Jesus comes back to Galilee and to his home town of Nazareth, the place where he grew up, the place where most of his family and many of his childhood friends perhaps still lived. You ever go back to the place you grew up as a child? I’ve always thought it was remarkable that some people are born and live their entire lives in the same town, and sometimes in the same neighborhoods. But, even if you never leave the city you were born and grew up in you do notice how things change with time. A few days ago I heard about the death of an Oakland man whose daughter says he was 117 years old. It will never make it into the Guinness Record Book because like many people from that era, he did not have a birth certificate. Can you imagine the changes this man saw in his life? He was a child when the first cars were invented. I’m sure the community he grew up in as a child was nothing like it used to be. That’s why I think it intriguing to listen to the elders in our communities because we can learn a lot from them. And, all the narrative stories are unique.
My father was a pastor, so we moved a few times when I was a child, but the place that I spent the most time, from the time I was in the fifth grade to the time I graduated from High School, we lived in a small town called Clifton. It was an agricultural community a few miles out of Grand Junction. Colorado, on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies. It’s a beautiful area in the palisades below the Rockies that was known for its fruit. Our area was full of orchards of pears, peaches, apples and cherries. The rectory we lived in was right next to the church, and right behind us was a large cornfield. The cornfield is gone now.
By the time I was a teenager I worked in the summers picking fruit, including pears, peaches and apples. I preferred pears because they did not bruise as easy as apples, and peaches made me itch because of the peach fuzz. It was a good way to make some money. Pears are picked when they are still green and hard, and every year we would get stomach aches because we ate too many green pears. I went back to my hometown a few years ago, and the entire landscape had changed. Now it’s a city connected to Grand Junction, with shopping malls, and storefronts. It is no longer the little community that I remember. A lot of the places I use to hang out as a kid aren’t there anymore. It’s different now. It’s changed. The sites do not match up with my memories. The memories are still intact, but it was at a different time and a different context.
Jesus came to Nazareth, where he grew up as a child, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, because that was what he was accustomed to do. “He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him”. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:14-21)
Jesus in this context is establishing his mission, convincing people of his intentions and revealing his ways of proclaiming the “good news” in a way that also opened the eyes of others of what needed to be done. As followers of Christ, and as the Body of Christ we are expected to take up carry on with His mission. like we read in our second reading this morning from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit”. (1 Corinthians 12:1)
Collectively we are the Body of Christ. He is the head, and we are the body. We are expected to continue on in this mission of setting captives free, ministering to the homeless, the marginalized and all the people of our community. We are called to do this as individuals and to work collectively as a church. I like the proverb in Ecclesiastes that goes like this: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) When we minister collectively we can do more good than if we are just on our own. It’s kind of like making a good stew. I’m not a very good cook, but I Naomi can tell you that I really enjoy a good bowl of stew. We throw in all the stuff., the carrots, onions, celery, maybe some stew meat, and other spices or sauces. But, you need more than a carrot or an onion or a stick of celery to make a stew. You do need each one of those ingredients, but you also need all of those ingredients to work together for a good stew to taste right.
Today we are having our annual church meeting right after coffee hour. We will talk about what we have done this year, and what we hope to do next year. We will talk about what we have done in small groups and what we as a church have accomplished together. We are doing the work of Christ, the “Shalom”, the “completeness” of the Way that Christ has modeled for us and teaches us “to bring good news to the poor. “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”.
This is our work, now in our community, and it’s different this year than it was last year. I forgot to mention last week that Naomi and I began our ministry here at St. Alban’s three years ago on January 17. This is our home, and things are not the same now as they were three years ago. Some things remain the same, but we have new faces in our congregation. Some people have moved on or passed away, and the church grows and changes with the times. The ministry has grown. “Jesus filled with the power of the Spirit and returned to Galilee. And, the report about him went to the surrounding community”. So it is with us. The report of St. Albans has gone out into the community and into our diocese. We are known for our work here with newly arrived refugees, welcoming the newcomers, ministering to the marginalized and homeless. It’s always good to remember that just as Jesus came back to his home town filled with the power of the Spirit, so we come back to our home here at St. Alban’s, year after year, and revisit our mission.
Returning again and again to our home town and sharing in so many different ways the love of God to all Gods people, as we work individually and collectively.
the Reverend Dr. David Madsen