A couple of years ago I received an invitation to preach in the church where I grew up, a Southern Baptist church in my hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia. I gave a lot of thought, of course, to what to preach and how to present myself. I had no idea how many familiar faces I would see; it had been a long time. And I was fairly sure that other than some limited contact with the pastor’s family on Facebook, I wasn’t going to be riding on my fairly limited public reputation, since I’m by no means the famous Spong.
Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?” (Luke 4:22, CEB)
It’s always a danger to identify with Jesus. (Write that down. And read the whole passage here.) I went home to – well, a lot of things. There were a lot of reasons, not least of which my own need for healing as my family has been less than enthused about my mid-life coming out party. I wanted to do a good and faithful job on behalf of Jesus Christ, but I also went looking for some sign of acceptance.
Jesus went home to stir the pot. People thought he sounded amazing. They murmured their wonder at his poise and eloquence. They were just short of clapping each other on the back and congratulating each other for their influence on this fine young man they produced as a community when he threw down in a more obvious fashion, one they could understand clearly.
“I’m not here for you.”*
That was unacceptable to the congregation. They knew about the healing he could bring; they had heard the stories. If he wasn’t going to help them, if his good work was for others, what actual good was he?
You know the rest. They ran him out of town. They would have thrown him off a cliff. Please note that the saving action of God Jesus was not tempted to use earlier in chapter 4 seems to intercede for him here as he passes through the crowd and goes on his way.
Can you go home again? I went, and I brought my wife and step-son, but only the people who already knew about our relationship would know who we were to each other. It was just about the only time I’ve left people guessing. I wanted to go back to the place where I first learned that Jesus loves me and not have it be ruined by people rejecting me. I wanted to be an ordained woman bringing a good word in a place that doesn’t often see a woman in the pulpit. That felt like the call for me, on that day.
Holy Jesus, I hope I got it right. Amen.
I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? Full schedule can be found here.
*Obligatory Hamilton reference.