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Summary: Jesus returned to his hometown, only to be greeted as "Just Jesus." Who are the hometown prophets we need to hear from?

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Just Jesus”

Mark 6:1-4

August 4, 2002

You know the definition of a “church expert?”

Answer: Anybody that lives more than 45 miles away from your church!

Strange the way distance creates expertise and influence. Acc’d to that definition by the way, I’m no expert…I just live a few miles from here. But, do you know what I mean? A church looking to grow, expand programs, deal with conflict, etc. brings in a dynamic outside speaker or resource person and you’d think Jesus himself had returned!

This reality can make it tough on people like Kathy and me to do our work. I remember a time I was planning a weekend at our retreat facility known as Akita…it was a weekend for our own members and I was the advertised leader. The week before the retreat I got a call from a person with some questions about the weekend one of which went like this: “That seems like a lot of money for a weekend retreat…it might be different if there was going to be a really dynamic, outside speaker, but it’s just you leading it, right?” I informed this person that in case she was wondering, no offense had been taken!

Maybe you get this at home yourself sometimes. Conversation after dinner goes into a topic you think you have some knowledge about and you begin carefully imparting that knowledge. You think you’re doing quite well and even impressing yourself a bit until the awkward silence is broken by one of your kids who says “What do YOU know about that stuff?”

It’s scary to think about how many lessons of life and faith we miss because we don’t listen to those we know best the way we listen to dynamic, outside speakers! We’re too close…we know each other too well…we aren’t experts…we are just dad; just mom; just a brother; just a sister; just a friend; just a neighbor… We’re not experts…this reality is particularly strong when it comes to matters of faith!

That’s why the folks in Nazareth couldn’t hear Jesus…he was…just Jesus… He was no expert…he was just a carpenter…just Mary’s boy…just a kid from up the street…they know his brothers and sisters…he was just Jesus…

In Luke’s version, they tried to throw him off a cliff. Somehow he gave them the slip, but to them…he was…just Jesus…

Who is it for you, that makes you like the folks in Nazareth? Who is the prophet from your hometown…the one with whom you’re too close to view them as an expert…the ones you know so well that certainly they have nothing to teach you?

· Just mom…

· Just Uncle Ken …

· Just crazy Kathy from up the street…

· Just a kid…

The lesson for Nazareth is the lesson for us…they had everything they needed right there in their midst and so do you here at St. John’s UCC, Columbus, Ohio…you have just Jesus in your midst…in one another.

The trick is to learn from the good people of Nazareth by being willing to learn from one another.

What keeps us from honoring our hometown prophets…the people we live with, work with, play with, eat with, and worship with? What makes us say, “Ahhh, it’s…

· Just mom…

· Just Uncle Ken …

· Just crazy Kathy from up the street…

· Just a kid…

What keeps us from learning from one another, and what can we do about it?

First is we’re just too close…we need to step back…

When I was 14 my dad and I took a trip to Fort Sill, OK where my brother was in basic training for the Army. Along the way we decided to stop in St. Louis to see the sights and take in a hockey game. I remember still being 60 miles outside of town, but the faint image of the Gateway Arch was clear in the distance. I remember the wonder and the awe that that monument to human determination created in me and the spectacle it was even from a long distance. We drove over the Mississippi as the huge arch cast a shadow across the black water and we pulled off to take a closer look. I remember walking through the park and becoming dizzy as I gazed up along the 60 stories of the arch and could see the tiny little windows at the top. We walked closer and closer to the base where we could enter the underground museum and ride in those funny little round cars that take you all the way to the top. And I remember that the closer we got to the arch, the less impressive it became to me. In fact, standing right next to one end, it looked like any other building…made from steel and no windows. Up close, the Gateway Arch is no big deal. But, when you step back and have the perspective of the entire structure it is breathtaking.

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