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2024-07-07 Pentecost 7

Updated: Jul 8

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

“Who says you can’t go home, there’s only one place they call me one of their own, just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone, who says you can’t go home.” Thus saith the Prophet, Bon Jovi. Perhaps you’ve heard that song before. It was popular way back in 2006 believe it or not. It’s a song about people going out and experiencing all the new things and new places that life holds, but still not forgetting about where you come from. No doubt this has been on the hearts and minds of many of our high school graduates lately and also their parents! As happy as the parents are to see their kids spread their wings and head out into the world, the invitation still stands: “You can always come home.”

“A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household” (Mark 6:4) thus saith the good Lord Jesus. Who says you can’t go home? … Jesus sure alludes to it! But He is referring to Himself and the long line of prophets that God sent to His people over the generations. But why not? Why can’t everyone come home, just like the Prophet Bon Jovi says? Everyone has a home town, whether it be a giant city or a 1.4 horse town. The best things about hometowns are the familiarity, the comfort and the stability that they give us. Hometowns should be the place where everybody knows your name. However, they are more often the place where everyone knows about you. Your business. Your history. Your sins. Jesus our Lord returns to His hometown. St. Mark says “He went away from there and came to his hometown” (MK 6:1).

What does this mean? the keen Lutheran mind will ponder. So what if Jesus comes home for the weekend. People do it all the time. Sponge a few meals off the in laws, get Mom to do the laundry, the usual schtick. But the significance isn’t really in the geographical location change. There’s more to it than that. Jesus goes from “that place” to “this place.” “That place” was the place of miracles, where Jesus calmed the sea, healed people of diseases and released them from demons. Even the place where Jesus raised a little girl to life from death. “That place” was amazing stuff! It really dazzled and impressed the populace! It’s easy to see the Jesus of “that place” and trust Him. The miracles are fresh and incredible! We think of Jesus as the Jesus of “that place” as we pray for cancer to be cured, for addictions to be broken, for homes to be healed or even that potholes would be fixed in Moose Jaw! We like the Jesus of “that place” and wish that He would stay there. But He doesn’t. He comes home.

He comes back to the familiarity, back to the comfort, back to the stability. He goes to the Synagogue where He’d been zillions of times before as a kid, with His family. But this time, He teaches with wisdom and authority. He does amazing things. And the people take offense at Him. Literally, they were “scandalized” by Him. Why? Because He grew up there. They knew all about Him, like any other small town, but they didn’t really know Him. Jesus is amazed by their unbelief. If ever there was a moment when God Almighty was befuddled, this was it. Surely God’s Holy One, the Messiah, cannot come from our midst! A carpenter? The Son of Mary? Someone like us? Surely that which is holiest and most powerful and closest to God cannot coincide with what is most familiar and closest to us. Holiness can’t have a hometown, we think.

Where is the most difficult place for God to reveal who He is and what He does for us and our salvation? It’s the hometown. It’s the everyday hum drum. We all have our own Nazareth, our own familiar ways of thinking and being, of relating to ourselves and others and to God. It’s all so safe and familiar and comfortable! But the danger is that we become blind to the miraculous as it becomes commonplace. This is the tragedy of the hometown. We can so easily lose sight of the wonder, awe and sacredness not only with people and events we are closest with, but also of ourselves. We miss the Jesus who is standing in our midst, thinking that God can’t be here, He must be over there, in “that place.

The main gist of this whole Gospel text is that God is Emmanuel, He is with us by faith. He dwells with His people. He is with us in the familiar, mundane, day to day routine. And, He does amazing stuff there. The challenge for us is to repent of our sin that would see God confined to a box. God belongs “over there” not “over here” we think. In fact, in just about everyone’s memory from Sunday School, we can recall paintings and posters of bible scenes and ultimately the one from Revelation. There’s a beautiful green paradise with lions and lambs lying down side by side. People of all colors walking and talking together, smiling and happy. And then, way off in the back of the picture someplace is a castle or a gold mansion. God is “over there” while people are “over here.

It’s funny but it’s true. Ever since humanity embraced death in the garden and became separated from God in sin, we have this view of God. We hide from Him. We push Him away. We understand Him in our own way, on our own terms, often making an idol for ourselves. But Jesus seeks to heal this age old rift. He does what we cannot. He gives His life on the cross and rises from the dead. He comes with healing. But people won’t receive Him. The Jews denied their Messiah. But God comes to the them anyways. He comes to His hometown, but He is rejected as people become offended. But He still comes anyways. No matter where we go from hither to thither and back again, God comes to us, in the flesh, to bring us back to Himself. To bring us life and salvation. To bring us healing.

The age old question is, “will we receive Him?” Jesus comes to our hometown, to our familiarity, to our comfortable places. Will we roll out the red carpet and welcome Him or will we raise the eyebrow of rejection? I bet we’d be surprised at how often we shun the Lord. People ask us about our faith and we shy away. We know we ought to pray for ourselves and for each other but we don’t make time to do it. God’s house gathers dust while we run around doing more important things. Reading the Scriptures that make us wise for salvation get forgotten about. We don’t celebrate and commemorate our Baptismal birthdays. Do you know where your Baptism certificate is? If it’s at home someplace in a memory book, go dig it up! Frame it and hang it on the wall! Jesus comes to our hometown every minute of everyday. But will we receive Him?

Thankfully God does not give up on us. He will never force Himself into our lives, yet He doesn’t let us go as lost sheep either. He pursues us relentlessly, constantly giving us His gifts of life and salvation. And all the while He hopes we won’t chuck His invitation in the trash. God has come in the flesh, into our midst, into our everyday. Don’t put God in a box someplace over there. By faith realize that God is here, in this place as we love each other and help all those in need. Let’s not make Jesus marvel at us because of sinful unbelief. Rather let us have Him look at us and say “well done, good and faithful servants!” Let us say with Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 24:15). Thanks be to God now and forever more. Amen!

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