Joseph’s Son

I am the daughter of Fred. Fred was a hard working cost-control accountant for Owens Corning Fiberglass. He was an excellent bean-counting number-cruncher. I am also the daughter of Nancy. Nancy began a career as a front office clerk in a high school and eventually became the school’s chief financial officer, managing a multi-million dollar budget and overseeing contracts, building projects, and the like. The daughter of Fred and Nancy should have an affinity for math, yes? No. I recently saw a meme that explains exactly who I am. It was two monkeys having a thoughtful conversation. The first one said, ”Name a book that made you cry.” The second one responded, ”Algebra.” Yep. The daughter of Fred and Nancy is the second monkey.

Jesus had the same problem. People tried to judge him as the son of Joseph and Mary. Unfortunately, their preconceived notions of who he should be did not match up to the reality of being the Son of God, and their disappointment was tangible … and violent.

Luke 4 (Common English Bible)

21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”

22 Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?”

How often do we put each other in a box? How often do we think we know someone by simply observing very tangential bits of information? Do we continue to make assessments based on gender, color, age, appearance, and socio-economic circumstances? You betcha.

Jesus went on to do exactly what Jesus was meant to do. He schooled them.

23 Then Jesus said to them, “Undoubtedly, you will quote this saying to me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we’ve heard you did in Capernaum.’” 24 He said, “I assure you that no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown. 25 And I can assure you that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, when it didn’t rain for three and a half years and there was a great food shortage in the land. 26 Yet Elijah was sent to none of them but only to a widow in the city of Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 There were also many persons with skin diseases in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha, but none of them were cleansed. Instead, Naaman the Syrian was cleansed.”

Jesus points out that their rejection of him was more about them than it was about him. Their unspoken ”demand for a sign” was met with his reminder that prophets, healers, and even the Son of God don’t respond to that. In referencing Naaman, Jesus reminds them of the humility of the gentile Naaman, who approached Elisha in faith and did exactly as Elisha instructed, setting aside pride and cultural divisions as he put himself completely under the prophet’s authority. Obviously there was none of that in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, where Jesus’ ability of speak with grace was immediately suspect.

28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with anger. 29 They rose up and ran him out of town. They led him to the crest of the hill on which their town had been built so that they could throw him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the crowd and went on his way.

This is a great reminder to us today to look beyond labels. The challenge is to reconsider someone whom you dislike. Are your feelings based on true experience, or prejudice? Have you made assumptions? Have you given them a fair chance? Do your preconceived notions of their heritage prevent you from seeing them as they truly are?

Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamt of time when people would assess each other by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. We still have a long way to go.

God calls us to accept our brothers and sisters without judgement or bias. I bet you know someone who deserves a second look. Go, and make amends.

Recycled Trees by Michelle Robertson

Shake the Dust Off

A young writer struggles to complete his first novel. Living in a trailer, driving a broken-down Buick, and working as a gas station attendant, he really needs a win. So he sends his manuscript out to 30 publishers and is rejected by every single one.

The writer? Stephen King. The novel? Carrie.

This is a story about how to take rejection and move on. It is also a story about believing in your mission. King believed that he could write and sell books, and he ended up being right. He is the author of over 50 novels and ranks in the top 20 of the most published people in the world.

Obviously he did not let those first 30 rejections slow him down. He “shook the dust off his feet” and moved on to a place where his gift would be accepted and celebrated. And monetized!

In the sixth chapter of Mark, Jesus and the disciples were having a rough go of it. Jesus had just been completely rejected in his hometown of Nazareth, where the people knew him as “Joe’s son” and “Mary’s boy.” They scoffed at the notion that homeboy was the messiah. No worries, said Jesus. We’ll just keep moving on.

So he gathered his men and sent them out in pairs with very specific instructions:

Mark 6 (Common English Bible)

He called for the Twelve and sent them out in pairs. He gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. 10 He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. 11 If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” 

There are times in our lives when people will turn their backs on us and refuse to listen. There are cliques and groups who refuse admission to newbies based on some mysterious standard for who should sit at the “cool kids’ table.” Even family can be cold when it comes to acceptance and hospitality. What should you do? Shake the dust off your feet and walk away.

12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. 13 They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.

The disciples did what Jesus instructed, and because they were able to walk away from the drama of exclusivity, many people were included in God’s plan for changed hearts, changed lives, and total wellness. The disciples didn’t pout…they just got on with it. They believed in who they were, and they believed in their mission.

How about you? Do you believe in yourself enough to walk away from toxic relationships? Can you shake off the dust of rejection and put one foot in front of the other as you pursue what you are meant to be? Do you believe in your mission?

One place we are always received with open arms is at the heavenly banquet. God himself sets the table and invites all who repent to come in and “set a spell.” Everyone there is a “cool kid,” from the top of their heads all the way to their dusty toes. So just shake the other stuff off and walk on over. You’ll fit right in.

Come Set a Spell by Kathy Schumacher