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Along the Way
fourteenth sunday ordinary time 2003
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When Jesus began teaching in Nazareth he had two strikes against him! 

The Fourth of July fireworks entrance us with their spectacular lights and loud explosions. They are the highlight of the holiday, as they seem to touch something deep within us. something visceral. It must be part of human nature to be moved by the spectacular and to crave such powerful stimulation.

It isn't just with fireworks. This craving touches every part of our lives. Even when it comes to the spiritual, we want extraordinary, mighty manifestations of Gods power. It seems almost as if we can't accept that anything truly important can be small, ordinary or weak.

We dont want faith! We want God to blast away any lingering doubt or question and turn our faith into certain knowledge. Faith requires a leap into mystery. It requires trust in God. We dont want the ambiguity of mystery and faith.

God tries to oblige. The greatest proof of Gods power and love for us is the simple fact that we exist, that the universe exists. Consider the immensity of the universe and the vast amount of energy that sprang into being from nothing at the beginning of time and space. Consider the complexity and intricate beauty of the human being in our physical, mental and spiritual existence. Yet, we ignore these proofs because living in the midst of miracles they become ordinary to us. We are blind to the wonder and mystery that is revealed in the ordinary.

Knowledge demands little of us. We simply memorize the relevant facts and include them in our map of how the world works. Faith takes us beyond the maps of our knowledge. We move into a world of mystery. In a world of mystery things dont always work the way we think they should. In a world of mystery success comes to the humble, the weak, the poor, the trusting and those willing to forgive. In a world of mystery everything is upside down and inside out! Even thinking about it gives one a headache! To enter such a world requires foolishness, for faith is the willingness to leap into this dark world of mystery.

So, when Jesus shows up in his home town he has two strikes against him. First of all, he is ordinary. Theyre thinkingHe built my tool shed and my sisters kitchen table. His relatives are married to my relatives. Hes always been talking about things beyond him like a show off. Why doesnt he stop acting like he is something special and work on building some new houses. That would be a real contribution to this community! Second, he reveals a world of mystery to the people which turns their understanding and experience upside down. He talks about the Kingdom of God where the least in this world are the greatest there. Where one forgives not seven times but 77 times. Where there is no rich or poor, no Jew or Gentile, no man or woman, no slave or masterall are brothers and sisters, children of the one God, members of the same body. They dont want to hear it!

Are we that different from Jesus hometown neighbors? When everything is going wrong in our livesour jobs are a disappointment, our relationships falling apart, our dreams more distant than ever do we panic and complain? Or, do we admit that when we are weak for the sake of Christ, then we are truly strong? Do we allow the reality of the Gospel message to shape our decisions and actions? Or, is the Gospel too impractical for the world of business, or law, or medicine, or politics, or education?

We can move from our tightly controlled little worlds of certain knowledge into the vast world of mystery. It requires trust. It requires faith which accepts that what Jesus revealed to us is actually the truth! It requires our willingness to act on that truth! Our faith doest need to be great or our actions spectacular. Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed can work wonders. Our efforts can be ordinary, simple acts of kindness that little by little build up habits of trust, faith, action and understanding which reflect the mystery of love inherent in the Kingdom of God.

So, do we believe that the world would have been a better place if Jesus had spent his life as a home contractor in Nazareth? Or, are we willing to take the leap of faith that the Gospel is absolute truth and pattern our lives on its teachings? Are we willing to pattern our lives after someone who was the ultimate looser according to the values of our society; refusing political power, popular acclaim and accepting death on the cross? It wasnt an easy choice 2000 years ago and it isnt an easy choice today!

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

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