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9 March 2015

Read today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 4.24-30

‘Community’ is a great thing – but when a close knit community becomes a closed community, where transparency and accountability is a thing of the past, the weaker members become scapegoats for every ill. And as the African proverb says: “When the elephant fight or copulate, the grass gets hurt”.

In Nazareth, where he had grown up, Jesus reminds his old neighbours and friends that in the old days the prophets were rarely welcome in their home town. Small town life can be stifling: everyone knows everyone too well. In places like this newcomers and strangers are suspect – but in the case of Jesus returning home, it is familiarity which shuts out the light of the brilliantly new; just as pollyfilla seals any crack that would have let in the light of God’s glory. And the result was contempt, rage, unbelief and attempted murder.  It is true – familiarity does indeed breed contempt.

You may walk into York Minster the first time and be absolutely overwhelmed by its grandeur and majesty – it may lift your heart to wonder and to worship. But if you’re there every day for years, the wonder can wear off, and you may take it all for granted.

Jesus is neither a stranger nor a newcomer, but he has already outgrown his reputation as simply ‘Son of Joseph.’ As such he is a challenge to the prejudices and stereotypical attitudes of his home town. He quotes Elijah’s choice of home – lodging with a widow in Gentile Sidon – and he turns upside down the traditional interpretation of the story of Naaman the Syrian, saying God chose to heal a Syrian leper over all the lepers of Israel. Not a popular thing to say, by any means, in a place where outsiders were not examples of trust in God. The angry crowd becomes a mob, and Jesus only just escapes by the skin of his teeth.

In each of us there is an unbeliever standing alongside the strong believer. This means we sometimes behave as if we have not encountered Jesus Christ who is Lord of all.

May we all be compelled by his love, as it reaches far and wide, breaking down prejudices and share Jesus with everyone. Nobody is beyond limits. Everyone is invited to come and follow.

Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 4.24-30

And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 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.