ever met with persistent, impossible to correct prejudice?
Somebody that thought you were something or somebody you were not? Or have you yourself ever made the awful mistake of thinking somebody someone or something they were not?
Perhaps you have experienced both. Most of us have at some stage or another. Prejudice perhaps about our education, positive or negative. Prejudice about our back ground, our sex, our abilities, our appearance, our job, our age even.
I'll never forget the day I went for a visit in the old peoples home I was looking after in my first congregation and introduced myself as the minister to a very nice and friendly looking old man.
He looked at me and said: "You can' be". To which I answered: "Can't be what". Where upon he said: "the minister" and I answered: "why not" and he said "because you're a woman and apart from that you're too young". He kept looking me straight in the eye, oblivious of any political incorrectness he might be guilty off, just completely and utterly convinced that somehow he had mistaken what I'd said. I simply could not be, as far as his imagination went, the minister and that was that.
I became good friends with this man, I even prayed with him at some stage, but he never believed I was "the" minister. That I'd come to help he would accept, that I was the only one there he could not.
His prejudice stronger than any evidence that I (or others) could supply him with.
When Jesus visits his home town, it is this same kind of prejudice he meets with. He has been "on tour", has travelled around the country preaching and healing and doing some pretty spectacular stuff. He stilled a storm, healed a woman who had been ill for twelve years, raised a twelve year old girl from the dead and liberated a man from a host of demons that had taken possession of his mind. Pretty impressive stuff one would say, enough to convince anybody that this boy from their village is something special.
And at first it seems the people of his home town recognise this. They are very impressed with his teaching and preaching, with his words and the way he explains scripture with authority and insight. However, at some stage it is as if they shake themselves, and suddenly look at him from a completely different perspective.
Hang on, isn't this the son of Mary, (and perhaps not of Josef if the rumours are right), he who learned to be a carpenter in his fathers shop? Isn't this the boy that grew up down the street? Who we saw limping home with grazed knees just a while ago? Whose brothers and sisters we all know very well?
He can't be the Messiah! He can't be what he says he is! That would be just too ridiculous, actually, now we come to think of it, it's blasphemy that he would even suggest such a thing, that with him the prophecies of Isaiah are coming true. And they turn their back on him, whispering, or not even whispering, not even trying to conceal their anger, their disdain for the boy from the village who thinks too much of himself
Can you imagine it? Can you imagine what it must have felt like, for Jesus?
The text says Jesus reaction is one of amazement. Apparently he had not expected them to be quite so set in their ideas about him, so determined to overlook even the clearest evidence that he was something special, somebody different. He might have hoped that of all people they would have noticed that he had found his calling, that he had been called to higher things. But they don't. They can't. They are locked in their mindframes. God can't be fulfilling his promises from their village. The Kingdom of God can't have its origin in their midst.
Thinking about it I realised I would find that hard to believe myself. Even with the evidence of miracles and good preaching. That the Messiah could be one of us, that God's Kingdom was starting here, today, in our midst. And yet, that is what Jesus says. It starts here, with me, where I am.
Amazed is Jesus that they cannot believe. And paralysed. He could do nothing it says. A few healings but no more.
Prejudice can render one completely powerless. Even someone like Jesus. He can't do anything. Where the Kingdom started it stops as well. No miracles in this place, just unbelief and set minds. They cannot believe miracles could happen in their midst, so they don't. They can't believe the prophecies could be fulfilled through one of their own, so they are not, at least not in their midst. They can't believe God would manifest himself in the boy they know so well, of doubtful origins, a tradesman with callous on his hands roaming the countryside with twelve fishermen as his best friends.
I think we have to remember that when we think that miracles don't happen to us. When we think that Christ will come and change the world for better, but most probably not here. When we think that we are not good enough or worthy enough to be part of any miraculous and amazing activity on Gods part.
And in fact, because of that, block any miracles out before they can even begin to happen.
We celebrate communion today. We celebrate that Christ comes in our midst and invites us to be part of his body, part of his presence in the world. A miracle working and healing presence, whenever we let it.
The twelve are sent out to do what Jesus has done straight after the debacle at Nazareth. To work miracles.
They go with the knowledge that even He was defeated by the prejudice and unbelief of some. Rendered powerless. As they will be at times. As we are, who have also been sent out and will be sent out again today when we leave this church. That it doesn't always work doesn't mean it is not true. And that is a comfort. We can shake the dirt of our feet and continue on our way. But we have to keep trying and not let anything get in the way of that. No preset mind, nothing that would tie us down. (Hence the prohibition of taking any earthly goods on this journey). What we were or what we are, what people think of us or what we think of ourselves not important in the eyes of God. For him just people he loves, people he wants to work with, people he wants to build a Kingdom with. Ordinary and all. Doubtful descent, bad education, callused hands, or perhaps even the opposite, nothing that will get in the way of his love for us if only we let him.