Thursday, July 2, 2009

Suspending Belief

We've known him all of his life- isn't he Joseph's son? In the gospel reading for this Sunday this is the loud slamming of the door of minds and hearts, in people who have decided that someone who looks like Jesus, or comes from "that family" or already has been destined to be a laboring tradesman, couldn't possibly be- learned, articulate, authoritative, insightful. In today's world, would we recognize this Jesus? As the plumber, the factory worker, the guy who runs the bodega on the corner?
For 30 years here in this town, where we all know each other, we've known him and his family- that gaggle of kids, how many are there- at least five. Poor and unremarkable, immigrants perhaps. It is a challenge to suspend our beliefs.
We know who the leaders are, which are the "right" families.
Long ago we pegged him and settled his future, and we have never expected much.
You mean he's bright? Talented?
How ironic that this reading falls on the weekend when we in this country celebrate Independence Day in a country that was settled and founded on the notion that a man or woman can be defined by what he or she becomes, not by who his or her family, or town of origin is. We wax eloquently about the story of Horatio Alger. I wonder if we really believe it, either in secular society or sometimes in the church.
This reading isn't just about people in a Galilee far, far away. They are us.
How hard it is sometimes to mindful of the notion that God acts in and through many and varied people. How easy to bestow that "lack of honor."
And Jesus was amazed at their unbelief, or perhaps a better translation, is "their lack of faith." Lack of faith in whom God can dwell in, act through and use.
On a surface level I can take heart that like myself, the historic Jesus was a second career guy- leaving a perfectly good trade for some new calling. IN my small town, it was hard for people who had already defined me by what I did, to see God act in a new way. And of course the disciples were second career guys too.
Yet, on a deeper level, in this season of Pentecost in which we contemplate discipleship and what it means to be church, I am pondering how each of us can lapse into the pattern of believing we know and decide who God's children are, and how they will be used. Do we lapse at times into patterns that function as self-prescribed limits on who can teach, proclaim, heal lives and transform hearts? God in Christ was in our midst and yet it took sending the disciples out to perform the miracles on this occasion because of a lack of faith in how things ought to be.
Yet, even the disciples deserve a closer look- reading again what they were NOT to take with them, they were sent out as hungry, dirty, unemployed, penniless homeless men, who had been wearing that same stinky tunic for days.
Seen in this perhaps more earthy yet realistic light, it makes their ability to teach, proclaim, heal lives and transform hearts an even more amazing demonstration of God's power and ability. In some ways it takes suspending belief both in this story and in the ultimate story of Christ's demonstration of power- at the foot of the cross- hungry, dirty, abandoned, stripped even of that dirty tunic.
As we look around our congregations and our communities, perhaps we need a reminder that God works through many more varieties of people than just the ones we might destine or determine to be great teachers,preachers and disciples. Of what will God be amazed- our recognition or our unbelief?


Ivy said...

Insightful as always.

Diane said...

I really love this.