Rev. Rosemary Webb
8th July 2018
Home Town

I wonder how many of us would be recognised if we went back to our home town. I suppose if you are under forty there may be a good possibility someone will, but at my age incredibly unlikely. And to be more to the point how many of my today’s near neighbours do I recognise?

It is 47 years since we moved to our present house, and at first, when our three children terrorised the road with their bikes, footballs etc., we were on at least nodding terms with most of the neighbours, but now children no longer play on the road, for like most roads, what used to be a quiet area is now full of cars.

The fact is that over the last twenty / thirty years society has changed, it is far more insular. We no longer automatically keep an eye on each other’s houses, we have to join a scheme, have a notice on a lamp post and a sticker in the window to remind us that we are neighbours and that God calls us to love our neighbours, which surely means we keep an eye on their houses, be willing to help each other.

Yes, memory is a strange thing, in some ways we can stay in the past, are my school friends and I really THAT old now, surely not. Perhaps it was the same for the people who Jesus grew up with, perhaps at times as a child he did seem deep in thought but he didn’t really seem different from them.

When Jesus went back to Nazareth, he was recognised as Mary and Joseph’s son, he was still the carpenter in their eyes, the kid who had grown up among them. They just couldn’t recognise him as God.

They had heard rumours, how he travelled round Galilee with a band of followers, preaching and healing, they had even heard it said he was the long-awaited Messiah, but to them, that was just stupid because everyone knew the Messiah would come with a conquering army, well they knew Jesus certainly hadn’t. His father was the local carpenter and he used to work alongside him sometimes. No, he couldn’t be the Messiah.

But were they being any different from me, or perhaps you, at a school reunion, where either you simply didn’t recognise someone or could only see them as they were when they teenagers, couldn’t really see they had altered.

And, today I wonder what would happen if the Human Jesus again walked into Nazareth, perhaps went into the church dedicated to him and started preaching, would he be welcome, would people realise who he was, or would he again be chased out of town as a false prophet?

I think this passage has a message for each of us, it calls us to think how we react when we hear this story, to think how we react when challenged about our faith.

When we read passages from the bible do we still see the words as we did as children. A few years back Bishop Nick criticised the words ‘the little Lord Jesus no crying he made’ saying of course he would have cried, he probably screamed the place down because Jesus came to earth as fully human, it was thirty years before God called him to be the Messiah. You are probably thinking so what, but if all some people know about Jesus is the Christmas story of that sweet little baby in a crib, are they ever able to see him, as that person human like us who suffered so much on the Cross for our salvation. in other words, are we like the Nazarenes unable to truly see Jesus as God.

Do we find Jesus in the everyday, or do we only find him in Church? Do we only find Jesus when the scriptures are shown to us as they always have been, or can we find Jesus coming even more alive when we are challenged to see our prejudices being challenged? For when the views of the church are challenged it is only the churches views being challenged, it is not the word of God. It is the church leaders who have interpreted the bible wrongly in the past not that God has changed his mind.

We need to remember that we have had the Bible for centuries but I think that perhaps my parents’ generation was probably the first in this country when most people could read. For centuries people went to church, they heard preaching but they were unable to read the passages for themselves, to pray on them and decide for themselves.

The preaching was far more often on the subject of sin, that as sinners they would be no salvation unless they followed the law as interpreted by the preacher, the fear of sinning was a great way of getting people into church, and they mostly didn’t have the ability to study for themselves.

We know that God made each one of us in his image, that he loves us all, so how could we ever imagine, that he wanted us to kill each other because of the colour of our skin, because of who we were, his command is that we love each other, full stop no arguing.

Jesus was obviously hurt when his neighbours rejected him, but he didn’t let it stop him, he sent the disciples out to preach the Good News. But how much more must he be hurt when we who call ourselves Christian challenge his views because we simply cannot believe he does not think like we do.

It is a fact that Jesus never discussed homosexuality, but he did spend time telling us not to judge one another, to love our neighbour, and more than that to love those who hate us. There are still many people who would dearly like see woman, as well as homosexuals, banned from the Church, why well because in the early middle ages a group of powerful men got together and made that decision. Remember it was the women who stood at the foot of the Cross.

Many Anglicans with those views met at the GAFCOM conference in Jerusalem last week criticising liberals for ignoring the bible for turning away from God. But they will never admit Jesus never said these things and they always seem reluctant to respond to our Lord’s command that we should love one another, that we shouldn’t judge one another… I certainly don’t believe, as they do, that when I quote that passage I am giving myself an excuse not to do as Christ commands.

Last week in St Paul’s Cathedral Jonathan Aitken the former MP and ex prisoner who became a Christian in prison, was ordained at 75 in to the church of England, to serve as a prison chaplain. I expect some people disapproved but surely that is God at work. I remember the uproar during his court case but through God’s redeeming love and the prayers of others he turned to God. Is it any different from St Paul and others through the centuries who have been converted, who have seen Christ’s light shining in the dark and turned to him?

We need to look for Jesus in the rough sleepers, prisoners, in the scared and the weak as well as in the church goers, we need to see him in the eyes of the stranger, as well as our friends. Most of all we need to make sure that we do not become so busy looking for others people sins that we miss our own., for we are all sinners.

I believe each one of us is a child of God, and that through prayers and faith in God we can not only increase our relationship with God, but we can draw the doubters the non -believers into that relationship, we can help them turn to God, we can bring them into the family of church, we can make them disciples, we just have to seek them out.

Mark 6:1-13
2 Corinthians 12