Rev. Caroline Barnett
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded.
They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.
He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
I’ve always loved about stories about Jesus and his family and his hometown.
They’re just so… human, and I mean that in the best way possible.
These stories of Jesus with his family remind us that he is not just a collection of parables and miracles, but a person intimately connected with the world he lives in.
In this story, Jesus is not the son of God or a miracle worker; he’s Mary’s boy, all grown up.
But this grown-up Jesus, one who has the full authority and wisdom to teach in the synagogue, is not entirely welcome by the people who once knew him.
They’re confused and a little put off by him. This is not the welcome home Jesus may have been expecting.
Instead, this community that raised Jesus have trouble believing that the man in front them can do all the things he says he can.
Isn’t this Mary’s child? They wonder. That little boy who ran through the neighborhood with his brothers and sisters? Wasn’t he training to be a carpenter?
How can that child be this person of wisdom and power?
Jesus is not what they expect of him and so they push him away because of it.
It’s a very human story… perhaps in some of the worst ways.
How often do we let our own expectations of who people should be keep us from seeing who they truly are?
How often have we felt limited by others’ expectations of us?
It’s a very human story.
It tells the incredibly human story of what it is like to be rejected by people who loved you. The story of when home doesn’t feel like home anymore.
Rejection is always difficult to endure.
It is one thing to face rejection from a stranger, a generic: “thank you for your interest, but we’ve gone in a different direction.” It’s annoying and stings for a little bit.
But rejection from a group of people who have known you and loved you and are people you love and respect… that is nothing short of catastrophic.
In the wake of this trauma, Jesus cannot do any deeds of power in the community that raised him. Whether this was his choice to move on from the painful interaction, or he is too hurt to do much good, I don’t know. Both seem like plausible, entirely human responses.
And what’s true about rejection of this sort, is that as much as it hurts and pains Jesus, it limits the community doing the judging too. They don’t get to experience the fullness of who this person is, how he cares so deeply for the world around him, how God is at work through him.
It’s a very human story — this story of the pain of rejection and loss of community.
It is a story all too many of us know. The details of wanting to be accepted and loved for who we are and why that doesn’t always happen are different for each of us, but the pain of rejection in some form or another is unfortunately an almost universal story.
So, it’s comforting to know that Jesus had that experience too. Jesus shares in that story.
But this is only one side of the human story of how we show up for one another.
There’s another human story in our scripture today.
Another way of being, of relating to one another, of accepting people as they come to you. And it lies with the disciples.
The disciples who, inspired by Jesus, trust him so deeply, they follow him out of their own lives into something wild and different. They stick by his side when he is chased out of towns, when he speaks in confusing parables. They do not abandon him when he says things will be difficult not just for himself, but for all of them. They see— or at least they attempt to see— the fullness of who Christ is.
They create a community together, a home together— one that’s not perfect, nor devoid of conflict. It’s a community where each of them has found home.
But then, Christ makes them leave. He sends them out, not into a life of comfort and ease, but to go forth and place their trust in towns and communities to welcome them, even their last experience with a town has been a different story.
He sends them out into the world to proclaim good news, to heal the sick, to comfort the suffering.
He sends them out to change things, and I think he knows, that as they walk away from him, two by two, they will be changed by their experiences.
It would be impossible not to.
Because to go out into the world, and to love the people in it, would transform and change anyone.
The disciples will leave Christ’s side and be changed by their interaction with the suffering people of the world.
They will be changed by the hospitality that strangers show them— how people will shelter them when they have nothing to give in return.
They will be changed by the times they are met with rejection. The moments when they chased out of town, the times when rumors surround them, and the nights when they sleep under the stars because no one offered them a place to stay.
Not all change comes from positive experiences.
But to change, to be affected by the world around you, to grow beyond the expectations others have of you, is humanness at its best.
But all these changes, all this personal and communal transformation will not stop the disciples and Jesus from being a community, a home for one another.
Rather than raise suspicions, they will celebrate their transformations and personal evolutions because they trust the community God creates is expansive enough to hold all parts of us.
This community Christ forms is not hindered by expectations, but is expansive in its acceptance. It does not require proximity or uniformity, but instead welcomes us home in all our different and ever-changing glory.
Discussing the concepts of “home” and “travel,” writer Pico Iyer once said: “Home is not only the place where you sleep, but it’s the place where you stand.”
In their travels, the disciples and Jesus will sleep in a lot of different places. Places that love them, places that reject them, places that change them.
But they stand in the promises of God.
They stand in the promise of hope and love and joy.
The promise that suffering is not the end of the story.
The promise that others’ expectations do not define our worth.
The promise that the home we find in God grows with us rather than limiting us.
It is standing in those promises that the disciples and Jesus create a community that says to all: Welcome home. We’re glad you’re here.
Thanks be to God. Amen.