In the silence of meeting for worship on Sunday, in the midst of my own faith community, after spending a week with others of my faith but not of my community, a touching moment from the Gospels came to me. (That I could not quite remember how the relevant passage was worded may mean I’m destined to sit in silence with a Bible on my lap. Maybe.) This moment from Luke 4: 16 – 30, is one sentence long; a bit, you might say, a little piece of theatrical business to explore or illustrate dramatic possibilities.
So let’s set the scene: Jesus of Nazareth has just returned to Galilee after spending forty days in the wilderness where he’d been tested by the devil—and passed. Having begun preaching in other Galilee synagogues, he returns to Nazareth and his own synagogue and on the sabbath, reads that stirring Jubilee passage from Isaiah. (Some of it. Jesus edits, apparently. But that’s another story, another post.) Like he’s been doing all over Galilee, Jesus wows ’em with his “gracious words.”
But here’s the bit: “They [his former neighbors, friends of his parents, the parents of his childhood friends] said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ ” (Mary’s son, too, we might add.)
Yep. He is. Composed, well-spoken, “filled with the power of the Spirit” after his wilderness-and-devil-and-forty-days’-fasting ordeal, he’s all that, he’s Local Kid Makes Good. Speaks Good. And his wowed listeners are both profoundly moved and remembering him when he was ten and, say, worked in his dad’s woodworking shop or carted water jars for his mother.
And we know thrilling moments such as what happened to Jesus’s hometown residents. We’ve been there. We’ve attended other people’s sons’ and daughters’ rites of passage and experienced, maybe for an instant, a thrill, a frisson.
To be able to witness another person’s growth, change, transformation is holy. And while, of course, it’s touching when a child does these things, watching an adult transform is, for me, seeing Spirit made manifest.
Which, I believe, is Good News.