(sermon note: 01-17 sermon note)
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. 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.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’ And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Our reading for this morning reminds of the one about a man named Buddy and his wife, Edna, who went to the state fair every year, and every year, Edna would say, “Buddy, I’d like to ride in that helicopter.” Buddy always replied, “I know, honey, but that helicopter ride is fifty bucks, and fifty bucks is fifty bucks.” One year Buddy and Edna went to the fair and Edna said, ”Buddy, I’m 85 years old and if I don’t ride that helicopter I might never get another chance.” To this, Buddy replied, “Edna, that helicopter ride is fifty bucks, and fifty bucks is fifty bucks.” The pilot overheard the couple and said, “Folks, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word, I won’t charge you a penny! But if you say one word, it’s fifty dollars.” Buddy and Edna agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy maneuvers but not a word was heard. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word. When they landed the pilot turned to Edna and said, “By golly, I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn’t. I’m impressed.” Edna replied, “Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Buddy fell out, but you know…fifty bucks is fifty bucks.”
People can easily get in a rut over the years, thinking they know everything they need to know. And they come up with any number of excuses not to change their thinking when presented with new ideas or opportunities. Who knows why Buddy was so adamant about not spending a little money to make his wife happy. Maybe he was the product of hard times when money was tight and such luxuries as a helicopter ride were inconceivable. Maybe he was a man of great wealth yet was consumed with all the sacrifices and/or poor decisions he made in acquiring every dollar of it. Maybe Buddy was just a terrible husband who never really wanted to make his wife happy anyways. We simply don’t know why, year after year, he used the same old excuse not to fork out the fifty bucks and get his wife a helicopter ride. But we do know his stubborn insistence in not changing caused his wife to inwardly rejoice when he fell from the helicopter. It’s what kept her quiet while witnessing such a tragedy…
For the most part, only the young seem to ever like change and I haven’t quite figured out why this is the case. Of course, for them their realities are continuously changing. Their bodies are changing, their minds are changing, and their experiences are changing and they have no control over all the changes. They’re simply along for the ride until one day they realize they have control over their lives. They can choose how to change their bodies or their minds or their experiences. They are in control of their lives and are ultimately held responsible for their lives. The changes in life keep coming but because they are in control of their lives they don’t seem to like changes as much anymore. Or at least that’s when I stopped liking changes so much, when I had to take control of my life and was being held responsible for the decisions I made in response to the changes. Change is inevitable in life…how we manipulate it or respond to it makes all the difference in what we get out of life. We can experience either joy or sorrow in life and either depends heavily on how we react to change.
The people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth weren’t all that keen about change. They, like the people of a lot of small towns, thought they knew all they needed to know. And they thought they knew who Jesus was, nothing more than a carpenter’s boy. Who cares that many people around the region had found him to be quite the special man. They knew what they knew and weren’t going to be persuaded otherwise. And Jesus expected this reaction from them when he came home after traveling the area. “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” Why? Because the people of that town are stuck in a rut, unable to change their thoughts about who the prophet really is, or so they believe. And because they are unable to change their thoughts about who he is, they’re unable to change their thoughts by what he has to teach them. They can’t learn from him because they’re hung up on his past. Of course, they aren’t the only ones who can’t learn from Jesus. Most of the religious leaders around him couldn’t learn from him either because they were hung up on his credentials and authority. “This man has no credentials or authority to teach us about God!” They couldn’t see how radically new Jesus was, how special he was despite his unspecial upbringing or teaching or lack of authority. They couldn’t or wouldn’t change their preconceived thoughts about him and were robbed of his truly remarkable wisdom and healing.
The Nazarites and religious leaders weren’t all that unique. It is the human tendency to be averse to change, especially the older we get, and Jesus is a great agent of change. Jesus was and is not simply a cuddly, loveable peacemaker. He enacts and promotes change, especially when he sees injustices in the world. What did he say he fulfilled from the Isaiah passage? “He has anointed me to bring news to the poor, sent me to proclaim release to the prisoners, [give] recovery of sight to blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Friends, these are acts of change…of freeing people from whatever has imprisoned them. Elsewhere in the book of Isaiah, we hear the prophet declare, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth,do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (43:19) Again, is this not what Jesus did and does?
Let us learn from the unfortunately unchanging people of Nazareth. Let us get rid of whatever preconceived notions we have about who Jesus is as we set about another year of walking with him in our lives. Above all, Jesus is an agent of change. Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “so if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (5:17) There is a new creation in Jesus! This is good news, friends! We’re setting out in a new year with all sorts of new challenges and new blessings. Let us let him guide us through the year, to change us as he wants us to change. Let us be open to his changing power in our lives. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “you were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (4:22-24) What a gift to be renewed in the spirit of our minds and clothed with the new self! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.