Summary: A sermon about good coming from unexpected places.
“Can Anything Good Come from There?”
A week and a half ago I drove my mother back to Northern Kentucky.
It’s a drive I have made many, many times.
It’s a drive through the Cumberland
Mountains of Northern Tennessee and Kentucky.
I’ve driven it in the summertime and in the wintertime.
And you see a lot more of the towns and counties in the wintertime because there are no leaves on the trees.
It’s not a heavily populated area.
There is little industry and a lot of poverty.
Last week, through the trees I could see broken down shacks and old trailers with yards filled with old, rusty trucks, and junk of every kind.
It’s a bit disturbing, sad.
There is a big drug problem in the rural mountains.
A lot of folks lack education and many people don’t work.
There is a sort of desperate or perhaps even hopeless feel to some of the areas.
A study came out last week which sited alarming statistics that the suicide rate in Tennessee is at record highs.
On average, three human beings a day take their own lives in our state.
And the highest rate of suicide is among poor white men who live in rural areas.
Places where the people don’t have much hope.
People that live in places like the Cumberland Mountains.
Nazareth was such a place.
In Jesus’ day, Nazareth was a village of about 150 people.
It didn’t have any industry of its own.
It depended, economically, on the city of Sepphoris, which was the capital of Galilee.
The people in Nazareth were not of the educated class.
If they were able to earn a living, they did it by the sweat of their brow.
They struggled horribly.
They didn’t feel very good about themselves, nor did they have a lot to aspire to.
Ancient scholars, and I looked up a lot of them for this sermon, tended to agree that the inhabitants of Nazareth were looked down upon by the neighboring towns and cities.
One scholar wrote that “The character of Nazareth was proverbially bad.
To be a Galilean or a Nazarene was an expression of decided contempt…
…the people were thought to be wicked.”
Another scholar writes: “The whole country of Galilee was in contempt with the Jews; but Nazareth was so mean a place, that it seems it was even despised by its neighbors, by the Galileans themselves.”
Nathanial was a Galilean, and even he was startled when he heard from his brother: “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.”
Have you ever wondered that same thing about a place or a person or perhaps an entire group or race of persons?
Perhaps you have wondered that about yourself?
“Can anything good come out of me?”
I’ve wondered that many times.
I was speaking to someone this past week.
And she was talking about the Food Pantry here at church.
She said, “There was a time in my life when I needed a food pantry, and it was there for me.”
“I’ve never forgotten that. It meant so much to me.
Don’t ever get discouraged or think you aren’t making a positive difference, because you are.”
How are you feeling this morning?
What brought you here?
Are you feeling good?
Has it been an inspiring week?
Or has it been awful?
Do you feel like you are at the end of your rope?
Do you feel like you aren’t good enough to be here?
Do you wonder how or if God even loves you?
I’m here to tell you one thing—God does love you!!!
God loves you no matter who you are, what you have done, or where you are from!!!
Our Gospel Lesson for this morning reminds us that God does not see as we see.
God’s vision is deeper, wider, more accurate.
And it’s a vision to which Jesus calls us, and helps us to develop.
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
Nathanael has some opinions, some assumptions, about Nazareth.
Do you ever make assumptions?
“I’ve seen his type before; he’ll never change.”
“She’s always so negative; I know what she will say.”
“He won’t understand; he never does.”
“It’s always been like that; it will never get any better.”
“Nothing good can come of that situation.”
People of faith, people like Nathanial, people like you and me, make these and all sorts of assumptions every day.
Sometimes our assumptions are about other people.
Other times we look at particular situations: our marriage, the state of our country, a teenager trying to grow up and we declare it hopeless.