“When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. They rose up and ran him out of town.” Luke 4:28-29a (CEB)
Luke 4:14-30 is the story about Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth where he goes into the synagogue and reads the scroll of Isaiah. He then announces that the scripture had been fulfilled in him, meaning that he was the Messiah. Oops . . . that didn’t go over very well.
At first people were really impressed with how well their “hometown” boy had done. Maybe they had forgotten about the questionable circumstances around his birth, but I grew up in a small town where people’s memories don’t fade and the stories go on and on and on. So, I suspect that they somehow just felt that he had become too “big for his britches,” and the fame he had acquired had gone to his head.
He managed to offend them, and they ran him out of town. I sometimes wonder if that would have happened in my hometown if I had come in as a famous preacher with lots of publications and awards. Oh well, I guess I don’t have to worry about that!
What I DO know is, that when I go back to my little hometown to visit my family, everyone still sees me as the child I was when I lived there. In their minds, I’m still the shy little girl who loved to sing, wear large twirly skirts, and who wore glasses way before anyone else my age did. Many still call me “Debbie” which I no longer like or even tolerate, but how do you tell the older folks who are your parents’ age to stop calling you something they have called you for over sixty years? You don’t.
Can you go home again? Jesus certainly had trouble with it. As it was, Nazareth didn’t particularly have a great reputation in the nation of Israel. Philip wondered if anything good could come out of Nazareth. It was a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, so Jesus would have been exposed to a wide variety of ideas and religious practices. He was raised in a poor section of the town, and his family would have worked very hard to make a living.
Of course, we only have this one story about Jesus in his hometown, but I suspect he was home a lot because of his mother. We can only speculate about Joseph because we don’t hear anything about him except for a few snatches, including the trip to Jerusalem where the twelve-year-old Jesus was in the temple talking to the religious leaders. It would seem that Mary was a widow at some point after that, so Jesus, the oldest son, would have been responsible for her. He may have moved her to Capernaum where they made their home and where he lived as his home base. We don’t know.
Regardless, the less we can take away from Jesus’ return to Nazareth and his experience at the synagogue is that people who know us well don’t always appreciate who we have become. I was raised in a staunch Republican household. No one EVER considered voting for a democrat! As I grew up, I realized that I wanted to vote for the person rather than the party, so I’m registered as an Independent in my state. When I return to my hometown, I am reminded of the heavy Republican population, so I learned quickly to not get into political discussions (I was never good at debate!).
Most of the people assume I vote Republican, and when I have told them that I vote independently, they think I’ve become a radical liberal. Hmm. Maybe I have (at least in that context), and if I have, I definitely would not fit in with those in my hometown should I choose to move back there. I guess my conclusion is that we can go home, and even though we have changed, we shouldn’t expect those who knew us “before” to see the changes.
So, we celebrate who we are, what we have learned growing up; we celebrate the gifts we were given as children, and we recognize that we don’t need to prove anything to anyone except maybe ourselves. No matter where we are, God is with us – and with our hometowns, too.
What can we learn from our hometown?
How has your experience of “going home” been?
In what ways are you stronger because of your hometown?