The Hometown Boy
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Fifty Miles From Home
What makes a person an expert? What makes a person an authority? What makes people listen to and respect someone’s words and ideas? There is a somewhat humorous answer to these questions.
The humorous answer is, “An expert is anyone who comes from more that fifty miles away.” Like all humorous answers, there is a ring of truth to this answer. People in the consulting business make a living by giving their advise and sharing their “expertise.”
Often times the further away the consultant lives the greater they are respected. A business might have its own accountants, engineers, or lawyers. When tough questions come up management seems to seek out the opinions of outside accountants, engineers, or lawyers.
If you want an example closer to home, think about your trying to give advice to a close family member. How often don’t they question your advice until they hear the same advice from their doctor or lawyer or a total stranger?
In today’s Old Testament reading, we hear the Lord warning Ezekiel that the people of Israel might not listen to him. Ezekiel was a prophet and a priest. He was exiled in Babylon along with the people of Israel. You might call him a hometown boy.
The Lord was sending Ezekiel to call the people of Israel to “Repent.” They had rebelled against God. They were a stubborn people who repeatedly sinned against the Lord. They had often refused to listen to God’s prophets. Instead, they listened to other nations who worshipped false gods.
The Lord told to Ezekiel, “whether they hear or refuse to hear they will know that a prophet has been among them.” He was warning Ezekiel that the people might refuse to listen to him as well. It was not really because he was too familiar, but because they were rejecting the authority of God’s Word The problem is we would rather hear our own words or the words of those who agree with us.
Then there was Jesus. Jesus had left his home town of Nazareth to begin his ministry. He had chosen twelve disciples, started to teach God’s Word, and began doing miracles of healing. One day Jesus returned to his home town.
He was invited to teach in their synagogue, a place where he spent many hours hearing and learning God’s Word. We do not have a transcript of his teaching, but we know the message that he had been sent to deliver by his heavenly Father.
The message that Jesus delivered was this “The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.” Mk. 1:15
“Repent,” no one likes to hear someone tell them they need to repent. What authority did the carpenter’s son have to tell them to repent? What authority did Jesus have to say that he was sent by God to deliver “good news?” The words of Jesus did not go over very well with these hometown folks.
Rather than hear the message and believe that Jesus was sent by God to rescue them from themselves, it was easier to say, “Who does this guy think that he is?” He was all too familiar for them to take him seriously.
Jesus recognized their problem. He said, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” Mark 6:4 Because he was all to familiar to them, they refused to believe his words or to recognize his works as the words and works of God himself.
All Too Familiar
Jesus was all too familiar. He was all too ordinary. God had hidden the Savior of the world in ordinary flesh and blood. The people of Nazareth did not let the Holy Spirit work in their hearts. They could not see that Jesus was not just the Son of Man but also the Son of God. They were not willing to listen to the good news that Jesus was giving them.
As Christians, Jesus is sometimes all too familiar to us. We know his story. Most of us have heard it since we were little children. It’s so familiar it doesn’t seem all that amazing. In many respects the events in his life could be the events of our lives.
Jesus wasn’t born in a palace surrounded by royal parents and guards to protect his safety. His name wasn’t written down in history books as a king. His mother was a poor small town girl who became pregnant under mysterious circumstances.
His stepfather was a simple carpenter. Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem surrounded by dirty, smelly shepherds and protected only by his mother Mary and step father Joseph.
Jesus went from village to village seeking out people who were lost and condemned. When we hear the stories about his life, they become all too familiar and we stop remembering that this is the Son of God living out a perfect life on our behalf and reaching out to us with forgiveness.
Even the stories of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection have become all too familiar to us that we take them for granted. We hear about the cross and the empty tomb, but because these stories are all too familiar, we think about them as ordinary events and Jesus as an ordinary person.
Because the story of Jesus is all too familiar to us, it’s easy for Satan to tell us it’s not all that important. It’s easy for him to say, “Don’t waste your time going on Sunday morning to hear the same story again.” It’s easy for our own reason to say, “I get enough on Sunday morning, why should I read his word or have devotions during the week?”
Ordinary Elements – Holy Things
Jesus came to the synagogue. He seemed familiar and ordinary. The people did not believe. Jesus comes to us today in this place. It seems like an ordinary building, but it’s a holy place. Jesus makes it holy because it’s here that he comes and gathers us to hear good news. In this place Jesus uses familiar, ordinary things to give us holy things.
The words at the beginning of our service are familiar to us “In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.” These words were spoken when ordinary water was used to baptize us. What a treasure we were given at our baptism – forgiveness and faith.
We confess our sins with familiar ordinary words. The words of absolution spoken by the pastor are familiar ordinary words. But when spoken by the authority of Jesus, they are holy words telling us that God has had mercy on us and has given his Son to die for us. The words of absolution are God’s words spoken to us telling us that our sins are forgiven.
The readings we hear and the sermon that is preached, again seem like familiar ordinary words. But these are holy words; they are the story of how God from the very beginning of time planned to send his Son to be our Savior. They are the story of how God fulfilled his promise to save us from our sin and from death.
A small piece of bread and a sip of wine are familiar ordinary elements of daily life. But Jesus said, “This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Those words make these elements holy elements given to us for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.
The people around us in this building, the pastor who leads the service every week, they are familiar ordinary people. We are all so ordinary, but we are gifts from God to each other.
- As children of the heavenly Father, we are called to love one another.
- As members of the body of Christ we are called to gather together to worship and in that way to support each other in our faith.
- As members of the church we are called to proclaim the good news to all.
As we gather together, we are witnesses to each other of God’s grace. Christ has placed us together so that when one of us is concerned about sin, the rest of us can remind that person what Jesus has told us, “Your sin is forgiven, go in peace.”
The people of Nazareth saw Jesus as all too familiar. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will let us see in the familiar and ordinary things that Jesus has given to the church his holy things. Let us rejoice in the familiar and ordinary things he as given us as the means that connect us to his grace and mercy. Let us hear the words of Jesus when he says to us “The kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news.”
Yes Jesus is a carpenter from Nazareth. Yes Jesus is the one who became sin for us on the hill called Golgotha. Yes Jesus is the one who stood out side the empty tomb near Jerusalem saying to Mary, why are you crying. Let us rejoice in Jesus our Savior who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria