riday's Independence Day Parade taught me a lot about my new home town. And what a great parade it was! It brought back memories of the annual Christmas Parade down Main street Lexington, when Hoppalong Cassidy thrilled this eight year old's heart. There I stood in my Hoppy white hat, spats, black shirt, black leatherlook vest and toy dual pistols worn backwards--- and tears in the presence of my hero.
Our Carrollton Fourth of July Parade was better, and much longer. Did Georgia's longest parade really last two hours? The time whizzed by, as did the tractors, the big trucks, and everybody else willing to pay the twenty-five dollar entrance fee. After all, we were celebrating freedom. It was great to have the many area churches freely handing out literature on our front steps. One Baptist church person handed me a small bottle of water which I told them that I would use to baptize for the next five years. They took the pun well.
The pre- parade patriotic performance was presented by our choir from our church steps. The rendering of our sacred American hymns and songs, was the highlight of the day for many of us, except for the tractors.
This text has forever defined one's home town as the place where your heart is; or, perhaps where you graduated from high school. I graduated from Asheboro High but when I was preaching back in Lexington, where my brother graduated, the Holiday Inn put on their marquee, "Welcome Home Dr. Bob!" I have a lot of hometowns from my past, but my heart is in my new hometown, our sweet Carrollton.
G. K. Chesterton said that the small town is better than the city because in the city you can avoid people that don't like you; but in the small town you can not avoid anybody. In Atlanta I was just another commuter in the crowd, but in Carrollton we have instantly inherited many friends who are concerned about us. Strangers speak to me in stores. Many are not even our church members, but they know me somehow. I like it! I feel as if I have a flat tire somebody will stop and help me fix it.
Today's story from Mark's biography of Jesus refers twice to Nazareth as Jesus' home town, even though he was born in Bethlehem, and spent a good bit of time as a child in Egypt. But it was Nazareth where his formative years were spent. It was where he learned carpentry from his earthly father, and learned about his Heavenly Father in the synagogue. As the oldest son in a widow's home, Jesus assumed a great deal of responsibility for his siblings. He was probably the main breadwinner; perhaps building ornamental pieces of fine furniture for wealthy foreigners in nearby gentile cities. Evidently he became a leader of the synagogue in Nazareth early on. You might say that Nazareth was where he received his high school ring.
So, how did Jesus' home town friends receive him back from his popular preaching tour? One would expect him to be respected, but he was rejected. This led Jesus to say, "A prophet is respected everywhere except in his home town…" (Mark 6: 4, TEV)
Sam Coker was destined to be the successor to the famous Pierce Harris as Pastor of Atlanta First. Sam had grown up there and was Dr. Harris' pick. However, when Sam visited back for a look around he found that the folks treated him like he was still a kid. He tells how one lady said, "My Sammy is coming back to be our little preacher!" The dear soul meant well, but Dr. Coker knew that he could never become their leader. So, he went to Grace and made that his new home church.
One of the reasons that many folks in Nazareth rejected Jesus was apparently over familiarity. They knew him too well to see him as their long expected Messiah. They had underestimated Jesus. They had heard him but had missed his depth. One of our cheerleaders for the Asheboro Blue Comets was later named Miss North Carolina, and we were all shocked. She was beautiful and talented and we had all missed it.
Lots of folks have gone to church all of their lives but have never caught on. Sure, they know the Sunday School facts about Jesus, but they have missed the Christ that had so long wanted to invade their space. They are not so much rejecting Jesus outright, they just look on by him. Good hearted folks can sometimes underestimate Jesus.
How did Jesus respond to being rejected in his own home town? Let's read the rest of the story. "He was greatly surprised, because they did not have faith." (v.6b) Then Jesus left them and went to all of the other towns preaching the Good News. He called his twelve together for a meeting and sent them out to proclaim the Gospel. He instructed them to "shake the dust off your feet" on those who refuse to believe. In other words, some missed their opportunity.
We sometimes forget that our Father has prepared a place for us in another home town and that we are not going to walk these streets forever. We all know that but sometimes it is too familiar a story and we miss the point. Communion Sunday during this long holiday weekend would be a wonderful time to remind ourselves of the wonderful inheritance that we stand to gain.
For some it could be like waking up from a long sleep. Christ has been here all along but they have just not thought about him lately. Others may be catching on of the first time that all of this God talk is meant for them. Some may be just now grasping it. Don't we all sometimes wonder how we missed out on the obvious? Hopefully, some of the Nazarenes caught on before it was too late. Perhaps they caught up with Jesus at his next preaching place. Some may have been in Jerusalem when he was dying on the Cross and they then realized that he was dying in their place. Others may have been hanging out with friends on the day of Pentecost and received gift of understanding. Will you?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor