Preached at All Saints, King City, Sunday, 30
January, 2022. Readings for this Sunday: Jer 1.4-10; Ps 71.1-5; ` Cor 13.1-13;
Lk 4.21-30.

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious
words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (Luke

What hometown
doesn’t love its heroes?  In my home
parish, the whole town crowded into the community centre to watch two of their
own, figure skaters wo had trained in the local arena, compete in the winter
Olympics.    We love local heroes because
we’ve seen them grow up and spread their wings, and while we want them to do
well, we also enjoy some of their fame that reflects on their place of origin.

gospel, which continues the story of Jesus’ return to Nazareth, invites us to
think who Jesus speaks to and who Jesus serves – besides us!   Last Sunday we heard how Jesus read the
words of the prophet Isaiah to his hometown synagogue – about God anointing one
who would bring good news, freedom, and healing to the poor, to the captives,
and to the oppressed.  Jesus then implies
that he is the one who has been anointed to do all this (“Today this scripture
has been fulfilled in your hearing” Lk 4.21) and awaits the reaction.

certainly does provoke a reaction from the hometown crowd, and that reaction is
complex, moving from approval to murderous rage.  It moves from approval at “the gracious words
that came from his mouth” (4.22) to remembrance of who they think Jesus is (“Is
not this Joseph’s son? 4.22) to homicidal rage when Jesus provokes them by
saying his mission is not just to make his hometown look and feel good
(4.23-29).   What makes them change their
minds so quickly?

The answer
seems to me to be that the locals want Jesus to be the hometown hero, but Jesus
isn’t that interested in the role.  
Sometimes it’s said that when the people in the synagogue say “Is not
this Joseph’s son” (4.22) it’s said in disapproval, that Jesus has started
acting above his station and should be cut down to size.  I don’t see it that way at all.  I see the “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
question as being about ownership.  It’s
like they’re proudly saying, “Hey, this boys with all the wisdom, he’s Joseph’s
son, he’s one of us!”.  Remember that
this point Jesus is still popular.  Luke
has just told us that he’s preached in neighbouring towns in Galilee and “was
praised by everyone” (Lk 2.15).  I think
people are excited that the local hero is come how, and now they’re wondering what
miracles and amazing things Jesus will do for them.

What they
get instead is an antagonistic Jesus who basically says that he has nothing to
offer his hometown. Jesus cites a proverb (“Doctor, cure yourself” 4.23). puts
himself in the same company as the prophets Elijah and Elisha whose miracles
benefitted gentiles but not their own people (Lk 425-27) and says that he won’t
do the miracles and teachings he’s done elsewhere (4.23 – the reference to “the
things we heard you did at Capernaum” seems to refer to the following verses,
4.31-37, suggesting that Luke’s chronology is out of synch here).  In other words, Jesus seems to almost taunt
the hometown crowd by saying, “Yes, I may be one of you, but I’m not here to
serve you”.  It would be a little bit like
the local kid who won Olympic gold or a Stanley Cup to say “No, I’m not coming
home to do the Fall Fair parade”. 

Imagine a
young cleric who pitches up at All Saints as a curate or as your new
incumbent.  Let’s say you’ve known him or
her since they were in Sunday school. 
They’re a rising star, they have the whole Diocese buzzing, and you
can’t believe your luck that this clerical prodigy has come home to be your
priest.   You have high hopes of this
person filling the pews, breathing new life into the parish, and looking after

However, in
their first sermon, that new priest says “Don’t expect to see much of me, because
I’ll be out all night looking after the homeless, I’ll be in the shelter and in
the food bank and with the John Howard Society and the ex cons, and if I’m not
there I’ll be spending a lot of time up north helping First Nations communities
with drinking water.  Besides, I know you
all, and I don’t see a lot I can do here to help you, especially when there’s
other people that need me more.”   How long would it take before the Wardens
caught an earful of complaints?  Anger
and betrayal would be very human reactions.   We all
want our needs to come first, and most of us want our guy to put our needs at
the top of the list.

Jesus never gave any indication that he wanted to be the hometown hero.  Before he was born, his mother Mary knew that
Jesus would be the one who would lift up “the lowly”, feed the hungry, and send
“the rich away empty” (Lk 1.52-53).  
When the aged Simeon met the infant Jesus, he prophesied that the child
would “salvation” for “all peoples”, “a light for revelation to the Gentoles
and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk 2.29-32).   In the Temple, the boy Jesus reminded his
parents that his “Father’s house” was not their house (Lk 2.49).  At his baptism, the voice from heaven called
Jesus “my Son, the Beloved” (Lk 3.22) and in their duel in the desert, even the
devil admits that Jesus is “the Son of God” who passes every test (Lk 4.1-13).  So by the time Jesus returns to Nazareth, we
as Luke’s readers know that Jesus is far, far more than just “Joseph’s son”.

From the
very beginning Jesus has announced that he will be God’s son for all
people, and not just a comfortable, chosen few.   Now, in the Nazareth synagogue, that point
becomes clear. Jesus bluntly tells the hometown crowd that he won’t be the
local hero, that he will take the love and salvation of God to those who don’t
yet know him.   We need to be clear that
this gospel is not about Jews rejecting a Jesus who wants to serve only
gentiles.  That is so not the point.  The point is that Jesus does not come to
serve the few, but to serve the many, and sometimes that’s a challenge for the

gospel reading calls us to whether we see Jesus as the hometown hero of our
personal church family, or whether we are willing to share Jesus with a wider
world that needs him, needs him even more than we do.   Are we here to be served, or all we called
to serve?  How can we cooperate with
Jesus’ mission to those who lack our comforts, our privilege, our faith?   Yes, we all have our own needs and our own
prayer concerns, and make no mistake, Jesus knows them and knows you far better
than you know yourself.   So trust that
you are part of the flock that the good shepherd has safely in his
keeping.   But ask yourself who else has
needs, who else has Jesus come to serve, and how you can you as disciples and
church help?  Do you expect Jesus to
serve you, are will you help Jesus serve others?  Those would be fruitful questions to explore
with your next priest.