Rev. Katherine Todd
“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
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.
This story of Jesus returning to his hometown always felt disturbing to me. What a sad reality that Jesus was not seen or known or understood in his hometown.
And yet, it is not surprising. When we think we know someone, we stop looking, we stop perceiving. When we think we know, we close ourselves to new revelations.
We all do this. When you are taking a new route, driving somewhere for the first time, there is much to take in and see. But on the 50th time, driving the same route, much of the drive has become invisible to us.
When we love someone for many years, we often believe we know them better than they know themselves. And in some ways we do, and yet we can close ourselves off from seeing the person they are becoming.
These townspeople in Jesus’ hometown felt they knew Jesus. They knew his parents. They knew his sisters and brothers. Amazement at his teaching quickly fizzles as the people realize he’s from around there, and they think they know everything about him. He drank the same water, ate the produce of the same soil. He is no better than any of them.
They think they know.
Therefore they do not look and cannot perceive.
And so I ask you.
What do you think you know.
What do you know that you know that you know?
It is quite often in these areas of our own expertise and experience that we can become blind. This is what it means to become set in ones ways. To become set in one’s ways is to stop perceiving new things, stop allowing new things, stop allowing yourself to be affected or changed by the ever-changing world around us.
So where might your blind spots be?
In the stories we read last Sunday, of Jesus curing the woman who’d been hemorrhaging and raising Jairus’ daughter from a sleep they believed was death, Jesus speaks of faith and belief. For the woman who touched Jesus’ clothes and was instantly healed, Jesus says to her, “Your faith has made you well.” She believed she would find healing in Jesus, and she does. And when Jairus’ daughter is reported to have died before Jesus could get to her, Jesus says to her father Jairus, “Do not fear. Only believe.” Believe.
In both these stories of miraculous healing, Jesus refers to faith and belief. Faith seems to be key to unlocking the healing and receiving the blessing. Believing is key.
And as we discussed last Sunday, It’s less about believing in a certain outcome and more about believing in Jesus, or having faith in God.
And so it is not surprising then than in his own hometown, where everyone thinks they know Jesus and therefore close down the shops of their searching and inquiry and amazement, Jesus can do no deeds of power there.
It’s as though these deeds of power are released by the faith and believing of the people. And disbelief seems to cut one off from the power and blessings before them.
So here was God’s own Son standing in their midst, but they already thought they knew who his Daddy was, so they stopped listening and perceiving God’s presence and power standing, in the flesh, among them.
So what are we missing out on?
Who do we think we know?
I think this is why scripture urges us to keep our lamps trimmed and burning, to be ready and dressed and prepared. The first scripture read presents the imagery of a master and slaves. The slaves are to be ready for the moment their master returns. Blessed are those slaves, it says, because they will sit down and eat, and the master will serve them.
This scripture urging us to be prepared was not written before the coming of Jesus. It is not one of the many scriptures foretelling the coming of Christ, and preparing the people to receive Jesus. No, this scripture is written to all of us. It is written, after Jesus has come, to all of us anticipating the return of Christ. We are all to be prepared. Ready. Alert. Waiting…
Scripture tells us that no one can tell the time or seasons or know when Christ returns, and that is why we are to be prepared at all times, and in all seasons. We are to live as expectant people.
And so what does it mean to live as expectant people in our day to day, ordinary, mundane, predictable lives?
How do we prepare? How do we make ourselves ready, alert, and waiting?
We find some insight in Hebrews, chapter 13:
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
We live in love, mutual love. We show hospitality. We think of others and their predicaments, as if we were walking in the shoes of others…
If we go on reading these verses of Hebrews, we find very practical advise for living.
And then in Matthew we hear these words of Jesus, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
I gather that we do not live as though God is far off.
Rather, we live as people expectant. We live as people who believe that God is among us. After all, our Lord said, “When two or more are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” We believe God is here. Now.
We believe God shows up in the least among us – those our society judges and marginalizes: the disenfranchised, the poor, those on the streets, those locked away in prisons, those warehoused in community homes…
When we think of these folks, we may think we know them. Stereotypes are powerful because they are based in realities. Many of the things we think we know may in fact be true.
But as a people who are expectant… As a people awake and alert… As a people who believe God is in our midst, showing God’s face in the faces of the least of these… As a people hospitable to the aliens and strangers in our midst…
We are a people looking and seeking and mindful of God among us.
We are a people called to work and serve, notas if for human leaders, but as if for the Lord.
We are a people called to love and serve, our neighbor, and the stranger, as we would ourselves…knowing that insodoing we may entertain angels, or even God, Godself, unawares…
Brothers and Sisters, let us live as those who are ready to see and to serve God, in the faces of all we meet. It may be in the face of the person who hands you your fast food. It may be in the face of the person who cuts you off in traffic. It may be in the face of the neighbor you despise…
Our lives are not our own. They have been bought with a price. Just as our freedoms in this country were bought at the most precious price of blood and sweat and lives lost, so has our eternal freedom been bought by the blood of the One whose precious nailed hands formed us in our mother’s wombs…
We are God’s people. And that is not a badge of honor, a gold star, or a VIP ticket. Being God’s people means living for God in all circumstances. And it means ever looking for, ever praying for, ever searching and working and serving that we might see and know and love God, in our here and now, in the ordinary and extraordinary faces we meet.
For our God is with us. Christ is among us.
When God speaks, will we hear God?
When God acts, will we see?
When God calls, will we follow?
Let us pray.
Christ, open our eyes, unstop our hears, soften our hearts… Forgive our arrogance that has blinded us to you and everything you are still doing in this world. And open us, that we may live as your people,