Monday, March 28, 2011

Gospel: Having A Windshield Larger Than The Rearview Mirror

"[Jesus] answered, "I suppose you're going to quote the proverb, 'Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.' Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn't it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian."

That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way."

What could be worse than being thrown out of your own community of faith, especially when you were being seriously truthful...explaining the Scriptures as faithfully as you could?

Many times I've seen this sort of thing, though not to the extreme measure which these folks took in the end, in the course of my own ministry. Not every church goer who professes to be a believing Christian is able or wants to hear the honest truth proclaimed. It's not that they don't want "the message" to be spoken and's just that it has to be their version of the message. Unfortunately, most times it's a narrow, adolescent viewpoint which they perhaps heard in Confirmation class years before and which, in their insecurity in faith, they feel they must hang onto. The curious thing is that many of these folks may be people who are quite "with it" in their field of work, and don't bat an eyelash over change in the marketplace. Just don't touch their "religion"!

Luke tells us that after Jesus moved down the road from the hostile hometown crowd in Nazareth, he got a much different reception: "He went down to Capernaum, a village in Galilee. He was teaching the people on the Sabbath. They were surprised and impressed—his teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to."

John Indermark, in his wonderful little book Gospeled Lives, has a quite relevant passage with which to conclude this reflection: " Over the past two years, the Reverend Dr. Mark Miller has served as the Transitional Interim Conference Minister of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ...Mark makes light of the acronym for his title (TICM), saying he hopes his work does not lead too many people to hear it with an 'off' at the end (as in, 'tic 'em off'). His other trademark wordplay when he speaks to churches and church leaders explores variations on the theme: 'Your windshield needs to be larger than your rearview mirror.' The image is not only striking -- it is gospel." 

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