Message Supplement (for 24 January 2016 “Not Too Familiar”)

As with the previous two Sunday messages, I’m combining a couple week’s worth of lectionary readings into a single narrative. Why? Because the relevant scriptures deserve a combined treatment. This means that I’ll be covering Luke 4:14-30 today.

It’s wonderful how ancient Bible verses can pass into modern, common parlance. One example is when Jesus talks about not being accepted by those who know you best: “ ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown’ “ (Luke 4:24). Perhaps it is a universal truth that familiarity breeds contempt. When people think that they know you well it somehow undermines what we could otherwise accomplish, at least in their reckoning. Apparently Jesus faced this same issue. The problem is one of disparity, such that if we try to utter a great truth then the power of the message can diminish in the minds of those with whom we’ve lived. It’s as if when someone has an extensive history with us, and knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses, then that familiarity can drain energy from our reputation and potential. It is as if our imperfections, foibles, and fallibility rob credibility from the message God’s gives us to share.

Have you ever wanted to say something but felt limited by someone’s preconceived opinion? Even if no one actively dislikes you, it can be hard to get positive attention to unleash God’s power. Jesus faced the same problem when he returned to his hometown and tried to give a message at the local synagogue. The people listening to him interpret scripture thought that they knew Jesus so well that he couldn’t possibly be anything other than that innocent little boy they had known so long. They ended-up rejecting his message and not assimilating the truth.

Do you ever feel that those closest to you can seldom surprise you? Humans are inveterate problem-solvers, and we like to figure things out and file things comfortably in our thinking. But this tendency to predict, label and categorize people causes problems. We can take for granted the creativity and power of those closest to us, with whom we have become so familiar. We can miss the opportunity to be spiritually enriched if we dismiss the possibility of wisdom from our friends, family and neighbors. We risk losing God’s blessings if we fail to see and if we neglect to hear the miracles in front of us.

Perhaps you know all too well the habits and behavior of your friends and relatives here and elsewhere. The danger is that without even knowing it we can discourage others’ or fail to recognize personal transformations. We can be blinded, neglecting to admit the potential of folks close to us, those with whom we have become comfortably numb (to borrow a phrase from a Pink Floyd song). A habit of thinking and relating to people isn’t always helpful if it limits our ability to affirm God’s presence.

We are challenged to be awakened. God often reveals wisdom and diverse blessings through those nearest us. God wants us to encourage one another as we share life’s spiritual journey. A disturbing number of people report that they don’t pursue personal growth because they fear the reactions or outright lack of recognition from their relatives and friends. Folks avoid rejection, and what a pity that discouraged arises from others’ lack of support. We need to open our hearts and minds to new possibilities and resist typecasting people or arbitrarily limiting their potential. Especially during spiritual revitalization, we must strive for openness. We can listen actively and hear, receive and respect how God’s voice comes through the utterings of those around us.

What do you want to share about what God is doing for you? Reveal how God has touched you, and feel free to stand and proclaim the blessings of your faith. If you have words of encouragement then raise your voice so that we can all benefit. It could be that your thoughts and words will inspire those who need precisely what you have to offer. We are here to empower and enliven one another. The God of promise and possibility stands ready to deepen our spiritual walk and witness as we listen and receive. What can you share with us today?

–Reverend Larry Hoxey