Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany January 31, 2016
Back when I used to travel all over the country speaking at workshops and conventions, there was a saying in the business: “An expert is someone with a briefcase who lives over a hundred miles away.” I saw that played out again and again. I could fly to Las Vegas or New York and do a workshop for hundreds of professionals. Yet it wasn’t unusual at these workshops to find a local person who actually had more experience and knowledge than I, the “expert,” did. The one time we tried to do a workshop where I live, not a single local person attended.
I’m not sure why we do this. Perhaps we want a mystique around our experts and our prophets; we want them on a pedestal. If a local boy makes good, when he comes home in triumph, people will celebrate his success. But they will still think of him as the snot-nosed little Charlie who flubbed his lines in the Christmas pageant or who was caught shoplifting a candy bar.
Some of that is going on in Nazareth. At first everyone comments on how well Jesus speaks. But then, as his meaning becomes clear, and he unambiguously proclaims himself as the Messiah, they turn against him. “Isn’t this Joseph’s boy?” They even seek to toss him off a cliff, pre-sumably for blasphemy. Jesus has done the one thing that we cannot stand a local boy doing: he has told them the truth, held a mirror up to show them their pettiness and smallness, their prejudice and dishonesty.
What difficult truths are being told to us today by folks we know well, by people sitting in a pew near us, by youth in our churches, by the neighbors who live around our buildings? Perhaps we do not listen to them simply because we know them, and we dismiss their wisdom because they are not from a hundred miles away and wearing a three-piece suit. That may be the very wisdom that we need to hear.
John Jackman, pastor, Trinity Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina