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Going Back Home

Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.’  He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  He was appalled at their disbelief.”  Mark 6:5-6a (CEB)

Have you ever gone back to your hometown or some place where you lived years earlier only to find that people couldn’t see who you have become?  If we were all celebrities or sports “heroes,” I suspect that the town would turn out in droves to proclaim that we were one of “theirs.”  “They knew us when we were growing up!”  How proud they would be!  Yet, that isn’t the case for most of us.  The majority of folks aren’t famous or rich or well-known, so returning to our hometown isn’t a big deal.

At the church of my childhood – where I was raised to read and love the Bible, where I learned about God, Jesus, the Spirit, where I learned how to pray, grow in faith, sing praises to God – there is a set of pictures on a frame showing all the confirmation classes, pastors, and those who have become pastors out of that congregation.

When anyone looks at the confirmation classes, they can find me in with my other classmates, wearing a red rose, white robe, and my hair in that 60’s page boy puffiness.  However, when we look at the people who have gone on to become pastors, I’m not included.  Why?  I changed denominations.  It’s not that I went drastic; in fact, my grandmother was United Methodist, and my dad was raised United Methodist!  But because I am a different denomination, I’m left off the board even though I have been ordained and serving as a pastor for over twenty years.

Another thing really strikes me when I go back to visit.  Most of the folks there knew me as “Debbie” and I went to “Deb” many years ago.  (I still cringe when someone calls me “Debbie” – my own quirk, I suppose.)  They ask about the churches I serve, but most of them remember me for my singing (which I still do in the context of the pastorate).  I was very active in the junior choir, youth choir, and senior choir all through my years at that church.  My mother raised all of us children to sing, and she had a beautiful voice herself, so people tend to remember that.

I don’t mind being remembered for who I was or what I did as a child.  I really don’t mind a whole lot (only a little) that my picture isn’t on the board with the others who have gone into ministry from that church.  But I also realize that if I was to become the pastor there, I probably wouldn’t be able to minister to them as effectively as someone who hadn’t grown up in that church.  Since that won’t ever happen, I don’t need to worry about it, but it’s interesting to ponder in light of Jesus’ inability to perform any miracles in his hometown or to be able to preach to them effectively.

They couldn’t get past the fact that he had grown up in their midst, and they couldn’t believe that he could be a prophet or healer, not to mention the Messiah!  He moved on.  He went to places where the word would be heard, God’s love could be shared, and his ministry could touch lives.

That is what we are called to do in all circumstance of our lives.  If we can’t seem to care for someone, if they reject our compassion and kindness, if they refuse to see the hope we offer in Christ, keep moving on.  Keep trying; don’t give up; keep sharing the love of God.  We don’t know what seeds we have planted, and ultimately God is the one who grows the seeds anyway.

When have you experienced a lack of understanding about who you have become?

How have you shared the love of God and been ignored?

Where have you experienced the feeling that someone heard you?

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