All spoke well of him (Jesus) and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Luke 4:22 (NRSV)
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. Luke 4:28 (NRSV)
I heard recently of a church in South Dakota that asked their pastor to resign. I don’t know the whole story but there was a group in the congregation that did not like the way he was teaching confirmation class. But when he was forced to resign there was another group in the congregation who like the way the pastor worked with children, his style of preaching and the fact that he had attracted many new young families with children to the church. They are very upset that he resigned. Church conflict is very evident in churches now days. The antagonistic attitude played out in congress and in national politics is often played out in local congregations where one group is pitted against another group. This might help explain the change in attitude of the people in Jesus home town of Nazareth. After Jesus read the passage from Isaiah the people heaped praises upon the home town boy who had made a name for himself. But then Jesus interpreted the passage he irritated some of the people to the point that they wanted to put him to death. What was it that caused this change of attitude? It was Jesus suggestion that he had come to serve all people, the poor, the widows, the foreigners. The people in Nazareth thought Jesus would center his work in his home town, help his home town people, be the home town hero. But Jesus revealed that his purpose was not just for the local community but for all people. This story raises an important issue that has divided many congregations. Does the church exist primarily to serve its members or does it exit to serve outsiders? To look at this from another angle – Is the pastor called to be the “shepherd of the flock” or to be the “missionary to the community”? More often than not congregations act like the people of Nazareth wanted the pastor to serve only the members since it is the members who are paying the pastor’s salary. I know of a pastor who was told that he should not belong to Kiwanis because it was taking too much time away from his work! Jesus reminds us that the answer is not an either/or but rather a both/and. Jesus was a shepherd of the flock caring for the Jewish people. But Jesus also reached out to outsiders, for example healing a Samaritan leper. I personally am thankful that Trinity has allowed me to be a “missionary to the community”. As I drove to a hospice visit yesterday I thought about this story of Jesus and how fortunate I am that the members of Trinity do not get upset because my ministry does extend beyond our membership list. The fact is there are a number of cliffs in this area that I could be thrown off of.