Sixth Sunday After Pentecost—Year B—July 8, 2012
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Just imagine…if you all had not called me to be your next pastor, the next candidate could have been ANYBODY!
What if it had been someone that you had watched grown up, and you just could not forget how much of a goof off they there
or how they were not the best reader
or were a complete bully.
You had not seen them in years, and had no idea what they were like now. Nevertheless, you cannot get your preconceived notions about who they are now, because of who they were then, out of your head.
They could not possibly have anything to teach you about God, RIGHT?
Well…that is the same reaction that Jesus’ home congregation had towards him. To them, he would always be that the little boy, the son of Mary, the carpenter. We do not get a sense of what kind of kid he was, whether he was a goody-goody, a trouble-maker, a know-it-all, or a class-clown. Either way, the people that knew him then, do not think much of him as a prophet/teacher/healer. He could not possibly be worth the hype that he is getting around Israel. He could not possibly have anything worthwhile to teach them.
Despite their being “astounded” by his teaching and their acknowledgment of his wisdom and deeds of power, they “took offense at him.” They saw it all with their own eyes, but for them, he will forever remain in the box that they put him in as a kid. To them, he is simply “the carpenter, the son of Mary.”
We are constantly putting each other in boxes. We categorize others on many levels: young/old/immature, smart/lazy, creative/dull, handicapped, learning disabled, popular/loner/nerd, annoying/funny, male/female…
Some of these categories are harmless, but others have real power. We put one another in boxes; in an attempt to build ourselves up, we tear each other down.
Even for Jesus, this boxing in of his identity actually limits his power. “He could do no deed of power, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” The hometown’s perception of him does not change who he is, he is still the Son of God, able to heal the sick and suffering, but it does limit his ability to be effective.
However, to God the many labels that we put on people do not matter. To God, only one label matters.
Ultimately we only truly and eternally belong in one box.
God puts us all in the box labeled “child of God.” And this is the least limiting box ever, it is actually the exact opposite, it is an empowering box. In the box, there is no hierarchy, so there is no need to try to climb higher by pushing others down. God loves us all equally.
It is through our position in that box of God’s that we have all of our gifts, and talents, and power to do good in the world. It is “with the Spirit’s gifts [that] empower us for the work of ministry.” God is responsible for all we are, and through that, equips us, empowers us, and sends us out to do God’s work in the world.
In the midst of this box, God’s “spirit enters us” just like Ezekiel, sets us on our feet, and send us out to the rest of God’s creation to serve one another in love.
At times, you might feel as if you missed out when God handed out all the gifts and talents in the “child of God” box. But rest assured, that is absolutely not the case. It simply seems this way because the boxes that we impose on one another as human society are temporarily obscuring you from seeing how your gifts and talents can be used to the glory of God.
It is like in the movie, “Signs,” by M. Night-Shyamalan. In the movie, aliens are invading earth. The whole world is trying to figure out how to stop them, but it ends up being an ex-preacher who lost his faith when his wife died, his washed-up ex-baseball start brother, his asthmatic son, and his young daughter who has not talked in years and who constantly leaves glasses of water all around the house save the day. (Okay, prepare yourselves, I’m about to ruin the ending)…it turns out that the aliens die if they come in contact with water, and the only reason they figure this out is because the ex-baseball player ends up swinging his old bat into a bunch of water glasses that the daughter left out when the alien is holding the boy, who thankfully passed out and stopped breathing from an asthma attack before the alien gassed him.
I know, this might be an obscure movie reference, especially for a sermon, but it is my favorite example of how perceived weaknesses turn out to be strengths, God given gifts. Things only remain weaknesses when we as individuals and as a society treat them that way. We limit ourselves, others, and even at time God, when we confine people to boxes other than the “child of God” one in which they belong.
We are all gifted by God and sent out to serve all of God’s creation. Even in the midst of what we perceive as our weaknesses, God sends us out, as children of God, with all the gifts we could ever possibly need to tell the story of Jesus and his love. And at the same time, God “draws us closer in community” as we gather at the table and under the cross, the ultimate symbol of weakness that has become a symbol of the power of resurrection and God’s love for all.
So, remember, even when your hometown doubts how God is working through you,
YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD
YOU ARE GIFTED AND SPECIAL
YOU ARE SENT OUT TO SHARE THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE WITH OTHERS.