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Monday, January 25, 2016

Today’s Reading | Matthew 13:53-58

When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place. 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? 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? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 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.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief. (NRSV)

This may be among the truest things ever written in any book, ever: “A prophet is not without honor, except in their own country and in their own house.” Or, as some may put it, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Or even, “Don’t argue with me—I remember when you were diapers.” Maybe the word “whippersnapper” comes up (if you happen to be Walter Brennan).

This text says nothing about what Jesus was teaching in Nazareth. None of the disputes seem to be about the substance of what he was said, they were just about who was doing the talking. “Where does he get off thinking he can teach us? Who does he think he is?” The very fact that Jesus went away and came back to teach meant, to them, that he now felt he was better than they were. And, worst of all, the power and authority of the teaching probably made them feel like he just might have been right.

Even before we get to the substance of his teaching, Jesus challenges us. We’d like to think we’re secure, that we work hard and try to do well and live good lives, and then there he is, right there in front of us, and we know that we are kidding ourselves. He calls us on our ego, calls us on our . . . well, you know . . . without needing to say a word. And if we’re honest, it’s not always fun. I mean, making us feel all imperfect? Who does he think he is? God’s gift?

Well, yeah, kind of.                                  

These Nazarenes—good, hardworking people—get caught between two proverbs: “Familiarity breeds contempt” and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” If we’re honest, we can see in ourselves a similar urge to bring people down to our level. It’s a lot easier than trying to bring ourselves up to theirs.

Lord, we are insecure beings and your presence reminds us of every shortcoming. Help us to set aside our egos and pay attention to your example, so that we may all be lifted. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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