This Sunday’s Gospel is Mark 6.1-6 (Roman Catholic) or Mark 6.1-12 (Church of England)
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offence at him.
It’s sometimes hard to adjust when someone in the family moves from being a child to being a ‘grown-up’. We may trap others in stereotypes of how we’ve known them in the past – or how we thought we knew them. And most of us will have been on the other side of this, when we moved from childhood to adult life, and struggled at first to be taken seriously by those who knew us as a baby.
The people of Nazareth won’t let Jesus be himself – they trap him in their stereotype, not seeing his full humanity, let alone his divinity. We can make the same mistake in our churches today, confining those around us in our stereotypes, failing to see the full humanity of every member – judging some age groups, or classes, or races, before we get to know them.
One of the key practices of community organising is the ‘one-to-one’ relational meeting – encouraging people to get to know those they might otherwise just nod at in the next pew, so stories could be shared and gifts discovered. The face-to-face relationship, based on the reality of the other person, not our stereotype of them, is absolutely central to the life of a flourishing church – a church which can have a transformative impact on individuals and communities.
Pray for the team of summer Jellicoe interns at the Contextual Theology Centre – who will continue that process of building relationships and discovering unacknowledged potential. And pray for the Nehemiah Interns working for the Near Neighbours programme (in which the Church Urban Fund and the Centre are both key partners) as these much longer-term interns, drawn from and rooted in inner-city neighbourhoods, seek to deepen face-to-face relationships across the faiths.