by Reverend Amanda
This week has been a very challenging week for my family with 2 sick toddlers and having to isolate. It is weeks like this that make one feel just totally inadequate and that no matter how well intentioned or hard one tries it just simply is not good enough. I reflected upon this as I took a break with Isaac screaming in the playpen and Madeleine crying on the couch and fixed Pete the Cat I love My White Shoes. This book is one of my son’s favorites. If you were to look at this book you would see that the cover has been chewed on, pealed, and the spine is close to nonexistent. The pages have been ripped out and taped back in so many times that each page is more tape than paper. Some of the pages are stuck together from too many sticky hands in the book.
This book looks like I felt this week. Worn and beaten up. How fitting for our scriptures for this morning. In our Gospel reading for this morning, we heard the passage from Luke about Jesus’ rejection in the city of Nazareth. This passage comes after he amazes and awes his neighbors and elders in the synagogue with his teaching on the passage from Isaiah. The mood turned quickly when Jesus refused to perform miracles to prove himself to them. They began to question him and the good news he came to share. They looked to bring about his death and expelled him from their town. Jesus was rejected by the very people who once loved him as a child. Rejection is a part of the story of Jesus from his birth straight to the cross. It is there because it is part of the human experience. We all experience rejection from peers, families, neighbors, and even from ourselves. Christian theologian Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote, “The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace … We must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings, or passions to seduce into self-rejection”.1 We all hit those times in life, where our personal insecurities and stresses cause us to beat ourselves up, to question the presence and call of God, and to doubt that we have are loved, worthy, and have been chosen. These doubts are a self-rejection that causes so much harm and can cause a rift between us and God.
Life and society can leave us feeling beaten and weathered just like my child’s book. We often feel just as raggedy, tattered, and torn. But no matter how rejected we feel, there is Good News and that Good News is abundant love. A love to surpasses such rejection, that supersedes the judgments of ourselves and others. This is a love that manifests itself in purpose and acceptance. It is the type of love we hear Paul discussing in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.2
This is the love that God has for each one of us. And whether we can feel it in the moment or not, it is still very much there. This is a love that should give confidence to our lives, inspire self-worth, and motivate us to use our skills and passions to bring God’s love alive in the world around us. Let us do as the people in Nazareth could not do and accept the knowledge of the love of God even in those moments when we want to doubt. Let’s not reject God’s gift in Jesus by rejecting ourselves or others.
For whether we believe it or not, God loved us enough to give us his only son, who suffered rejection, judgment, and the pain of humanity, a type of pain that we too readily inflict upon ourselves and others. God gave us this gift because he loved us that much and still does. He wants each one of us to find confidence in his love even when we can’t feel it for ourselves. He wants us to grow into his love so we might live more boldly in a world that judges first and loves second.
This love should inspire us to put his message and mission first and not allow for others or ourselves to beat us down and oppress us in life. If we want to experience the liberation we hear about in the Bible; if we want to feel the call and purpose of God in our lives just as we were promised in the pages of the scripture, then we need to first work on love. We need to accept the love of God, to accept that we are worthy enough to be loved, to have our prayers answered, to be participants in the Good News of new life in Christ. We need to place more importance and more stock on the love of God for us than we place on the opinions of others or all those negative feelings and harmful self-judgments we place upon ourselves. So, this week let us work to love ourselves, as God has loved us, enough to accept that we are worthy of the love of God. Then allow for that love to spill forth into your life offering that sense of purpose, freedom, and healing that our world needs to experience. Let us accept the offer of Good News in the form of love and let us make it our inspiration, our motivation, for a new life in the light of
1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, 20th century Dutch Theologian.
2 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NRSV.