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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 4:21–30 

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (NRSV)

No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

Given that this saying, with slight variation, appears in each of the Synoptic Gospels, it seems likely that some version of these words came out of Jesus’ mouth. Staggering.

How astute was he about people? He identified the oh-so-human propensity for discounting what is familiar, for defining other people by one thing we know or think we know or used to know about them.

Why do we do that? I suspect because it’s easy. Life is complex, and other people are the most complicated part. If we can have a little package of facts that we can use to know and predict what another person will do, it will make things so much simpler. Situations are predictable. Life is under control.

Ha! People around me—I’m talking about every single person, even those I’m related to and those I know intimately—have layered inner lives and intricate personal histories about which I understand very little. When I think I definitely know what another person is capable of, or who exactly he or she is, or isn’t, I am in dangerous territory. It’s probably pretty likely that I am acting precisely like that enraged and murderous crowd in the synagogue in Nazareth that day. It’s probably pretty likely that I don’t want to see God’s marvelous creating and redeeming power through the growth and evolution of those around me. It’s probably pretty likely that I don’t want to have my views of reality challenged, because that would mean that I might have to grow or evolve in ways that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

Like Jesus said, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.

Jesus, you who understood what it was like to be stifled by others’ small expectations and limited vision, help me to welcome the surprising and to curb my tendency to be arrogant about what I think I know. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

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