"Jesus' Mission In-cludes the Ex-cluded"

A sermon based upon Luke 4:14-30

It’s been almost five years since I returned to Alpena --my home-town. It’s been five years since I was called to be the minister of this, my former "home church." I couldn’t help but think about that when I read the Bible story we heard today

Jesus has returned home to Nazareth, to preach in his home congregation. It started well, but it ended badly!

I must admit that Jesus was bolder than me! Unlike me, who was an ordained minister for 30 years before coming home to Alpena, Jesus came right away to his home church for his inaugural sermon! In other words, he’s just getting started…

Following his baptism, and his subsequent 40 days of testing by the devil in the wilderness(in Luke’s Gospel),Jesus immediately went back to his own people in his hometown of Nazareth to announce his mission. This was before Jesus called any disciples to follow him! He’s on his own in his hometown.

There in the sanctuary that he knew from his youth, Jesus reads aloud the prophet Isaiah’s revolutionary call for "justice for the poor" and "liberation for prisoners" --and announces that today--right then and right there… right now -- in their hearing, this Scripture from Isaiah was being fulfilled!

At first, they were flattered that Jesus had come home.

People left Nazareth all the time –there wasn’t a lot of job opportunities in their little town. No advanced schooling in Nazareth. People who had a plan went (either) to the regional Capitol "Sepphoris", or down to the Sea of Galilee to the new Capitol City "Tiberias". The top draw, of course, would be to go South to Judea, to Jerusalem, where the market action was!

Furthermore, the Galilean town of Nazareth had a bad reputation: "What good thing ever came from Nazareth?" was a pejorative slogan often heard in Jesus’ day. (see John 1:46)

But on this Sabbath day, one of their own, Jesus --a real Nazarene who had grown up there --had come home to share his wisdom with his home congregation. I think people were excited; curious.

Luke tells us that "all spoke well of him; and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said: ‘Isn’t this Joseph’s son?’"

You know, when I came here five years ago, I benefitted by being known as "Dodi’s son." Those of you who did not know me, and who may have wondered about the wisdom of calling someone from Southern California (the Left Coast, you know; the land of fruits & nuts) said: "But I kne