Blog|The Rev. Jude Harmon
What a momentous time Epiphanytide is! Revelation after revelation shine forth profound, and sometimes difficult truths about who God is, and who we are. Last weekend, we heard that moment of crisis and confrontation between Jesus and those in his hometown, Nazareth. How quickly they turned from saying nice things about him to nearly driving him off a cliff! Why? What drove them to such dramatic, vengeful action?
Jesus knew they expected signs and wonders the same as he did in Capernaum. Surely, if you can do that for them, then we deserve as much or more, right? We’re the home team! In some Gospel stories, it’s a lack of faith that impedes Jesus’ ability to act among the people, but this is a little bit different. Here, it’s the sense of entitlement. That entitlement turns into lethal intent when he calls them on it. He lights into them with those most piquant of words, “But the truth is…” Rarely, in our lives when someone tells us, “but the truth is” does it end well for us. We can expect some judgment that speaks to the blindness of our arrogance, and that’s exactly what follows.
Jesus rubs it in. Hard. The widow at Sidon and Naaman the Syrian occupy as distant places on the socioeconomic spectrum of power and influence as we can imagine. They stand in for the most vulnerable and the most powerful, and everyone in between. When I prepped for my sermon on this at The Vine this Wednesday, I was struck by how diluted the commentaries were in The Harper Collins and Oxford Study bibles. They make mention of God occasionally showing favor to foreigners. This isn’t that. Sidon – the sinful source of Jezebel’s Baal cult, which brought Israel into idolatry – and Syria – the great imperial power that humiliated Israel by subjecting it to vassal status – weren’t just neighbors, they were enemies. God sidesteps countless, even worthy, members of the covenanted people, to deliver a stinging rebuke of their entitlement.
During this time of intense polarization, it may be tempting to imagine that the other isn’t worthy of God, isn’t worthy of us. It’s easy for the home team to get a big head and imagine that our way is the only way, or that our view of the world is the only valid one. I recently watched a fascinating lecture at Yale by the acclaimed, but controversial journalist Vladimir Pozner. His talk was entitled “How the United States Created Vladimir Putin.” His remarks, although delivered three years ago, give an eye-opening account of the other side of the Russia-Ukraine story we’re seeing play out on the global stage. The gist is “You think it’s just about democracy, independence and Russian aggression, but the truth is…” To be clear, I’m not endorsing his perspective. In many ways, it’s deeply problematic. Still, it’s so crucial for us to listen and hear voices other than our own in such moments as these.
Jesus wasn’t subtle, even seeming to invite the violent reaction he drew by recalling such deeply unflattering moments in Israel’s past. But they needed to hear it. Where do we see privilege and entitlement cropping up in our hearts, in our communities and in our world? Where might we invite our Savior to illuminate those places? We may be the home team, but the truth is God loves the whole world.
Love and blessings,
The Rev. Jude Aaron Harmon
Canon for Innovative Ministries & Founding Pastor of The Vine
P.S. In this week’s #MoreGoodNews, Dean Malcolm Clemens Young explores the book Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt. Why is it so hard to talk about the existence of God? Watch on YouTube today!
P.P.S. Thank you all who attended in-person and online for last night’s Evensong: Feast of the Presentation and Installation of the Canon Precentor. Congratulations to Anna Rossi!