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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday Focus: The Gift of Rejection

Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. Luke 4:21-30
I don’t handle rejection very well. I’m working on it. But it still gets to me. I figure if I’m trying my best, that should be evident to everyone and they should at least try to meet me half way. Most of the time, it works out pretty well. But when it doesn’t, my first reaction is to get cranky and feel sorry for myself. With prayer and scriptural reflection, such as on this week’s gospel, I’ve made a lot of progress.

I’ve come to see that rejection is an opportunity to draw closer to Christ and to witness his love. In this week’s gospel, we see Jesus, not only rejected by his neighbors; some of them want to throw him off a cliff. And with all the powers of heaven and earth at his bidding, Jesus doesn’t respond with fire and brimstone. He doesn’t even get in their face. Rather, he avoids confrontation and humbly slips away, remarking ironically that hometowns are not the ideal venue for prophets. More significantly, he doesn’t call off Calvary. He’s not looking to redeem a better class of more grateful sinners. He goes to the cross for the folks who ran him out of town, as well as for those who drove the nails. He goes to the cross for you and for me, not in spite of our rejection, but because of it. He takes our pride, our intolerance, our unkindness and hypocrisy and gives us back his love.

Rejection is a two way street. If we are honest with ourselves, we are probably dishing it out as often as we are receiving it. For both rejecter and rejectee, the root cause is insecurity. Put in more theological terms, pride is the root of rejection, both the pride to work our will on others and the pride that cannot abide contradiction. The antidote for rejection is not to become an obsequious yes man or a non-committal nebbish. Recognize that rejection is part of the human condition. It is ubiquitous, but it is not inevitable. We need not become either a bullying practitioner or a sullen victim. Honesty is the basis for all communication, but it should always be tempered by Christian charity. It is tempting to reinforce our opinion with a zinger or a put-down. But for all concerned, it is always more effective to state your case not only with conviction but also with courtesy, kindness and respect. And as for the rejected, what better example than Jesus: the stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone.

Jesus fled from the synagogue. But he did not flee from his mission. He saw no need to make a macho statement. This momentary rejection was disappointing, but not surprising. It would not be his last on the way to Calvary. Jesus was and is human as well as divine. By definition he felt our pain, our frustration, our rejection. But he gave it all back to the Father in forgiveness and sacrificial offering for our redemption, as he prayed: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Jesus takes us well beyond the pragmatics of just creating better social outcomes. He did not come to conduct a seminar on transactional analysis. Jesus teaches us to repay rejection with love. In Christ, rejection becomes a very special opportunity to love our neighbor; to give our disappointment to God; to seek his will in prayer and more fully experience his peace. That’s the gift of rejection.

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