Leaving Home

(Spectrumbot) #1

There is something that seems almost idyllic about growing up in a small home town where you know everyone and everyone knows you. Rootedness, shared traditions, familiar faces, safety – or if not that, at least predictability. Even if times are hard, or circumstances challenging, there is a certain rhythm of life that develops that resists change and challenge. We know who everyone is, where they live, where everything goes.

This week as I had the opportunity to reflect with some friends on the story of Jesus’ experience in his own home town of Nazareth (in the first half dozen or so verses of Mark 6) I was impressed again with the power of those dynamics. And I was reminded again of their persistence, and how often the contours of this story have continued to be mirrored in other stories down through the ages.

Communities that have found a sense of identity together, and have pooled their resources to make a life together, sometimes not only find thinking about things in new ways challenging, but as Luke points out in his account of the story in Luke 4, sometimes their resistance can even turn to hostility.

In Nazareth, perhaps it was partially because Jesus was one of them. They had known Him and His family for years. They had seen Him grow up, done business with Joseph, chatted with Mary, watched He and His siblings grow and play. They must have felt that they knew who He was. What's more, they knew who they were. They knew the way it was supposed to be. They might even have experienced a bit of civic pride as they began to hear that Jesus was getting to be known in other places, and had attracted a bit of a following. Good things had been reported. People’s lives were being touched. Healing was being experienced. They were even open to Him taking the scroll and leading them in worship on the recorded Sabbath of His visit to His home town.

But then things begin to come unraveled in Nazareth. Perhaps, as some of the more generous among them may have suggested, it was because Jesus was still new at this sort of thing, that He didn’t seem to get it. He makes suggestions that go against the grain of the way they had lived and thought about things; the implications of which, if accepted, would mean having to rethink what they believed about who He is, and who they are, and the direction their lives are going.

You can imagine the bewilderment many must have felt as they listened to this young rabbi who had grown up among them, but who was no longer seeming to fully appreciate His own heritage. You can imagine the pain of Jesus as He tries to open His heart to them about who He really is, and what He is being called to do with His life, even as He knows that they can’t, or simply won’t, really hear Him. This was His home. These were the people who had surrounded Him as He had grown up. This was the town in whose streets He had walked, and the people with whom He had shared meals, and stories, and Himself so many times over the years. These were the people who He may most have wished could hear Him.

It was hard for them. It was hard for Him. And according to Mark, it was so hard, that there was little of what Jesus felt so called to do that He could actually do among them. Old patterns are hard to change, and because of that, we often miss the gifts that we could otherwise share with each other.

As I reflected on these passages, an old song came to mind by Cat Stevens entitled “Father & Son,” which, in a more gentle way than the scriptural story, captures these dynamics.

I noticed that our pastor is preaching on the parable of wineskins this coming weekend, and thought, there it is again – the same story wrapped in symbol. And as I reflect on the journey of my own faith community, as our church struggles with the difficultly of listening to the voices of those who have grown up in our midst, and whom we know so well on one level, but have failed to adequately listen to on others, I was reminded that the story and the dynamics continue still.

Sometimes it is as gentle as the still painful conversation reflected in the song. Sometimes the reaction is as hostile as what Jesus experienced in Nazareth. But still we are invited to listen to what God is doing. Pouring new wine into old wineskins it seems, is always a challenging proposition.

The good news is, that not everyone in any of the stories remains bogged down in the dynamics, but that there are always some who respond to the invitation to listen, reflect, and consider the way forward. And there is no imposed cap on the number of people who are invited to do so.

Yet, I am still struck by how painful and lonely that path so often can feel, and the level of hostility it can generate. But I am also encouraged by the healing that can be experienced and extended when the decision is made to follow.

I can’t help but think that Jesus took the best that Nazareth had to offer with Him as He traveled and interacted with the world around Him. I could wish that He might have found more welcome than hostility there though. Perhaps Nazareth changed over the years. I’d like to think it did. There is no reason that it could not have, which is why there is hope for many of the hometowns that have grown up since that one. But however that plays out, it is the call to listen, reflect, and follow . . . to hold the wineskins more loosely in our hands than the wine . . . that is where the real hope resides.

Ken Curtis is Associate Pastor at Calimesa SDA church and blogs at KensFootnotes where this article originally appeared on January 29, 2015.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6676

(jeremy) #2

i think the women’s ordination vote in san antonio is a perfect illustration of the new wine in old wineskins metaphore ken uses in this excellent piece…will the portion of our church devoted to male headship recognize that our church is still on track after the affirmative vote in july…

(Thomas J Zwemer) #3

I think the story is that He came to His own and they knew Him not! If we call ourselves Christians, does that indicate that we know Him? If so do we value His values, do we serve as He Served? No we can’t go home again. But we can look for a city Whose Maker is God. And S. A. Has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is just musical chairs being played by old men in dark suits. The goal is to get a chair from which sustentation is at full pay plus social security and a farewell trip around the world field and finally a Major church to brag about the trip–be sure to stress growth. Tom Z

(Frankmer7) #4

What really sealed the hostility in Nazareth towards Jesus was when he began to tell his audience that God’s favor and activity was not limited to them. In fact, Jesus was saying that God would even bypass them and go to those who had faith, no matter where he found them. That caused the synagogue riot.

Makes me wonder about how so many of us, who have been raised on Adventist exceptionalism, would take to such a message. The NAD president recently stated that this movement can’t fail. Why? If Jesus said that God responds to and works with faith, no matter where he finds it, and bypasses where he doesn’t, why would it be any different today?Regardless of denominational claims, and assertions of truth.



(Elaine Nelson) #5

The allusion (Mark 6:3) where those of his home town of his parentage: “This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, bother of James and Joseph and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?” No mention of his father, Joseph. This was certainly a harsh question.

(Steve Mga) #6

Just as the “Church” in Nazareth was not “All Welcoming” so the present SDA church is Not All Welcoming.
There is that undercurrent of hostility toward Who is Allowed, and Who is Not Allowed.
Allowed to
Speak about their love for God
Participate fully in Community activities

We dont overtly as a maddened crowd take someone and attempt to throw them off a cliff and dash their bodies on the rocks below – let gravity and “nature” stone them.
But we covertly do exactly the same thing when we do not allow those who love God to have Full Participation in Community. Do not allow for fellowship when we “encourage” certain Sinners not to request access to Community participation. When we “deny” certain Genders from speaking about their love for God. When we encourage “shunning” of certain family members, and put pressure on family members TO SHUN if they will not do it on their own volition. And make family members feel GUILTY if they do not SHUN. Making them feel God is angry if Love and Acceptance is shown instead.
Making members feel guilty, to feel the Anger of God if certain Genders are given a special time to speak of their Love for God.
YES, we as SDAs exhibit the same hostility but in more Covert, More Societal Accepted ways than just throw some one [who we do not approve of] off a cliff to be dashed on the rocks below

(Sirje) #7

You do know that the metaphor says “You CAN’T put new wine in old wine skins”? Based on that, forget WO.

(jeremy) #8

but the metaphor is really saying you need new wine skins for new wine - in other words, we need a new heart in order live a spiritual life…

i just don’t believe wo will be defeated in san antonio…after-all, it’s already happening…to use another metaphor, the cat’s already out of the bag…

(jeremy) #9

perhaps this is an indication that jesus looked and acted so differently from joseph that the people who knew them knew instinctively, and accepted, that jesus wasn’t joseph’s son…no doubt there was the knowledge of mary’s immaculate conception claim, which would have strained credulity even with those who loved her…while jesus’ own striking character would have probably bolstered this claim for some, the majority likely believed mary had been sexually active out of wedlock…

i tend to think jesus didn’t look like or have the mannerisms of anyone local, and so his parentage would have always been a background question…what a difficult position for both mary and jesus, but also for joseph and the entire family…

(George Tichy) #10

This is why I consider a great blessing that I live in an area where this issue is no longer a motive for tension or discussion. We have had ordained female pastors for a long time and it’s been just great. It makes us feel normal, just, and fair. It’s sad to see so many people in so many places still struggling with such an absurd issue, the discrimination of women.

(Sirje) #11

That would be the SDA interpretation. Actually it means the new message that Jesus was about to deliver through his life, death, and resurrection does not fit into the traditional Jewish paradigm. What he had to deliver was a whole new “age” to come, which he was about to inaugurate.

(k_Lutz) #12

I believe that ‘new’ message never fits in with any tradition - cultural authority - especially traditions which are burdened to enforce themselves to exalt in their past (deceased) relevance.

Trust God.

(jeremy) #13

i don’t buy that…i’m not so sure jesus’ message was new, so much as it was a step forward…if it was new, it was new only because so much had been misunderstood and misinterpreted…according to jesus, himself, he wasn’t doing away with moses…but he was showing the reality of what obeying moses meant, and also what obeying moses led to…

(Elaine Nelson) #14

Adventists have so long lived on their original and initial doctrines, often claiming their superior position by believing in the entire Bible, while inferring that other Christians do not. But no longer is that an attractive proposition. Unless they have a very positive and encouraging and welcoming invitation it will only continue to grow in those countries where no question are asked.

(George Tichy) #15

In a rewriting, this will be FB # 1.
If one can’t follow this FB, and insists in asking question, s/he should not be granted membership!

(Frankmer7) #16

Sirje isn’t wrong, Jeremy. Judaism defined the people of God as those who entered into a covenant relationship with him through the Torah. And you’re right, the Torah became defined not only by what Moses wrote, but also by rabbinic tradition and interpretation. This was the old way of the written code, as Paul put it in Romans. Jesus came to clear all that away.

He also came to inaugurate the new way of the age to come, in which becoming and being God’s person was not bound and defined by Torah observance. It was now defined by faith in and allegiance to him. It was characterized by a dynamic life in the Spirit that brought former enemies into loving community with one another.

Adventism, with its emphasis on visible badges of sabbath observance, diet, and denominational affiliation (its own written code), as the defining marks of belonging to God, skates really closely in its own way to Judaism. No wonder we get so suspicious of anything the Spirit may be doing outside our borders, or in conflict with our traditional understanding.



(le vieux) #17

What do you mean by His “new” message? Much of what He taught was just a reiteration of what had been written in the OT, but which had become obscured by tradition, selfishness, and bigotry.

(jeremy) #18

frank, as you know, the apostle paul cites abraham as an example of a faith keeper, whom christians are to emulate, romans 4:1-22…in fact paul, in this passage, is explicitly saying that abraham founded a religion of faith, not works…in addition, all of hebrews 11 is a virtual hall of fame of individuals demonstrating a religion of faith as opposed to a covenant of works BEFORE jesus’ advent…so to say, as you do, that jesus came to invent a religion of faith because the only thing that existed up to that point was a covenant of works is completely untenable…

(Elaine Nelson) #19

Revisionists Bible historians, a.k.a, writing their own ideas of history, are found in all Christian religions. Facts don’t change, interpretations are legion.


Hello Sirje, I don’t know why you came to that conclusion. Jeremy of course has every right to interpret it as he feels fit; but his is not some official SdA interpretation as you claimed. The Andrews Study Bible says:

Luke 5:39 old wine. It is difficult for those who are used to the old traditions to consider and accept what is new.

Ellen White says:

Nor could the principles of Christ’s teaching unite with the forms of the Pharisees. Christ was to make the separation between the old and the new more distinct…

The Jewish leaders were set firmly in a rut of ceremonies and traditions. Their hearts had become like dried-up wineskins. Since they were satisfied with a legal religion, it was impossible for them to become the trusted holders of living truth. They did not want to have a new element brought into their religion. The faith that works by love and purifies the soul could find no common ground with the religion of the Pharisees, made up of ceremonies and human rules. To unite Jesus’ teachings with the established religion would be futile. The vital truth of God, like wine, would burst the old decaying bottles of the Pharisees’ tradition. {HH 123.4}

But Jeremy is also right in that you need a change of heart. How can you accept Jesus new teachings (new wine) without one?

To do so would be to have a very intellectualized religious experience. Which would be dry; no depth; no heart; no living power; no Jesus.