When I was first ordained, I had the privilege of going home to preach in my home church. It is a very small church – growing up there were usually less than fifty people in worship on a Sunday. The eyes of all were upon me. There was palpable energy in the room. While the church had grown, the people all knew me well. Some had been present during my truly awe-inspiring days of being an acolyte – days of tripping and dropping the offering plates, putting out the candles at the wrong time, forgetting whether I was supposed to take the offering or sit in the front row for the sermon. They knew all of these stellar moments. Of course, those had been was I was between the ages of 7-12. This was different. Or so they hoped.
When I began to preach, the words that Jesus spoke in Luke 4 were in the forefront of my mind. He was not that much older than I was at that moment. I remember receiving consolation from two things. First, I was not there as a prophet. God did not send me there to proclaim judgment. When Jesus spoke to the people of his hometown, he told them that they weren’t all that special; that they wouldn’t receive his message anyway. “You wouldn’t understand,” he told them. (That is the essence of his statement about Elijah and Elisha going not to the people of Israel, but to a widow from Sidon and a soldier from Syria.) I was sent that day to proclaim what Jesus had done on our behalf.
Second and most obvious, I am not Jesus. He was called to be despised and rejected by the very people that he came to save. In fact, his rejection means acceptance for the rest of us. His rejection was for a purpose. The world may reject us, our hometowns may even reject us, but it will not serve the same purpose.
When Jesus’ hometown rejected him and scorned him it was likely personally painful. Yet this pain paled in comparison to the rejection of the cross where he experience the forsakenness of our sin. It is impossible to fathom how that felt. Thanks be to God, we do not have to know
That day at Lutheran Church of the Way in Raynham, MA went well. There was no repeating my acolyte days, I didn’t trip, or light the wrong things on fire. And receiving consolation from my Savior, I could proclaim the nearly indescribable love of Jesus, the one who was rejected that we might be accepted by his heavenly Father.