Monday, February 04, 2013

Prophets and Hometowns

Luke 4: 21-30


“No Prophet is without honor except in his hometown.”

And then Jesus illustrates this by telling the story of Elijah, who, in a time of drought in Israel, is not sent to prophesy to any of the widows of Israel, but instead to a widow in Sidon, who lives in the town of Zarepath.

And then there was Naaman the Syrian, Who was a great and powerful leader of the Syrian army, and was therefore an enemy of the Israelites. And whom was he sent to to heal his leprosy? Elisha. A prophet of Israel.

I talk last week about how hard it can be to be a leader of a people when you have grown up amongst them. People tend not to believe the wisdom of someone for whom they have babysat, or dated, or tipped cows with.

You actually tend to have, in a way a certain amount of contempt for them, if "kindly" contempt is a word we can use.

Think of Einstein’s wet nurse. He knew about his learning delays, his inability to speak before he was 8. To her, that is all he would ever be. When his brain starts working, and he gains great renown through his research and his theories, she probably still rolled her eyes. To her, he was probably just “putting on airs.”

Most folks never find out what that feels like. We accept what people tell us we are. We never find, or feel led, into the excellence that God has given us the gifts for.

It doesn’t have to be Einstein, or a pastor, or a CEO. But if you say to someone “well, I’m going to use my vacation to go build houses in Ciudad Juarez,” there will be some folks who will say “Really? Don’t you want to go further down the coast to Acapulco and have a REAL vacation?” Of course, what they are really saying is: “Acapulco is where I want to go, and by you choosing to do that, I now feel bad, and I don’t like that! And now I’m mad at you!”

It takes strength to be excellent. It takes strength to follow your call from God. It takes change. It takes the people re-adjusting to the person you are now.

And yes, there are people who will hear the criticism of their family and friends, and will step back, if for no other reason than they just don’t want to continue to be beat up. It is indeed, very hard to be a prophet in one’s hometown. Some say that one should leave where one is from in order to fulfill ones’ call, and indeed, these are the reasons that United Methodist pastors are not usually allowed to serve their home congregations. They just know you too well. And you may carry with you old childhood impressions of people that would not serve you well as an adult prophet.

We are called to grow. We are called to change. We are called to be prophets-to call people to account regarding the will of God.

You might think you are having a hard time. If folks think you are pitting on airs, because you are going to school; or because you might be the first person in your neighborhood who has been made a manager of your plant, and there are people saying “what, are you better than us?”

You might think you are having a hard time. But Jesus had it worse. When he started “putting on airs”, they tried to throw him off a cliff! He was that troubling to them.

Be who you are called to be. If you have a strong sense that you are called be somewhere that you are not right now, take the steps to get there. Our God is strong enough to lean on, so we can grow into who God leads us to be.

Or another way: We are called to be strong. We are called to be independent; we are called to be a loving witness. But sometimes, the people around us don’t want us to do that. God is strong enough to lean on in those cases, so we can be who God intends.

God is strong enough.

God is strong enough to hold back a whole towns-full of people wishing to see you fall off a cliff, and let you walk right through them.

God is strong enough for you, too.

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