After Christmas some time, we were switching through the channels and found one of the most iconic films in the history of film: The Wizard of Oz. And we know the lesson of the Wizard of Oz, or the most obvious one that it is trying to teach us—there’s no place like home, even then home is dustbowl and Oz is in full color. This is something that we, people in general, have clung to—home is the ideal! And it’s the joke that Millennials have had a tendency to move back home, although, COVID has made it more and more regular occurrence, because who wants to be alone in the middle of a pandemic.
But, the isn’t the only way we think about home, because we’ve heard that you can never go home again. Sometimes it’s that the people at home don’t see you as an adult or that you’ve changed, or they were or are abusive, or they don’t accept the fullness of who you are or who you love. Sometimes home isn’t somewhere we can go back to or isn’t safe.
Somehow, Jesus seems to be both. Since we met last and he had been baptized, Jesus had been in the wilderness for 40 days and was tempted, and when that was over and he recovered, it seems that Jesus had been walking around the Galilee region—and things were happening. He was doing things. We don’t know what things they were, but they were the kind of things that get you attention. Maybe they were healings, maybe teaching, we don’t know, but we know people were talking. Talking so much that when Jesus went home, they had heard about what their hometown boy had been up to, and he had been doing good.
Here’s a thing: I think I had been learned somewhere that this story is proof you can never go home, they won’t understand, they won’t get it. But here’s the thing, they did. The people who had gathered that day were here for Jesus, whooting and whooping, cheering and celebrating, standing and clapping, all metaphorically speaking of course, probably. They were with Jesus, excited about Jesus when he was handed the scroll, when he found and read the passage, when he closed the scroll, and when he declared the passage had been fulfilled in him. I thought it was at that point that they turned on him, that he declared himself some kind of … savior. But they were here for it.
It turned when he looked at them and told them that all this, this freedom, liberation, healing, fulfillment, when he told those gathered this it isn’t for them.
Imagine, the hometown kid goes forth and becomes a big deal, maybe a famous chef, or politician, doctor who cures… the cold, sports ball person, and they come home and say: I’m not making food, change, healing, sports ball for you… it’s for everyone else. First: rude. Second: the gal! Third: then don’t be here.
Here’s the thing about Nazareth: it is in the Galilee. It wasn’t a huge town but there are significantly smaller ones. It’s rooted in Jewish history—over yonder was that battle, rebellion, revolution. It was the agricultural center of ancient Israel—growing produce, livestock, and fishing. So, in general, they had a level of privilege that others did not.
We really can only guess what Jesus meant when he said this, and people make all kinds of guesses that are said with certainty. I wonder, if maybe he understood that they weren’t the sick the doctor needed to heal. Or the chef knew they had enough so they weren’t needed here. Or they were as free as they could be in the middle of an empire that wasn’t going to be overthrown yet.
Regardless, Jesus looked at this crowd and told them that the Good News he was bringing, wasn’t for them. And these are hard words to hear because we often try and find ourselves in the stories we read and there aren’t a lot of options in this story. Are we the crowd who gathered and later tried to throw Jesus off a cliff, the people Jesus has come to serve, or Jesus? No one really wants to hear that we’re the crowd.
Their response of rage might be the one that is starting to well up in you. Imagine, the pastor telling you that the Good News of Jesus isn’t for you… like she doesn’t want to keep working… But this is what the Good News of Jesus is about—the care of the poor, the healing of the sick, freedom of the oppressed, and a year of Jubilee where debts are relieved—and if the Good News isn’t Good News for the poor, sick, the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the marginalized, there is no good news.
And there has been a moment—it feels really modern but I’m not sure—of Christians proclaiming their oppression. Now, there are people everywhere in the world who have been or are abused or killed because of their religious belief, including Christians. Not one of them has because someone said happy holidays to them in December, or were asked to wear a mask, or because we churches or governments decided we should only meet online, or the 100 other ways that a country which continues to have a Christian majority has tried to make explain away its privilege.
It’s the wing of Christianity that believes wealth, ridiculous wealth, is a sign of God’s favor—that the good news is for those who can accumulate. Or those who claim power and hold on to it with the support of other powerful people on the backs of the poor, marginalized, captive.
Modern, American Christianity that is most observable in the world around us, the one that is most visible to non-Christians in the world around us, is a wealth and power seeking that is claiming they stand at the margins while firmly in the middle.
AND what is worse, when someone suggested that those who have been forced to into vulnerable, marginalized, oppressed, captive places in society suggest that they ought to be able to have a Jubilee, one that brings their lives into the wholeness in the world around us… and “Christians” respond in opposition to Black Lives Matter or wearing masks or prison reform and abolition, it’s not supporting First Nation’s right or creation care, it’s refusing refugees or denying women’s experiences or not speaking out against anti-Semitic language or sweatshirts, or wearing them. It’s looking at the world, and the people Jesus was talking about, Jesus was working with and for, and denying them liberation, compassion, justice, jubilee.
If it isn’t good news for the poor, the oppressed, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the forgotten, those living on the edge and on the edge of living, then it isn’t good news. And, until we acknowledge the fact that we are the crowd and not the people Jesus was speaking about, we will never be those who can be participants in the work of Jesus. Until we embrace that Jesus came so that all might have life and life abundant and that might just mean that it’s not primarily about us, only then can we be co-creators in the kin-dom of God that Jesus is calling us to. That is how we are called to live in the world, not angry that Jesus loves the foreigner, prisoner, poor, sick, marginalized, not angry that it’s not all about us, but called to action. A call to participate, a call to be part of sharing the good news, which isn’t just telling people about Jesus but doing actual tangible things. The good news is setting people free–men of color are disproportionately imprisoned and for longer time for the same convictions of their white counterparts. The good news is healing–having access to health care in a way that doesn’t impoverished someone for years. The good news is recovery–giving someone the chance to grow, change, become, and re-enter society without shaming the baggage of their past, having a second chance.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, when we celebrate Dr King, and all those who stood up, who spoke out, who advocated for the full participation in all of life for those who had been left behind, pushed aside, stomped down, we remember that the good news of Jesus is that God is invested in liberation. We remember that Dr King called us to be a beloved community that holds all lives as valuable, vital, and connected, a call that was rooted in the this moment, this inaugural speech of Jesus. And the Good News for us is that we know how to be of the work of God–be of the work of liberation. We have an example in Jesus. And we have generations of people who have been trying their best, and groups we can participate with. We put the good news of Jesus in action, until all can live fully and abundantly in to who God created them to be.