That Place Called Home

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.  On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”  And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.  And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.  He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.  He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.  If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”  So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.  They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.  Mark 6:1-13

Today’s Gospel from Mark offers us a lesson in hometown prophets.  We see Jesus returning home to Nazareth, his hometown from his encounter with the Gergesense Demoniac, Jairus’ daughter and the woman that had been bleeding for 12 years.

When Jesus arrives in Nazareth he does not teach right away.  Jesus is there before the Sabbath.  We don’t get the entire picture here of what Jesus did before he taught on the Sabbath.  My guess would be more of same that Jesus performed else where.  But we have no indication that Jesus performed much of anything at all.

I wonder if Jesus’ homecoming looked a lot like our first homecoming from college.  Perhaps, Jesus ate his mothers home cooking, did his laundry, slept in, and engaged in conversations with his family using his new found knowledge from the university experience their hard work has paid for.  Jesus left home a starry-eyed youth to return home a wise revolutionary, looking to start a revolution.

Mark offers us the story of Jesus returning home to astonishment and wonder.  The Gospel reads, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”

Jesus drops knowledge like a two-ton hammer.  Jesus is there in the temple waxing poetic on the law.  Jesus offers Nazareth, his hometown, some Good News.  The Good News is offensive.  The Good News rages against the status quo.  The Good News demands that justice be proclaimed.  The Good News disorientates Nazareth.  The Good News demands that we feed the hungry.  The Good News demands that we clothe the naked.  The Good News transforms.  The Good News is what got Jesus into mortal trouble.

“And they took offense at him.”

I hear them saying, “Look it is little Jesus. He is all grown up. Where did he learn all of this?  Is this the same kid that used to play with the other kids?  Wait, this is Jesus, he is one of us, right?  He can’t have all of that wisdom.  He can’t have powers that heal.  He is one of us.  He is not better than us.  I have been to his house for dinner.  I was there and there was nothing-extraordinary going on there.  His dad was just like my dad.  His mom was just like my mom.  He was right there with us all, getting into trouble.  Jesus, don’t you remember us?  We are all the same.  Where do you get off criticizing us?  Where do you get off demanding that we change?  Who do you think you are?”

I imagine Jesus pausing and thinking, “Well I think I am the Son of God.  I am able to demand that you change because I know what is better for you.  The way you are living will only bring you trouble and distance you from God.  I love you so much that I am trying to share this Good News with you.”  Jesus responds to their offense by saying, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”

Jesus does a little bit of what we have come to expect from him there in Nazareth.  A few healings and he leaves.  Discouraged by the disbelief held by the sisters & brothers he grew up with.  His home leaves him out to dry.  There is no parade out of town.  There is no crowd to cheer him on in his task to bring this Good News to the world.  Jesus found disbelief, amazement, and dishonor in That Place Called Home.

Sometimes there is nothing more profane than the place you call home.  This is the place where our true self gives rise.  The place where we cannot hide the annoying little bits about who and what we are when others are not looking, no matter how often we evoke the name of Jesus.  Home is where we let our guard down and relax.  Home can be the place where we forget that the Good News we hear proclaimed here today is also applicable.

When we are at home we can be naked and unashamed.  We are secure in our home to be, do, and act as we wish, unhindered by the world around us.  We have come to demand and to expect that we are guaranteed the right to have a home to be secure in, against the daunting world pressing in upon us

Many of us grew up dreaming for a home of our own one day.  The picket fence with the cars in the garage.  The 2-3 children that makes the home a home.  The weekend outings, the summer vacations.  The good life, full of good things.  These dreams are not bad in itself.  I am wondering if we have been dreaming of the wrong home.

There is a grace here that is often difficult to first receive when hearing that there is no honor in a hometown prophet.  Where a prophetic voice may flourish is not the same place that voice may call home.

The grace in Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth is that it forces him outside of his context.  Jesus can not enjoy the comforts of home for too long.  Jesus must contend with the negative embrace of his new ways, his Good News and go else where to offer it to a pleased audience.  Jesus cannot go home again after he has been transformed.  Jesus must look for a new home to lay his head.

What is home?  This is a question that I have entertained for the last 10 years.  Earlier this year I celebrated my 10th year anniversary for being “Saved”.  Later this year I will celebrate my 34th year of being baptized.  My life [OUR LIVES] seem to be about finding a place that I can call home.

Five years ago I took a step that would lead me here today.  I was in Los Angeles getting ready to become a missionary to Kenya.  This would be my first trip outside of the US, except for the weekend trips to Baja California.  I was nervous.  I was scared.  This would be the first time I would leave home.

At home, in Los Angeles, I lived within a 30 minute drive of 5 of my 8 siblings and my parents and 45 minutes from the other 3 siblings and extended family.  I lived with my brother and saw my mother every weekend and my father a few times a week.  I was very active in my home church.  I was surrounded by many dear friends.  In Los Angeles I knew my way around.  I knew the short cuts and the history.  I had my favorite joints to eat at and knew the best places to get deals.  I admired all things Los Angeles and still do.  I rooted for my beloved Dodgers in the outfield bleachers of Chavez Ravine.  I loved to go down to Santa Monica beach at night.  I had a great life there.  I had it all.

Here I was about to leave it all behind.  I knew that when I agreed to become a missionary that I would have to make sacrifices.  I knew that my life would change.  I was not sure how much change would occur.  A big part of me looked at this moment as a pause in my life.  I was just going to pause it all and pick up where I left off when I got back from my little African adventure.

Little did I know, that when I boarded that plane bound for Kenya that I would never be able to go home again.  I have been searching for home every since.

All of this happened as the very fabric of my being was damaged and destroyed by the hardship of poverty I witnessed as staff of Church World Service.  As my world crumbled back home the world I was in was also unsteady.  Wars raged around me and it was our jobs to go in and assist the hurting people with what little we could bring.  Children went hungry as their parents died from HIV/Aids and it was our job to go in and comfort with what little we had to offer.  Poverty distanced the place I called home.  All of the beloved things that Los Angeles had to offer me seemed to pale in comparison to the home I was now sustaining me.

I was transformed by the trials and tribulation that God sough fit to offer me.  I left a huge part of myself there in Kenya on the floor of the Great Rift Valley.  I returned home with the hopes of a parade, maybe a speech or two.  I hoped for understanding of the difficult times that I had endured.

I arrived one afternoon in late July to a crowded airport in Los Angeles to a crying mother, a proud father, and my twin brother.  We went for pizza.  I got sick.  Home seemed 10,000 miles away as I slept in the room I grew up in.  The sounds were still the same.  The beach was still there.  The Dodgers were still in town.

While in Kenya my parents decided to sell their house and moved to Texas.  Three days after my return a dear aunt died of ovarian cancer.  I learned that my older sister, her husband and their two children moved to Oregon and another sister was sent to prison for many years.  Many dear friends got married and had children.  I became an uncle twice and I was accepted to seminary.  My return home was not the pause that I thought it would be.

I was met by a world that did not know what to do with me.  I had changed.  I was no longer the person I was when I left.  We all had changed.  We all had lived, time marched on.  The intimacy of relationship was replaced by the distance of home.

Here that difficult grace of being home and trying to offer any GOOD NEWS was painfully presented at my feet.  The Good News I wanted to share about my experience was not flourishing in that place I had called home.

My search for a new home led me to Austin, Texas and then on to Louisville, Kentucky.  Here I have discovered a home.  Here I may offer the transformed version of myself and the Good News I have encountered in my life.

I am not equating my life to that of Jesus the Christ.  I am offering to you that if we are to be Christ-like in any way that we must reframe what we call home.  If the Good News is offensive then we must offend.  If the Good News rages against the status quo then we must move against the status quo and into the margins.  If the Good News demands that justice be proclaimed than we must proclaim that justice not be denied to any and offered to ALL.  If the Good News demands that we feed the hungry and clothe the naked then we better feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  If the Good News transforms then we better get transforming.  If the Good News is what got Jesus into mortal trouble then we better die to ourselves.  For when we die to ourselves we will find that Place Called Home where compassion, justice, peace, and love reign and we shall rest our heads.

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