Jesus didn’t promote a violent reaction.
Jesus charged his disciples to convict their naysayers.
When confronted with the unhospitable, the Apostles aren’t door mats, they dust off their sandals and leave.
They let the naysayers understand that this is not right.
But there is another side of this.
But before we go convicting those who have been “left behind” we need to slow down.
The changing ones, the glowing ones need grace too.
Look at the list Mark rattles off of Jesus’ naysayers.
Towards the top are Mary and James.
James would go from naysayer to leader of the early church in Jerusalem. They would call him James the Just and the brother of our Lord. He would change.
And Mary, the one who saw the angels and bared Jesus himself cannot, in this moment, comprehend who that little baby has grown up to be.
Mary goes from naysayer to the Queen of our faith. She is the Christian we all aspire to be.
But she too would change.
In these two stories I hear God calling for grace.
Grace for those whom God is changing. Remember, change is not always pretty and maybe not even what we want. Maybe you need such a grace.
Some of you may need grace for those who struggle with change. Change is scary and requires grieving. Accepting change takes bravery and faith. That’s hard for anyone.
Change is hard to accept and easy to doubt but God loves a challenge.
If you have a naysayer in your life, watch out! God has made apostles out of worse.
Ultimately, God’s life-changing, love radiating, spirit will come for us all.
Someday we will all be glowing.
May we have the grace to accept it in others and in ourselves. AMEN