Frankly, it was uncomfortable. This was the first time I was back at the church I was raised in since I had become Orthodox. And what made it more disconcerting was they had asked me to speak at a Sunday night service. Let me set the stage for you. This was the Pentecostal church where I was raised since I was a boy of 6 or 7 years of age. This was the church where I would sing onstage as a little boy with the assistant pastor and his guitar. This was the place where I was baptized and “got the Holy Ghost ( a term I don’t expect non-Pentecostals to understand and please know that is completely OK!). This was the church where I recei.ced my “call to preach (see above), and the church that sent me to my first church assignment as an “ordained” preacher. It is also the place where I was youth director AND youth choir director.
Got the picture! Can you say “uncomfortable.”
And yet, they had asked and I had accepted. I spoke that night from my heart about my spiritual journey and my deep love for them and gratitude to them shaping me early in my life and for teaching me the scriptures and how to love Jesus. Some were moved and grateful. Others kept their arms folded the whole time with that “I smell something rotten in here” look on their faces. Those folks never spoke to me again!
I can imagine it was kind of like this for our Lord Jesus the first time He came back to His hometown after having become well known for His ministry in other a
reas. Our Gospel Lesson today sets the tone.
Look at Marthew 13:54-58. At that time, Jesus came to his own country, and taught the people in their synagogue so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 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, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
The he townspeople of Jesus’ hometown were amazed at the wisdom the Lord displayed, but instead of being thankful to God that one of their own had become so enlightened, they immediately became defensive about the Man they’d known as a small boy now obviously much more spiritual and wise than they were. Their ego, their own fears and mediocrity became on full display, but instead of repentance and humility, they doubled down on arrogance and pride. The last verse in our reading today is a damning indictment on such a destructive choice: “And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”
Sad, and so unnecessary.
today, as we remember St. James, the Lord’s brother and the first bishop of Jerusalem, let’s not allow familiarity to breed contempt in our hearts. Can you move beyond your fears and insecurity to accept wisdom and gifts from others you deem to be “younger” than you, or “less educated” than you? Are you willing to accept as God’s wisdom for your life insights from even outsiders, knowing that all good gifts are from above. Perhaps God is sending you insights and wisdom from some of these sources for the expressed purpose of healing you from arrogance and pride. After all, “is not this the carpenter’s son?”
P.S. I am so honored to have Fr. Lawrence Farley as my special guest this Sunday on Faith Encouraged LIVE. Fr. Lawrence and I will be discussing demons, the unseen world, exorcisms, and even Halloween. I want you to listen and call in with your questions this Sunday night at 8 PM Eastern to Faith Encouraged LIVE Ancient Faith Radio. Please share this with your family and friends. Also don’t forget to “Like” our Faith Encouraged LIVE Facebook page where you get information about upcoming shows before anyone else!