Being who we are meant to be

This sermon was preached by Rev Sue on Wednesday 2 February 2022. Here it is for you again:

In 1965, only 3 years after his first album, Bob Dylan was already an extremely popular singer songwriter. Yet when he played at Newport Folk festival that year, was booed off the stage after only 3 songs. He had appeared with an electric guitar to the dismay of fans who thought he was betraying the true music of folk. His music had evolved, and they rejected him.

Mark tells the story of how Jesus came back to Nazareth, his hometown. Before that he had gone to find his cousin John, been baptised by him and spent time in the wilderness, praying about the course his ministry should take. He had begun to preach and heal in the villages by the lake of Galilee. He became so popular that he couldn’t enter the towns but had to stay outside in lonely places. People flocked to him and didn’t give him a moments peace. And yet back in Nazareth he is met by at best indifference, and at worst contempt.

You can imagine the things people said, “I remember him in nappies” “I taught him in Sabbath school”. “I remember buying the first table he made by himself”. He was like the teenager who goes off to university, and comes back with hair a different colour, a new way of talking and wanting to eat things her parents have never tried. Sometimes the response is to “pull her down a peg or two” as “she’s getting above herself”. Of course, young people can be astoundingly arrogant at times, but nevertheless, they need room to blossom, and not be held back by scorn or ridicule.

Change doesn’t stop at the point we are no longer young. We all need to be allowed to grow and develop, sometimes in unpredictable ways. People may tell us “You are not that sort of person” or “you could never do that”. There are many people these days who have found their way back to education after not getting many qualifications the first round. I wonder how many more are undermined by friends and family, who instead of fanning the flame of ambition meet it with a bucket of cold water. In our spiritual lives, too, we may have felt inspired to pray more, to read our Bibles or to talk about our faith, only to find those around us subtly (or not so subtly) undermining our new commitment. People are frightened when we change if they think it will have an impact on them. A recent storyline in the Archers is that Harrison, who played Jesus in the Passion Play was moved by the scene where Jesus was baptised. He contacts his parents and find out that he wasn’t baptised as a child and tells his wife Fallon that he is considering being baptised as an adult, and that he is beginning to think about the meaning of life. She makes fun of him, but he assures her that he is serious. She panics and speaks to her mother: What is this the start of? Will he start putting leaflets through everyone’s doors? Fallon isn’t interested in religion. If Harrison takes it seriously, will it be the end of their relationship?

It is hard to follow Christ, to be our best possible selves, with the people who know us the best. They see us when we ae tired and have nothing much left to give. They get under our skin and irritate us in so many little ways. We may, or may not, have chosen them. But they are above all the people we ae called to love and serve. Sometimes like Jesus we are called away to serve God elsewhere, but we never leave those family relationships behind.  At this point in Jesus’ ministry his mother and his brothers don’t seem to have understood him. But 3 years later Mary was weeping at the foot of the cross and Jesus’ brother James became a leader in the early church. We don’t know the details, but we do know that the discord we read about a few chapters before today’s gospel was resolved in the end.

It’s all too easy to read the gospels and think how dim the people were who didn’t recognise Jesus, but how often do we read the Bible or hear it in church and think that we know what it is all about? When we hear Jesus’ words, do we hear them afresh, calling us to change and develop, to become our best possible selves?

Let’s not be like the people of Nazareth who thought they had heard it all before. Let’s be open to change, in those we love and in ourselves, and resolve to be in our homes and in all we do the person God wants us to be.

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