Jesus preaches in the synagogue that serves the community he was raised in, the town of Nazareth. People knew him. They knew his family, his people. He was speaking, one would hope, to neighbors and friends who had seen him through his awkward years and who would lend him their support. They might have marveled that the little one, the scamp, the carpenter's boy would show such wisdom. They might have been surprised that he spoke with wisdom and as one with authority. All these suppositions were to be expected and perhaps even welcome for this home-town boy.
Yet, when he speaks, there is something that happens in the crowd that triggers outrage instead of joy. One would think this is an exception to the rules that govern us in our lives. Fair play, honor among neighbors....all of that....and yet we too often and too regularly model the behavior of Jesus' neighbors that day in the synagogue when we hear words or are challenged to reject the hatreds and fears that infect our lives.
Instead of hearing the good news that day, the people chose to reject Jesus...with violence. They dragged him bodily from the gathering place and pushed/pulled him to the brow of a nearby hill. Their desire? Not to hear a Sermon on the Mount. They wanted to throw him FROM the mount. They wanted to dash his body against the sharp rocks at the foot of the precipice. They wanted him not only dead, but broken. Badly broken.
Ah, we say...that was then, and those were bad people. But think, how many times have people chosen violence, rejection and ultimately murder instead of tolerance, respect and mutuality of life? Often, indeed....more often than we care to admit or even countenance without opening our mouths to repent of the evil we have done, or that evil done on our behalf.
Jesus, in this story, reaches the top of the hill and then by grace passes from their midst. A last minute, last second reprieve. This is more than most people get when this brand of violence looms. He reminds us that we don't have to accept or submit to the horrors human beings all too willingly impose upon each other. He leads us to a place where mercy and peace overcome might and control. He conducts us to a place where even the most heinous of the crimes of humanity against itself become places where love transforms barren land into fertile ground. It is the place where the dry bones come together, where newborns find the strength and will to cry out, when we find true freedom. That freedom comes from being willing to embrace and not condemn. It comes from being committed to giving instead of taking without leave. It comes from being open to true healing in the name of God's desperate love for a broken world.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, on this Thursday before the 4th Sunday After the Epiphany, remember to pause, give thanks, love with abandon for, truly, nous sommes les bebes.
Merci, Madame Francine. Merci. Que Dieu vous benisse et vous garde, tous les temps.