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The Hometown Crowd

I remember my very first sermon. It was preached August 2tnd, 2009 in the church where I had grown up Grafton, WI. I spent so much time on it. I crafted every word. For weeks I would stare into the computer and reread the text. I would drive up to the church and ask the pastors to review my changes. I got up into the pulpit- because I did that in those days. I had the perfect sermon written out word for word in front of me- because I did that in those days. I preached, what I thought was a pretty decent sermon. I had never done this though and so I was really excited to hear what people thought after church, to get some feedback, even if it wasn’t amazing, I really wanted to know how it went.

So the first service ended and I was in the narthex shaking hands and here comes my old youth leader. Perfect! He says, wow it was so crazy to see you up there! Well that was not super helpful. Later on my second grade teacher- Oh, that was so neat. It’s just so wonderful the little boy with bad handwriting is going on to ministry. Definitely not helpful. My mom, my sister told me how cute it was. My friends and uncles told me that they could never do public speaking like that. My 6th grade teacher talked about how much I got in trouble for talking out of turn and now look. One lady even told me a story of my mother scolding me for something after a day of kindergarten.

I walked to take my robes off after this was all over and I was so disappointed. I felt like I could have stood up, said Grace mercy and peace, and read the phone book and the results would have been the same! And I had a fun sermon! There Was the we are all members of one body of Christ text! There was Tom brady getting Tackled low by Bernard Pollard and shattering his knee- this stuff was awesome! And it just didn’t land.

In our text, Jesus goes home. He goes home to Nazareth. Presumably for the first time in a long time. Now Nazareth is only about 30 miles from Capernaum, which is Jesus new adopted home away from home while on his missionary journeys, but 30 miles is an awfully long way to go on foot.

Jesus goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath. This is literally going to his home church. In fact Nazareth had about the population of Grace Lutheran Church so this was about the size and feel of the crowd. He knew these people well and they knew him. I know this feeling well. Its a warm feeling, a positive feeling. There’s an excitement about it. See familiar people, sit in your familiar pew. Jesus is given the honor of preaching this day in the service. This was something that could only be done if training had taken place or the reputation of the person allowed the synagogue staff to see the benefit in inviting them to take part in the service. Jesus gets up to speak and he preaches an absolutely excellent sermon. The people are amazed.

Then this account takes a very unexpected turn. The people are furious. They point out that Jesus was the carpenter. Carpenters in these days were often like repairmen on call that you would have visit to repair a table or chair or other structure. Jesus had spent most of his life as the repair man. In a town where most people were hard working people, suddenly they look down on his honest former occupation. Then they call Jesus Mary’s son. This is very strange and easy to gloss over in the text. At this point we assume that Joseph has died. He would have been well past the average life expectancy at this point. Jesus in this culture would never ever in conversation have stopped being called Joseph’s son- even if Joseph had died. So why do they do this? They do this to shame him. They do this to call him illegitimate. They do this to call him an embarrassment on Joseph and the town. Jesus preaches an amazing sermon and it goes completely unheard because these people fully deeply completely reject him. They are definitely not going to listen to a sermon from an illegitimate repairman. They know Jesus well but they will definitely not respect him as a religious leader. No way. Jesus was different now, and so was Nazareth.

This is a difficult theme in our own lives. We all end up in ruts and repent, turn away, rise above our former ways to what God has designed us to become, but there is always someone who simply will not let you completely move on. There is always someone who will not forgive. That’s a tough spot to be.

In this text it says that Jesus cannot do any further miracles in Nazareth. This is a confusing line. He’s God- he can do as he pleases. This is where we learn of the depth of the rejection of the people. The core of the miracles that Jesus does is faith, and they are followed up with forgiveness and peace. The people of Nazareth have no faith in Jesus.

Right after this happens Jesus sends out his disciples to do missions around the region. He is literally sending them out to do something they just watched fail in Nazareth.

Here we are. We are sent out every single day carrying the Word and Spirit of God with us under a directive to share our faith. We fail often. We are frequently in areas just like Nazareth where we are rejected. Sometimes that rejection is close to home with our own families or friends like it is here with Jesus. Sometimes the people we’re close to simply cannot see us as acceptable or worthy to share faith with them. This is a deep broken crack right down the center of humanity.

Then we see the text turn right at the end. Don’t miss it. Jesus rises above the rejection and failure of so many and shows his Word to be faithful and true just as promised. The disciples sent out have great success. People turned to faith, people healed. God’s Word and God’s power remain.

So maybe you have been one of those people unwilling to let a friend or family member discuss God with you and now here you are. You have seen this miracle occur in your own life. Maybe you’ve seen the failure of sharing faith with those close to you and it wears on your heart. God is showing here in this text that it’s not all up to you. That he will continue to send the Gospel out with others who may have a better fresher opportunity.

No matter what. Even today, we see the miracles of forgiveness, peace, and salvation as ours. Jesus has promised them and Jesus has delivered them.

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