21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 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?’ 23 He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’ 24 And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers[a] in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Have you ever NOT received something you felt entitled to? When I was in boy scouts (yes, I was a boy scout), each time our troop met, we had to do the pledge of allegance to the United States flag. Each time, one of us got to hold the flag during the pledge and lead the pledge; this was considered a great honor, and we each had our turn to do it. When my turn came up, I was so excited. But as soon as the flag was in my hand, before I had a chance to say a word, everyone just started saying the pledge on their own. I was so mad, I almost threw the flag on the ground. That was my chance to lead the pledge! I was entitled to MY turn!
Maybe you have had an experience like this. Turn to your neighbor and share with them a time you didn't get something you felt entitled to.
Not getting what we feel like we deserve can be a frustrating experience. But we usually don't even notice when we DO get something we feel like we deserve; we just take it for granted. But as nice as it may feel to get what we feel we deserve, there is a big drawback to it: we lose touch with how it feels to be on the other side of that, to be the “un-entitled”. Think about it – if I went to Starbucks ever day and they handed me a free latte, I would come to expect it. And if it happened every time from the first time I ever walked into a Starbucks, I wouldn't even think about it. It would be so normal to me that I wouldn't even understand what it was like for all of the other customers, who always paid for their coffee, and had to watch me walk in and get a free latte without a second thought.
The people in Jesus' hometown were like a whole village that had been getting free Starbucks for generations. They were Israelites, the “people of Yahweh” – and they believed they were entitled to God's preference because they had inherited it. So when Jesus shows up and proclaims that HE is the one to fulfill God's promise, their immediate response is, “hey, this is great for us! We're gonna get double the special treatment, because the Messiah is from our hometown! I can't wait til the good stuff starts coming in...”
But Jesus quickly checks them. He quotes two stories of where God came directly to the help of foreigners and non-Jews INSTEAD OF helping the Israelites. He basically says, “you aren't special, God has called me to ALL people”.
After that, things went downhill pretty fast. The Nazarenes were so shocked and angered by the idea that they didn't deserve special treatment over others that they almost threw Jesus off of a cliff. They were so out of touch with what it would be like to be without God's special entitlement that they couldn't even process it – instead they responded with rage.
So, an easy question to ask would be, “who are the Nazarenes of today, the entitled ones?” I can bet that you can all name off the top of your head at least three people or groups who you immediately think “of my gosh, yes” about, people of privilege or power who don't get what it's like to be “un-entitled”. But the harder question to ask is, where do we find ourselves being like the Nazarenes? What do we take for granted as what we deserve, and how are we ignorant of what it's like to not be part of the “un-entitled group”?
I think there is one group of people today that can relate to those Nazarenes looking for special treatment from Jesus, and many of us in this room are a part of it: that group is called “church people” - folks who consider themselves to be Christian or Catholic and are regularly involved in a church. Think about it – “church people” can often be the biggest barrier to Jesus' message reaching the world around us. Take this example: on oakwood street in Melvindale there is a church sign that reads “where death finds you, eternity will keep you”. The message behind that sign is fairly clear - we have what you need to get to heaven, and we are SO confident that we are in the right and already have God's blessing, that we are judging anyone who isn't part of our group as needing to get to work and shape up quick.
This is an extreme example, but I have encountered no church group that is not at least somewhat guilty of this attitude. Time and again, friends who aren't part of church have told me about the subtle ways in which church folk talk down about and to people of other faiths or, especially, the non-religious – as if they are the lost ones, and need to get what people in church already have. And can you imagine how church people would react if Jesus showed up at their churches, called them arrogant and entitled, and said that they aren't deserving of any special treatment more than the guy who sits at home and watches netflix on a sunday morning? It might not end on the edge of a cliff, but I could imagine the pastor throwing Jesus out on the street! So, for those of us who feel we are a part of this “church” that Jesus founded, his words to the Nazarenes are like throwing a glass of cold water in our faces and telling us to “wake up!” and check ourselves.
That's my two bits. So I ask you,
1) Where do YOU find yourself being like the Nazarenes, taking for granted something you receive as something you deserve?
2) AND, where do you see God showing a love that is about grace rather than entitlement in the world around you? How can you more fully embrace that kind of love and let go of entitlement?