>And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them 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 these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:53-58
One of my favorite musicians of all times has been Arlo Guthrie. He had a way of writing and performing that was never glamorous but always made him one of the folks. And he was always writing with a sense of humor, a lightness that echoed rejection and loss, even at an early age. Despite the humor and foolishness he sang with, there was a deep owning of the truth about humanity -our frailty and our pettiness, and how we put politics and success over family and compassion. We had the opportunity to see Arlo, his band and his family perform at NJPAC in Newark shortly after Thanksgiving several years ago.
Jesus finds himself at home, among the people that know him best. And yet, Jesus can do very little of any power because of their rejection and disbelief. They have an image of him as a child, running with the other kids and a sweaty youth working along side his father. He is not, in their minds worthy of respect and honor. The religious leadership in his community just won't accept that he has grown into something beyond their imagining. As young people, and as adults also, we are often rejected by the people who think they know us. Not all community is good community. The good news of this gospel is that Jesus understands rejection and hurt at the hands of those who should honor him the most. He gets the pain we receive, the rebuff and the misunderstandings, and willingly acknowledged the fruitlessness of fighting or trying to persuade folks otherwise.
Today, for all of those who have been rejected and spurned, misunderstood and denied, isolated, ostracized, or dismissed, I want to remind us all that God is right here with us. In the rejection and the powerlessness, in the hurt and in the sorrow. God promises also that there is more opportunity to exercise gifts, and people and places that will honor and support. God is not away from us when we are in exile but with us completely, holding us lightly and tenderly as we await new direction and new community.