Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Year A Proper 26 Wed 2017 Never Go Home Again

Year A Proper 26 Wednesday, 8 November 2017
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“You Can Never Go Home Again”

Collect: Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Matthew 13:53-58
53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place. 54 He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” 58 And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.

As James Taylor sang in an old forgotten song: “They say you can never go home again, and that's no lie…” Today we see not the limit of God and God’s power in Christ, but the need for us to show up when we are invited. I do not want to steal my thunder, or at least my “barbaric yawp,” from Sunday as it’s parable and today’s story deal with the same point.

We do not limit God but God will not force Godself on us. God has tickets waiting for us at Will Call; will we call on God and get them? In today’s story, people were blinded by the nature of familiarity. They could not see with new eyes, and because of that their sight of the Jesus-they-knew kept them from seeing Jesus-for-who-he-was.

At my home church in Newport News, the pastor took another church and my mom asked me to think about applying. I did. For about 5 seconds. I thought about all the times I was baby with poopy diapers and that people in the nursery changed them. I think about all the times I was a snotty teen who was acting out (which is normal behavior for teens, so no judgment). So I thought about these adults who knew me before I was an adult, and before I was trained and equipped to be a pastor, who would probably be stuck seeing me the way I was then, not the way I was now. “They say you can never go home again, and that's no lie…” Applying truly was not an option.

And Jesus was in the same boat. “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” Systems strive for an equilibrium. Anything that gets out of whack upsets the system and the system does its best to put whatever is out of kilter back into place. This is true in mechanical, biological, or sociological systems. This Sunday we are meeting with Karen Salter once again, the Diocesan consultant. We do this not because things are bad. She came because there was conflict. I was not here and I cannot nor will I speak to what took place before my arrival. We have Karen coming back because she is helping us change our System here. My pastoral counseling professor put it this way: “Whenever there is change there is conflict, and whenever there is conflict there is change.” We have had some conflict in our System out here. And when equilibrium in systems are off kilter the system does what it can to whack it back. Sometimes the whacking is on members and sometimes it is on the system as a whole. We are in a place now, one of good feelings and increased attendance and giving, to give attention and focus on what a healthy system looks like and functions, and to recognize early when the system is hurting to the whacking back does not need to be so hard.

Jesus knew this. He knew they could not see him for who he was. So he moved on. It is not that he did not love them or that he did not care. He knew that to get them to the place where they could see, respond and grow his time would be over. We all must pick our battles that we will fight. Jesus offered, was rejected, and moved on.

Our ministry in Ashland, however, is one of stability and presence. We are tasked with staying here and being healthy. We are playing the long game. I do not go walk or jog when I have the flu. I build up my body when it is well, so when I do get sick it does not last as long.

What will we see if we re-look at situations with new eyes, instead of assuming what we “know” to be there?

Can we step back and see with new eyes the people who we may have written off as someone who does not deserve our notice?

Will we miss out on “deeds of power” because of our “unbelief?” Amen.

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Blessings, Rock