Last week we talked about Jesus returning to his home-town of Nazareth. He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his custom. When he finished reading, he rolled up the scroll of Isaiah, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down, and as he sat down he closed with these words: “Today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. Even though everybody was amazed and spoke well of him, there were locals that recognized him as Joseph’s son. They had heard of his reputation as a miracle worker in Capernaum and undoubtedly other places, and they implored him to do some miracles on their behalf to prove he was more than just a carpenter’s son, a boy that they knew of in the village when he was younger. (Luke 4:21-30)
The crowd was not as interested in what he had to say as they were about being entertained. They wanted to witness a miracle, something that would impress them. It’s kind of like being excited about the circus coming to town. Jesus, however, would have none of it. He said: “A prophet is never without honor except in his home-town among the people he knows”. There’s much we do not know about Jesus childhood. Although, we do know that Jesus traveled with Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of Passover. They would stay for the seven days of the feast. At the conclusion of one of these pilgrimages, Joseph and the family packed up and set off for home, but soon they realized that Jesus was not with them. They found him listening and discussing theology with the rabbis and scholars in the temple. So, we can assume that from an early age Jesus spent a lot of time in the synagogue. We also know that it was his custom to attend services in the synagogue.
We are told that on this Sabbath Day, members of the religious community marveled with what Jesus had to say, but they surely had listened and known Jesus from his synagogue practices as he was growing up right under their eyes. “Isn’t This Josephs son”?, someone said. “We have heard a lot of reports about you Jesus. Why don’t you do some miracles for us, like you’ve done in some other places”? Jesus relates passages from the First and Second Book of Kings in the Hebrew Bible about how in times of need, not all needs are met, but some are. I think the message that I receive from this passage about how some people’s need are met, but others are not, has to do with faith, availability, and receptivity. But, the passage troubles me because in the Great Commission we are told to go into all the world and preach the “Good News” and to share the love of God with all people especially the marginalized is an oft quoted theme in the Gospels. How this message of hope and love is received is above my pay-grade, and I gladly leave that to the One in whom I follow.
I was talking with a recently ordained Episcopal Deacon last Saturday as we talked with people as we walked through Wells Park, encouraging, praying with and listening to the stories of others, putting narratives and names with faces. We listen to the problems, and sometimes the needs seem to be way beyond our ability and resources to meet. She mentioned to me that her problem is that she wants to fix everything, but knows it’s too overwhelming to fix them at all. I talked last week about how it takes a community to make changes, and sometimes a community of communities. That’s why in 2016 we are teaming up, working more closely to address the needs of our community with other churches in El Cajon, other churches in our diocese, and we are reaching out to additional churches and organizations that share a vision for meeting the needs of our community.
We can work together, as the old proverb in Ecclesiastes says: “Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one: Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken”. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) I meet every month for lunch with clergy from a number of different denominations. I’m always looking for ways we can work together to meet needs, vocalize problems, difficulties, barriers and possibilities. Our desire is to work together. We do not think it’s better to work alone. We do not want to be silo on a hill.
The Welcome Church is now a “Preaching Post” for the diocese of San Diego. It is also a ministry supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The “Refugee Ministries of El Cajon” is supported by the First Presbyterian Church of El Cajon, and we have others partnering with us, stepping up to support the work, because they recognize we are on the cutting edge. We are in the harvest field, doing the work of the ministry. Not everyone will accept that. I remember when we started park churches in NYC, we had the support of many of the largest Episcopal Churches in the city, United Methodist, Church of Christ, American Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian and Old Catholic Churches supporting our work with encouragement, volunteers and resources. But there were others that said we were doing the ministry all wrong. My response was then and continues to be when I hear statements like this: “You need to stop what you are doing. You are going about working with homeless and marginalized all wrong”. …” Okay maybe you are right. We do not have all the answers, but we are doing the best we can with what we have to work with., and it I’m sure there are better ways we can do ministry, but at least we are doing it. Maybe you should join and assist us. We are always open to new ideas and fresh eyes”.
We are expanding. Our message to this community, to our neighbors, to the people in the new homes being built across the street from our church, to all the people in this city, people in the big homes on the hills surrounding the city, low income housing, and to those that have no homes: “God loves you, just the way you are”. Our second reading this morning is from 1 Corinthians 13, also known as the “Love chapter”. God loves you. As it says in 1 John: “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love”. (1 John 4:7-8) “Agape” love is not based on what you have done in the past or what you will do in the future, but it is a message to you right now, in this present moment, just as you are, God loves you. You are loved. And, “love makes up for practically everything”. (1 Peter 4:8)
We intend to share that love with you and with others. That’s the message I want to give to this community, and to be a voice for this church. God is love, and God loves you. We are going to do our best to do everything we can to help pastorally. If we can’t help you, and if we can’t solve your problems, at least we can walk beside you and listen, to be present.
“A prophet is not without honor except in his or her hometown. Hometowns have a lot of good things, but we have to understand this: We have prophetic message to our community, the communities that are around us and to the world. “God is love. God loves you, and we love you. And, we will love you”.
In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen